Just the thought of the dreaded “g” word—graduation—is pretty terrifying. With it comes all sorts of emotions, some positive and some negative, but the most certain way to make graduation more palatable is to have a job or graduate school lined up after you finish. Who enjoys the thought of going into the real world without a plan? This process is often arduous and, at least for most people, very intimidating. With companies and grad schools receiving so many applications, there is a common perception that you shouldn’t get your hopes up too high for any single opportunity.
And while this sentiment is certainly true to some degree, you must simultaneously be realistic while still believing in yourself enough to chase those opportunities and pursue them with confidence and poise. If you think about the negativity too much (i.e., oh I won’t get in because so many people applied) then you might just be sealing your fate before you ever had a chance to pursue it. Learning this balance of realism vs. chasing your wildest dreams is part of growing up. Good thing is, there are plenty of helpful resources that will get you past this hurdle and on your way to the next step—whatever that may be.
1. Think about your positive qualities and what exactly you bring to the table.
A crucial part of starting the application process is reflecting on who you are, what your goals are, and how exactly you want to contribute to the world. Just this narrowing of focus is in itself an accomplishment, because it’s not always easy to answer all these big questions about your future. Once you’ve defined yourself and your audience, it can give you the confidence you need to proceed forward knowing you have a very clear definition of success in your mind. When you’re too ambiguous or cloudy about your goals, the motivation may start lacking because it can feel pointless or misguided. Having a very clear picture can boost both confidence and morale.
2. Be proud of all your accomplishments and how far you’ve come.
It’s easy to get lost in the “everyone is doing better than me” rat race, but try and take a moment to reflect on how fantastic you are, too. You rock! You’ve likely had years of formal education under your belt, been involved in the community in some capacity, gotten some good grades, and overall just made it this far (and not everyone can say the same). You have selected a career path or major and you are now going to make yourself an asset to your chosen field. Even though some people may appear farther ahead, this isn’t always true, and don’t undermine everything you’ve done as well by over-comparing yourself to others. Sometimes, just sitting down to re-organize your CV can give you a boost of confidence because you are able to write down all the amazing things you’ve accomplished and look at them all pile up in one place.
3. Don’t be afraid to brag.
This ties into the last piece of advice but deserves its own heading because it is so important to emphasize. Although it may feel awkward of uncomfortable talking about your accomplishments because it feels very self-centered, don’t feel awkward bragging about everything you’ve done! If you don’t convey your achievements, then how is anyone supposed to know what a fantastic candidate you are? Don’t go overboard and appear standoffish, but don’t be afraid to really drive home your expertise, either.
4. Buy something that makes you feel more professional.
To make it clear, you should NOT take this as a go-ahead to spend all your money before you even have a job or graduate school in place. But there is definitely something to getting a piece of new clothing or a new planner that helps you get in the professional mindset and will boost your confidence when approaching an interview or a new project. Even though you’re still a student, you want to look the part and have the appropriate tools to succeed should you be given the job.
5. Let your dreams lead you and your realism ground you.
This may seem very cliché, but the underlying advice is important: try to approach each situation with excitement, go after every opportunity that you can, and try to keep reality in mind along the way. This is an exciting and nerve-wracking time in your life, and it can be very easy to get bogged down in all the details—so always try to let your aspirations take you to amazing places while still keeping in mind your current situation. I believe in you, Collegiettes. Now go get ’em!