On Not Panicking

It’s no secret that this C-SPAN enthusiast plans to return to DC next year to work in politics. After four fantastic DC internships, relevant coursework, and two of my own health care research endeavors, I’ve built a solid network and learned a good deal about social policy, and I have a lot of people giving me advice and tips. But that doesn’t change the fact that the places I want to work are still a few months away from knowing what jobs will be open in July when I can start working. Thus, I am one of many students right now without clear postgraduate plans.

As any senior can tell you, the first question we get after someone finds out it’s our last semester at Cornell is a variation of, “so what are you going to do next year?” The question has become a major pet peeve for a lot of people I know, and I can understand why it raises hackles. Even though I am well aware of the realities of my chosen industry, having to say, “not sure yet!” with a cute smile is getting kind of old, and it always makes me anxious that I’m not looking hard enough. I remind myself that signing onto a job now just to have one would close myself off from something I really want that won’t be open until May.

I’m this way about a lot of things in life: deliberative, selective, patient. Making a decision about my first real-life job should really be no different, but it’s so easy to get caught up in this rush to get hired. I think it seems like the natural end to getting into a great school, working hard, and doing well there; like we’re entitled to be sought after by employers months before we can start working. It certainly worked this way for plenty of my friends, who have signed onto companies that can forecast their hiring needs and have formal training programs in place for recent grads. Some of my friends even got job offers at the end of their junior summer internships, so they’ve known what they are doing for months now. But lots of my friends are in my shoes, in industries that don’t work that way and/or without the certainty that comes with going to graduate school. For many reasons, I want to shift gears and get some real Washington experience before starting (what will probably be) a JD/PhD in Political Science program.

I always thought of myself as a risk-adverse person, but one of my favorite professors recently pointed out that my tolerance for risk may surprise me, given the field I’ve chosen. So perhaps this is a new part of my personality to embrace, and let’s hope I can add some “not panicking” to that mix.  So when you see me on campus, it’s okay to ask me what I’m doing next year! Just maybe nod along when I tell you about what hiring for DC jobs is like and remind me to keep enjoying my last few months of Cornell.

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