At the beginning of every semester, hopeful students await the most stressful and overwhelming time of the year: career fair season. The same process occurs annually — new “business-casual” clothing is purchased, resumes are tweaked meticulously and elevator pitches are heard ‘round the world. It is at this point in the semester where the imposter syndrome begins to kick in.
First published in the 1978 journal Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, the imposter syndrome is serves to “designate an internal experience of intellectual phoniness … those who experience the impostor phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.”
This phenomenon is one that rings true for many at Tech. No matter what you do, it never seems to be enough; everyone seems to just be better than you. This sensation heightens around the time of every career fair. Some people seem to land endless interviews and get offered co-op’s or internships at top ten Fortune companies for ridiculous pay, while others cannot seem to get their feet off the ground.
The timing of the career fair also typically coincides with the first unofficial “hell week” of the semester. Grades start to appear from midterms and you find yourself comparing your grades with the average, sometimes impressing yourself and more often than not ending up disappointed with the results and wondering why you are even at Tech in the first place.
I know this to be true for myself. I constantly have the expectation that I am supposed to be keeping up with the Jones’, that I am supposed to be showing great achievements academically and professionally; is that not why I am at Tech in the first place?
My high school research teacher spent the time trying to get me to understand that learning from failure is an innate and important part of life. I never believed her, until I got to Tech.
I tend to forget that students at Tech are the best and the brightest and that I am not going to be the best at everything. At this point in the year, I forget that I am not anyone else.
My life is not supposed to look like or follow the same timeline as the person standing in front of me or behind me in line at the career fair. For me, my life is going to consist of a study abroad program before I pursue any professional opportunities because I would rather have more academic experience to bring to the table.
I believe that my time at Tech need not be handed over thoughtlessly for an internship at a company I am not truly passionate about, just for the sake of bragging rights.
In the fallout of the career fair, take the time to acknowledge that you have your own path and own life to live. Think about where you want to be; Google, Microsoft, Delta and the rest of the ‘Big Ten’ may not be where you want your path to go. Breathe.
Remind yourself that Tech picked you. Realize that you are at one of the best institutions in the nation, taking part in some of the world’s leading research, learning incredible things, building yourself as a student and as an individual.
Take the time to fine-tune that resume, maybe stand in line practicing your elevator pitch to some companies, but only take the jump once you are ready. Life is not about impressing others; it is about being happy with your current circumstances or finding a way to reach that final goal. Not landing an internship this time around does not equate to failure. This is something I am learning to be okay with, something most of us have never faced.
And right now, I’m happy with what I have accomplished, even if it means I have to wait in line at the career fair next year to hand over that tweaked resume again.