The complexity of writing 3000 words on the pros and cons of publicly funded media pales in comparison to writing about yourself. You – probably the hardest subject to master. Whereas my resume would highlight leadership positions I’ve held, it fails to shed light on the process it took to get there. The application process is time-consuming, frustrating, and by your fifth application you’ve about answered more questions about yourself than a dating site would ask.
The problem this week is the application process. I use the word ‘problem’ with caution, because it is less so a ‘problem’ than a time-consuming inconvenience your lazier self abhors. Now I don’t know how they allocate positions at other universities, but at mine they do it through a written application-interview process. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me to fill out a one page application to volunteer for something, but what about those big positions…
You know, the ones that will eventually grace your resume.
Those position applications could end up being 5 pages! (With essay questions!) Now you don’t have to be majoring in math to see how that adds to your existing workload. Eventually the constant bragging about yourself seeps its way into one of your essays and you end up writing something like “Hitler demonstrated his competence in communication by adapting his style for various audiences.” AKA complete and utter application jargon and buzz words.
Apart from dedicating valuable reading time to editing and re-editing applications, there is also the added nuisance of the ‘application cycle.’
Application Cycle: describes the quest for positions in which you have to justify your skills through past experience you’ve had. This becomes difficult when you’re applying for a position a bit out of your field of comfort where you lack the experience (but not the skills?!). How do you expect me to gain experience when every experience has an application barrier I can’t get through?
The story this week will be short – my current experience in filling out position applications is literally me skipping out on readings to complete them. Sometimes there is an inevitable PDF error where I cry a little, e-mail the application coordinator, and have it resolved after endless hours of worrying.
Now onto the good stuff: learning points!! The best thing about surviving a struggle is learning from it. What I have taken away from this application armageddon:
- Seek guidance from others. Filling out applications can be frustrating. Look to your friends if you’re having trouble describing yourself or thinking of relevant experience you have. Chances are you’re being a little harsh on yourself and it’s getting in the way of thinking clearly. Find someone who has held the position before (optimal), or someone else who is completing the application (just as good), and talk to them about it. Brainstorming answers to questions is advantageous to all, and can help with any writers’ block! (Also talking about it helps you plan what you will be writing, the phrasing, the vocabulary, etc.)
- Start early. First and foremost, this allows you to edit, but also allows for your points to mature and strengthen (much like you my fellow student :). You’ll find if you really care about the getting the position starting early won’t be a problem; your enthusiasm will have you looking at the requirements as it comes out. Applications take a lot longer than you originally anticipate, so save yourself the stress and start early.
- Do a little each day. You did not become the great person you are overnight and neither will your application. I recommend jotting some notes down every day at the beginning, and later on (after a little research – see tip #1) working on putting all those lovely words into sentences. By breaking up a huge application into smaller components, a daunting task becomes less intimidating.
Tedious as the application process may seem, it really does have a silver lining. They say if you invest 100 hours into thinking about yourself, your passions, your goals, you will have a clear vision of who and where you want to be – without wasting money switching majors a bunch of times. ‘Self-branding’ in that aspect is highly valuable. The application process is similar to self-branding in the sense that it allows you to reflect on yourself. It asks you to contemplate your strengths, weaknesses, goals, and desires. It’s important not to think of self-branding as just your social media presence but living up to the expectations you have set for yourself; being the person you imagined. Reflection is valuable, and the application process forces you to make time for it amidst your busy university schedule.
P.S. A side note on rejection: it happens. Especially when you go to a big school filled with talented individuals and a limited number of positions, you will come to terms with the fact that you might not be the best fit. When that happens, remember that rejection is just a way to weed out the undetermined. The persistent will persevere and progress. Rejection is a feeble attempt to dissuade the motivated. However, it’s hard so here’s a link on how to deal with rejection. Hang in there guys.