College is the last step in education before heading into the professional world, but for some reason I feel like I am about to start five steps behind.
Journalism can feel like an impossible field to break into — with internships, networking and working on getting published clips for your resume. It feels terrifying to study in such an independent field that leaves it mostly up to the individual where they take their degree and knowledge. Sometimes I fear that I should have chosen a career track that could be laid out for me — if one even exists.
Aside from the stress of getting internships, having clips published and gaining experience through academic extracurriculars — mainly news publications in my case — it can take very little to make you feel like you are on the wrong path, and that you wasted your college experience by not doing everything possible to advance your career.
This past summer I started sensing that I might be lacking in professional experience compared to my contemporaries. While I was sitting at work every day, I saw others share their clips writing for news organizations or working at major companies. I got a sinking feeling that I missed out on a crucial summer when I should have been gaining the type of experience that could go on a resume.
I never considered the idea of reviving that blog that I used to be so passionate about or taking more photos to build my portfolio. Since being back in school, I am exploring all those routes to my journalistic creativity. There are endless ways towards the right career path — and none of them are right — but that does not deter my mind from looking at my classmates’ achievements and positions and wondering why am I not in their position.
The most introspective and individualistic feeling of this issue is comparison. Comparing my resume to those of my peers can lead to spiraling and unnecessary stress. I may be terrified in my junior year of college that I still don’t hold an editorial position in a student news publication, but I may edit and be a copy editor for a satire publication where I learned the same skills.
The more I discuss this and dig into whether or not this is a greater phenomenon that we are all too familiar with, the more I feel like the broader and easier question is: Do we ever stop comparing ourselves to one another? My answer for the moment is no. It seems impossible to stop our eyes from wandering to the person next to us, and see what they are up to — are they working more than you, writing about something more quote-unquote serious or are they just more confident in their choices.
Initially, when I asked myself if I was already behind in my career during college, immediately I thought yes. Knowing that was my gut reaction filled me with fear that I had not worked hard enough over the last two and a half years.
Now I realize that it is terrible to brush past two years of my college education, and I am trying to appreciate every opportunity I had and continue the pursuit of telling stories. I am slowly becoming more confident that I am preparing myself — in my own way — for the career that I seek, not the ones my peers are working towards.