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What am I doing wrong?

| Thursday, April 1, 2021

Kerry Schneeman | The Observer

Oliver Wendell Holmes believed that “the greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” Yet recently, I have no idea what direction I am moving in. The truth is job hunting is tedious, and it’s taking a toll on me. The fog of rejections, disappointments and silence won’t settle and keeps making it really hard to look ahead. I am frustrated. I keep trying to move forward, but when I look back, I’m not much further down the line than I was the day before.

My search for a summer internship has turned out to be a real struggle. As much as I want to believe that “I am more than my job” or, as Einstein says, that “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity,” I cannot for the life of me internalize these beliefs. I’ve been trying to understand why the defeat was so ever present recently. Dawn R. Norris, associate professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the author of “Job Loss, Identity, and Mental Health,” basically concluded that  “identity is a much bigger piece of the puzzle than people had previously thought.” And it makes sense. I feel lost; I feel like I’m losing parts of my identity every time my qualifications are deemed second-fiddle to the qualifications a company seeks. I keep asking myself: “What am I doing wrong?”

Trust me, I have tried so many different approaches. I have tried to ‘manifest’ and ‘create my own reality.’ I have tried the proactive approach: networking events and company-led information sessions, LinkedIn workshops, resume reviews, advising meetings, spreadsheets to track the percentage of qualifications I fulfilled for every position I wanted to apply to, saved search settings on every job search platform imaginable… This experience has been an emotional rollercoaster. At one point, I was even questioning whether I was actually truly qualified to be here at Notre Dame or whether I was as an international student just picked to fulfill a diversity quota. I was questioning everything I had accomplished. I was questioning whether the hours of work I put into high school, college, side projects and extracurriculars were as worthwhile as they once appeared to be. Again, I keep asking, “What am I doing wrong?”

I am not proud of this, but the job search has taken over my life. I spend hours and hours every day looking for openings, updating the job search tracker I formatted on Excel, writing and polishing cover letters, signing up for Virtual Coffee Chats with recruiters and flagging emails for open positions. What makes it even more difficult for me is the fact that I am an international student — meaning I have to worry about the cost of international flight bookings growing exponentially, travel restrictions or bans in both the US and back home, finding where I’ll be staying over the summer (when) if I get an internship. To be honest, I have been avoiding calls from my parents and friends who keep asking me what my plan is. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. The picture I had originally painted is not coming to life. What am I doing wrong?

I don’t know how many of you out there are facing the same issue. If you are, I’m not here to tell you a bunch of positive crap about how to hang on or persevere. I’m not here to tell you to be grateful or not to push down your anger and frustration. I don’t really know what to tell you. Truth is, I haven’t even figured it out for myself.

However, as I was doing some research for this column, I found some strategies online. First, try to keep track of your goals. Whether through a journal, a spreadsheet, a vision board etc., find a way to not only outline goals and set milestones, but also to identify trends. For example, which strategies are fruitful? Which strategies are not? What is truly holding you back?  Second, treat a job search like a job. Schedule strict times where you will solely work on the job hunt. Here’s the catch: outside these hours, no job search allowed. Make a clean cut and take a break in order to create more structure and have some time to recharge. Don’t let it take over your entire life. (I admit I have a lot of work to do with regards to this.) Lastly, if you ever need to rant about this or bounce ideas off someone, please reach out!


Krista Akiki is a sophomore at Notre Dame majoring in Business Analytics. Coming from Beirut, Lebanon, she always enjoys trying out new things and is an avid travel-lover. She hopes to take her readers on her journey as she navigates college life and stands up for the issues she believes. She can be reached at [email protected]d.edu or via Twitter @kristalourdesakiki. 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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