When Did “Above Average” Become “Not Good Enough”?

By Eirinn Norrie

music-good-enoughAs a recent college graduate, I’ve been feeling the pressure that comes with having a good resume and good grades. Navigating the job market and scrambling to get a job has been brutal. After several rejections, I kept thinking, “could I have done more in school? If I had taken on another internship, would I have been more qualified for that position?” The thing is, I wanted to enjoy my life while I was at college. I didn’t want everything to be about building up my resume and preparing for the “real world.” College was 4 years of my life — I didn’t want those years to be nothing but a blur of papers and tests.

Unfortunately, once you graduate, you can’t just magically fix or add to your academic performance or extracurricular activities. Your resume is something that needs to be built slowly over time. Luckily, I did well in school– very well. In fact, I graduated Summa Cum Laude and received three awards during graduation for my academic performance. I thought getting a job using my degree would be difficult, but definitely do-able within a few weeks. After all, I work hard, so I knew I would be an asset to any company that gave me the opportunity to work for them. I assumed that my resume would probably be considered “above average.”

To my surprise, it was extremely difficult to get hired for entry-level positions. I was told multiple by companies that they simply had to go with candidates that had more experience (I was even up against a few people that had 8+ years of experience!!). I got rejected from working at the Dollar Tree as a cashier, a position that does not even require having a university degree. Getting a job suddenly turned into a beyond-stressful nightmare.

Eventually, I got a job — a great job, actually. But I realized that my above-average resume was still barely good enough. Even though I had done everything that the infamous “they” said to do — internships, extracurricular activities, and work experience — my resume did not stand out from the crowd. What has happened to our society? When did we decide that teens and college students have to be constantly busy and pushing themselves to accomplish more? What’s wrong with simply doing your best and also enjoying your life?

Many colleges are pushing internship programs earlier and earlier, encouraging students to get real-life experience as early as their freshman year. This is crazy. Transitioning into college is hard enough. Freshmen have to deal with being away from home for the first time, making their own choices about their lives, and making friends and figuring out how to function as young members of society. Even with all of the preparation for and hype around going to college, freshmen never really know how they are going to deal with college until they’re there. There’s pressure to get good grades, pressure to please your parents (since often they’re the ones paying for it!), and pressure to find where you belong. Can you imagine how stressful it would be for freshmen to have to think about internships as well? Freshman year should simply be about finding out who you are and what you want out of life. And, let’s be honest, during your freshman year, you probably wouldn’t get much out of an internship either, as you probably have no idea what you want to do with your life.

College students are now more stressed than ever before. According to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State, more than half of students who go to clinics on their college campuses state that they are anxious. In addition, it was found that almost 1 out of 6 college students have been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety since May 2014. The American College Health Association found that 30% of students felt so depressed that they could barely function at some point over their past year at school. These statistics are terrifying. The pressure on students to stand out is becoming insane. It is no longer considered going above-and-beyond to have a fantastic GPA, extracurricular activities, and an internship by the time you graduate college. This is now the minimum expectation. Students are pushing themselves for the limit so that they can have an extra line on their resume, and it’s taking a toll on their mental health.

We are making life so much more difficult than it has to be. By pushing things earlier and earlier in life and increasing our expectations, we’re causing stress and making people feel as though they’re not good enough. We are also creating students who do things simply to put it on their resumes, rather than really wanting to enjoy what they’re doing. This creates people who only think about how they can benefit academically and professionally from an experience. I’m completely guilty of this, too. Several times during college I’ve thought, “wow, that would be great to put on my resume.” And it was great to have on there, but I wish that it could have been for my own personal growth or enjoyment rather than simply for others to see what I’ve been doing with my time at college.

It’s about time that we take back our lives. After graduating college, I realized that I’m done with being stressed out — it’s so not worth it all. Even though my resume may not stand out from the crowd, I’m proud of what I’ve done and I feel fulfilled from it. I poured my heart into everything I did, and that’s what’s important. Having more internships during my college years would not have prepared me more for this job — it simply would have stressed me out. Now, I’m determined to do my best at my new job. I will work hard, get my assignments done on time, and strive to always be helpful around the office. And truly, what more could an employer ask for?

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