Fanny Wahlberg writes about the sensitive issue of job rejections, delving into her own personal experiences whilst pointing out some of the ways in which society could help young people find their vocation.
“So, it wasn’t meant to be,” I tell myself as I receive yet another job rejection. There are plenty of them these days – as demonstrated by the record number of rejection emails in my inbox. I’m twenty-one years old, on the verge of graduating from university, stuck, like everyone else, in the middle of a global pandemic, my dark roots exposed from my otherwise golden hair with no sign of subtlety, and my diet consisting mostly of obscene amounts of coffee, vitamins, green tea, bread, oranges and cauliflower (odd combination I know). And niggling at the back of my mind is the constant realisation that I need to hunt down a job ASAP so that I don’t end up either homeless or staying at my parents’ house after graduation. A fork in the road I’d like to avoid.
For the past month and a half, I have been living at home with my family. I left university for winter break thinking that when I returned in the New Year some sense of normalcy would appear like magic. That St Andrews as we used to know it, a cornucopia of euphoric events, would make a reappearance for my last hurrah. To my disappointment but no surprise (2020 in a nutshell), it was announced a couple days before Christmas that a mutation of the COVID-19 virus had taken over the United Kingdom. My return to a more “normal” St Andrews was looking bleak. I made the voluntary yet involuntary decision (I’m legally unable to return to Scotland due to the current lockdown) to extend my stay at home.
Regardless of where I am, there is still the expectation that I, as a graduate-to-be, should do the sensible thing according to society and find a proper job – not an unpaid internship, paid solely in clothes and shoes (shoutout to the fashion industry), which is what has occupied my past two summers. Other than the topic of COVID-19, which, to be fair, is hard to beat in today’s world, my quest for a job seems to be a never-ending topic of conversation for me. While for a lot of other people, like my mother, my hairdresser and my dentist, and literally anyone I run into, it may seem like a safe, easy topic for a relaxed bit of chitchat, for me it is the exact opposite. To my mind, the topic of what I’m going to do next year mainly causes severe anxiety. The kind of anxiety that follows you around like your own shadow, never leaving your side. From time to time, though, the thought of the possibilities and opportunities that lay before me fills me with great excitement but somehow, at the end of the day, the anxiety always seems to win.
But why do I dread talking about, thinking about, let alone actually doing something about such an important matter as what my life will entail after university? I mean I am procrastinating even simply by writing this article. My original plan was to take a gap year after university because I didn’t take the chance when I finished high school – I felt as if I needed a break from endless studying and perhaps also the limitless nagging of everyday society and the pressure which it heaps on us. However, that plan went out the window a couple months ago when COVID-19 decided to plant its roots a bit deeper, making it clear to us that it had a grander plan in mind. So here I am voraciously applying to jobs.
But I am frustrated. There is a sense of expectation and effortless routine to the process by which students apply to postgraduate jobs. It is a thoughtless, mechanized procedure often lacking any consideration as to what it is you really want. A process whereby you are pushed and pulled in different directions and expected to fulfill the requirements of them all. It’s not acceptable for you to apply to different jobs and end up with nothing and for that to be it; you are supposed to have a back-up plan and a back-up to your back-up plan. I mean, I’m starting to feel like a hard drive that is way past its last gigabyte. But it’s also a process that is meant to represent your first step out into the real world: a world that is not sheltered by the comfort of teachers, school friends and ivy-covered buildings. But it is done with such haste that you forget to stop and reflect on what you truly want and what other alternatives and ways there are, in addition to securing the perfect job, to getting that thing or reaching that destination. Instead of cherishing your achievements so far in life, you punish yourself for everything you haven’t done and haven’t achieved. Why and with what end goal in mind do we think that chastising ourselves in this way will ultimately help us? I do not know. But I am certainly guilty of it.
I’m not afraid to say that I don’t know exactly what I want to do or what I want to become, but I would like the chance to figure that out for myself. I would like the time and space to ponder without the pressure. It is common, perhaps even expected that at twenty-one years of age, you do not know exactly what you want out of life. Yet the fact remains that society gives young people very little space and encouragement to figure that out before they embark on their working lives. Indulge yourself in creating your own path and ignore the one that you think is laid out before you. Let’s encourage students to think, dream and aspire rather than simply follow.
An hour after having sent the obligatory “I didn’t get it” text to my mother, she steps into my room and says, “there will be other opportunities”. Well, she’s not wrong and, to be fair, she rarely is. With that said, let me continue the job search.