Your College Aunts Week Five: Prospects and pressure

We asked for your worries about the future but still managed to get romance-related submissions…

Before your aunts get into their weekly update on the highs and l0ws of uni life during a third lockdown, we thought it was important to announce that the new episode of the podcast is out now! ‘But you tell us this every two weeks!’ we hear you say and, yes, you’re right, but seeing as we still got love/relationship-related submissions when the theme is about dealing with the stress of our future, we figured you would appreciate our Romance and Rekindling episode.’ Off you pop, indulge yourself– we know you want to.

How have our weeks been? That’s very kind of you to ask. Your aunts have been doing their best to make it through the week five blues by keeping busy and distracted.

Leila made the scandalous decision to take the day off from doing work and went on a little trip to Kew Gardens. Turns out all that stuff about needing time off from your degree to be more productive is true! 5/5 would recommend. Meanwhile, Amira has been packing her belongings to get ready to go back to Cambridge so keep an eye out for her when you’re next walking down Kings’ Parade. With all that exciting news out of the way, let’s move onto your questions.

Q1: Internship applications are stressing me out. It’s a very common conversation topic among my friends (we’re mostly STEM and really expected to get an internship), so I have to listen about it even when socialising. But it seems everyone else is doing better than me, while I’m getting constantly rejected… Please help I’m starting to think that I’ll never get a job

I’m the furthest thing from a STEM student or an internship expert, but what I am is someone with experience when it comes to freaking out over your future and careers because it seems like everyone around you has it together. And the one thing I’ve learnt is: they don’t. Now that we’ve established that, let’s unpack your submission a bit further…

It seems as if you’re falling victim to external expectations. I get it, Cambridge is super pressurised and everyone around you is so intelligent that it can become difficult not to start slipping towards a state of imposter syndrome whenever you seem to be deviating from the ‘norm.’

However, it’s in these moments that we really need to question the norm and how useful it is to us. Sure, internships generally help to secure jobs and are useful in certain fields, but being rejected from internships doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t have a successful career or work in a certain field.

I think we all like to cling to the hope of clear, linear paths in life, but this is becoming less and less likely as the job market keeps changing and, you know, with this whole pandemic thing. This means we all need to accept that our lives are going to be much less predictable than the generations before us and accept that maybe this isn’t the worst thing.

So, the fact that your friends are currently meeting the internship expectation better than you really doesn’t mean you are any less than them, or that your career is doomed. Let’s not be dramatic. Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh since it’s hard not to be dramatic about such things when your friends are incessantly nattering on about them. The only solution to this problem is to either a) express your feelings to your friends, or try to change the subject when this comes up, or b) spend less time with these friends, and maybe find some humanities students or thesps to talk to- I really doubt they’ll have a conversation with you centred on internship applications.

At the end of the day, you’re going to be a Cambridge graduate, and that is worth something. Your career path might not go the way you anticipate it should in this current moment, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it unexpected.

As much as I can try and help you change your perspective on this matter, I’m not a careers’ advisor, so my final bit of advice would be to peruse the Careers’ service website and make a Handshake account.

Q2: I’m kind of worried that lockdown has stopped me from developing useful skills for my CV

First off, everyone is in the same position.  The time span of national lockdowns is not a gap on your CV that you will likely need to account for, and it would be entirely unreasonable for anyone to expect you to have undertaken some form of work experience during the pandemic, particularly since most internships were cancelled.  Speaking from personal experience I was utterly crushed not to be able to go through with the internships I had planned last summer, but it’s worth remembering there will likely be opportunities in the future.

However, you ideally want your CV to present you in the best possible light and convey what you are like as a person, so don’t be afraid to use details from what you have done during the lockdowns, detail activities which how proactive you are, your resilience, community spirit, and how you used the time to time to develop new skills.  You can list community volunteer work you did, again a personal example, but I offered virtual tutoring to kids from disadvantaged backgrounds whose schooling had been disrupted and there are a lot of similar initiatives you can get involved with if you’re interested.

The amount of detail you dedicate to your lockdown time will entirely depend on what else you have to put on your CV and how much other experience you have.  Regardless, it seems important to reiterate that you are not obliged to refer to your activities during lockdowns, only really consider doing so if you have a limited option of other things to discuss or you feel it adds gravity to your CV. Again, the Careers’ Service is a great place to go for more info on all this stuff- it’s literally their purpose.

Q3: I’m not over a hookup after months… they’ve moved on and I wish I could too.

There is very little background information here, so my question is, what made you feel so deeply for this person?  From what you’ve said it sounds as if your interactions were very casual, and while I’m sure you had fun and enjoyed some great physical chemistry, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are meant to be together or that they are right for you.

What were you expecting when you first hooked up with this person?  What did you want?  Do you want a boyfriend?  I suspect a significant part of the reason you are so hung up is that on this person is that you are idealising being with them, as opposed to actually wanting to be with them.  You may have enjoyed your time with him, but how well do you actually know one another?

Your judgment is likely clouded by the sense of an artificial attachment that was produced from your interaction, and your continued romanticisation of this guy may be coming from feelings of loneliness and insecurity.  To reassure you, there is nothing wrong with what you feel and it is an entirely natural reaction, but it might be most productive to acknowledge this as a chemical reaction in your brain.  Take your time being single to work on yourself and learn to be happy alone, and remember that being in love is not a quick fix to other problems in our lives.

Well, that’s all from us this week…

The theme for next week is still “Prospects and pressure” so let out that pent up stress in our submission box. What’s that? Relationship problems? Okay fine, submit those too, I suppose that is a kind of pressure.

If you haven’t listened to earlier episodes of the podcast, what are you doing? Seriously, it’s a remote term, what else are you doing with your time? And while you’re at it, you may as well give us a follow on Instagram (@yourcollegeaunts).


Your College Aunts x

Have any worries?

Here is the link for next week, submit questions to your heart’s content.

Want to be the next Fatima?

Did you ever find yourself listening to the podcast last term thinking that you could’ve added something interesting to the discussion? Well, here’s your chance to be a guest on the podcast! All you need to do is fill out this form proposing a theme for an episode and tell us why you think you would be a great guest. Go on, apply! What have you got to lose?

Featured image credit: Leila Lawrence and Amira Nandhla 

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