After a recent recruiting session with General Mills, I felt accomplished looking at the number of business cards I had collected this season. As I basked in my accomplishments, another student tapped on my shoulder and asked me, “Hey, can I copy the information on the business cards you got tonight?”
“Go ask for your own,” I replied.
Though I felt embarrassed by what I said, I justified the words with the need to stay competitive in the current market and the cutthroat job search environment. For some, work is not only a means to sustain living, but instead consumes their lives so much they are no longer “working to live,” but “living to work.”
It’s no longer just seniors who face and compete under the immense pressure of career placement and recruitment. The stress of the job search has trickled down to juniors and underclassmen, where it’s increasingly common to see younger students stressing over internships and questioning which font style to use on a résumé.
Though it’s good to prepare for professional life after college, some of us take career preparation and jobs too seriously. With job opportunities set to rise 9.5 percent for the class of 2012, according to the U.S. News & World Report, the competition for these spots could be more intense than ever. It is necessary for students to evaluate the importance of job opportunities before they sacrifice the rest of their lives for the conventional definition of success.
Achievement, as it relates to jobs, is supposed to make people feel satisfied and accomplished, but it becomes a problem when advances on the professional front no longer bring them joy but serve as motivation to strive even harder for the next goal, feeding into the vicious cycle of workaholism.
With the increasing competitiveness of our school, evident in the yearly rise in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, it is not surprising more prestigious firms, whether in the financial or technological sector, are recruiting from USC campus. But it is not uncommon to meet cutthroat individuals at recruiting sessions who are more interested in their own career development to maximize probability of getting a job offer, as opposed to helping each other out.
After talking to some of my senior friends about their career choices, I realized a lot of students’ career decisions are based on the prestige and pay of the job. Some students believe good pay and prestige will offset the horrible 100-plus hours of long, dry work per week.
When I asked my friends at European universities whether they face as much stress in the job search, they told me people are more relaxed, they enjoy life and they do not feel as much pressure for career preparation as American colleges impose on their students.
Knowing how to balance life is the key to this problem. As cliché as the concept might sound, it is important not to dedicate life entirely to work. What activities relax you? Think about the time you spend on Facebook procrastinating that otherwise could be used for leisure activities that remind you there are other aspects to life to enjoy. By spending time on other activities, we increase work efficiency when it comes time to apply for jobs.
Not all of us will be lucky enough to find a job that aligns with our individual passions, or a job where work can intersect with life itself.
Victoria Gu is a junior majoring in communication and political science.