The Overlooked Truth of Networking Platforms: Imposter Syndrome

About a year ago, I wrote a piece on imposter syndrome. It was published around midterm season when my academic stress was at an all-time high. A year later, I have found myself reliving these same feelings, but in a different circumstance. 

As the semester comes to a close, the search for co-ops and internships becomes more rigorous. I have fortunately been able to obtain a co-op for the fall cycle, relieving an immense load of stress from my shoulders — but I know the same cannot be said for a significant number of Northeastern students, let alone college students. Though reality hurts more than expectations, a large portion of students were unable to find co-ops last semester, partially due to a decrease in demand from COVID-related issues. They ultimately had to push their co-op back another semester.

Fortunately, many more companies are hiring now and I hope more students are able to secure co-ops. At the end of the day, everyone’s co-op search is different, but retaining a persistent mindset is key. For those of you who have not been able to gain offers, please do not lose hope; opportunities show up when you least expect it.

Despite these shortcomings, it seemed as if every time I logged onto LinkedIn, I questioned what I am lacking. Constantly seeing posts of internship and co-op offers, many of which involve high-profile brands like Amazon, Goldman Sachs and CapitalOne is conflicting for several reasons. Don’t get me wrong — I am more than happy for everyone who achieved their goals. But it has come to a point at which I mindlessly scroll on LinkedIn and experience a weird career-based FOMO. Questions like, “How did they receive a summer 2022 internship? Is everyone interning at Amazon? Do I have enough connections?” sprung up on the regular. I would immediately skip any post that would start with “I am humbled to announce…” Call me a cynic, but those were my feelings. While comparing myself to others is something I am working on, there is something worth noting — apps and platforms based around career and wealth cultivate imposter syndrome and feelings of unfulfillment. 

As a self-proclaimed “Gen-Z’r”, it’s inevitable to be surrounded by technology and social media platforms. Yet this feeling of not achieving enough is possibly most apparent in LinkedIn. Networking platforms like these prey on workaholics, perfectionists and anyone who is even feeling remotely self-conscious. How is it that a network built to quite literally connect people to one another and look for future access manages to fill us with existential dread? LinkedIn’s reputation as a career assist rather than a mainstream app like Facebook or Instagram allows it to disguise itself in more devious ways than shown. Think about it like this — you’ve been looking for job opportunities for months, met with numerous rejections and unopened emails, only to see your most recent direct message be a message from a college recruiter convincing you to get a master's degree or, even worse, join an MLM. Because only then would you be able to “succeed.”

It’s hard to fathom the achievements and opportunities revealed now when we are still in an era of a pandemic, where unemployment is recovering from a record high and mental health has hit a record low with rapidly growing cases of anxiety and depression. But if there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s that it’s okay to not have made the same achievements, or even any at all. Reiterating my point from my prior article: “if there’s someone out there who’s struggling with this same thing, realize it’s okay and you’re not perfect — because no one is. You are valid and you deserve to be here”. You don’t need to document everything you’ve done because, at the end of the day, you are doing it for yourself. The benefits you gain are what matters most, not meaningless reactions and comments from strangers online. If it’s something you’re passionate about, do not let anyone or anything belittle you. Remind yourself that what you’re seeing online is, at the very least, a slight fabrication or hyperbole of a vague situation. You’re only seeing the successes of people and what they choose to show, not the pitfalls or struggles they faced. 

Best of luck to those who are still in their co-op search. Hang in there and rest assured that there is an opportunity for you!