You are not alone. Most people choose career paths not based on what they want, but what the market wants. So they end up doing the minimum needed to pass the exams, get the degree, bag a job. Interests, passions are not yet explored. What is explored is not worth writing on a resume 😉 So what do you do?
I could give you a few tips and tricks to put some bullet points on your resume. “Hungry learner looking to make her mark in the industry” etc etc…You can google it.
But does an impressive resume signify a meaningful career? Because people with impressive resumes are not necessarily fulfilled either. So is it the resume that is the challenge?
The actual problem goes deeper. And that is what I want to explore…
Here’s the funny thing. I have heard even 31, 41, 51 year old people saying “I feel like a complete loser! I don’t know what I have done in the last 15 years!”
Heck, even I keep feeling that from time to time!
It is a challenge with how we see ourselves.
That judgement about myself is not reality, but my personal interpretation of a neutral reality, which in turn is based on the quality of my consciousness(or “mood”) at the time.
In short “I am feeling like a loser” <> “I am a loser”
Depending on how low my mood is, I might feel like a loser, like a burden, or even dying. But the feeling is real. So a better question is:
How do I overcome the sad feeling of “being a loser”?
And it’s pretty easy to overcome it:
- Read some motivational quotes on Facebook, read biographies of people who have made it through hard times. Until you feel “If they could, I can too”
- Look at people who are worse off then you: imprisoned criminals, drug addicts. It is sadistic. But you feel “At least I am better off than them!”
- Eat food like chocolates and ice creams. They are useful in lifting your mood.
- Read some self help books. You won’t do anything they advise. But it makes you feel you can if you wanted to. That is enough to overcome the bad feeling.
But is that enough for you? If not, let’s make sure to ask the right question, before looking for the right answer. Maybe the actual question is…
I keep experiencing sad feelings of being ‘useless’, ‘unproductive’, ‘loser’, ‘unable to contribute’ frequently. I also try to justify them as reality by producing evidence like ‘my CV’, ‘low marks’, ‘lack of work experience’, comparing with peers etc. and the feeling gets worse.
But anyway, regardless of what I feel, my real question is:
How can I contribute to society?
Not ‘Can I?’, ‘Will I?’, ‘Should I?’…but simply how do I?
That cuts the drama out, takes away the expectations of ‘Becoming somebody’ or ‘changing the world’ and simply focuses your attention on “What do I do right now?” rather than “Where do I see myself in 5 years?”
So let’s see. What do you do right now? You are 21. Assume not physically or mentally challenged. I also assume you are not from a war torn country where the need of staying alive overrides all others.
Is there stuff an able bodied, college-educated 21 year old can do in this country?
Will that stuff make him feel like a “winner”, “productive memeber of society”, “better than his peers”, “apple of his parents eye”, “potential Elon Musk” etc?
Not sure. But does that matter? The learning will come anyway. Why weigh yourself down?
Worst case: You will have to work for free for an NGO, help out a business person for free. You invested 3 years of your life in college, but did not utilize it as much as you could have. So invest 1–2 years more now. Whatever you get paid would be a bonus!
Best case: You use this as an opportunity to try out different stuff which your “I got great marks → I need to take this job only → Marry this kind of person only” friends can never dream of. You have less to lose! More scope to experiment!
Maybe you try out 10 different things. And discover something you really enjoy. Which matters more than ‘what it means about you’.
And at each step, your CV builds up by itself – more meaningfully.
It tells a story of “What you did on the job” rather than “Why you should get a job?” It is a proud statement of “What you can do?” rather than a desperate justification of “What you should get?”
You stop being a victim. Your actions are no longer dictated by others evaluations.
You are no longer at the world’s mercy to tell you ‘who you are’. You do things because ‘you want to’, rather than to change what it ‘means about you’
If you follow this approach, I do not know what you will be exactly doing 10 years down the line. But I am sure you will be extremely happy, successful, maybe even thankful that you did not have to suffer the expectations of a ‘Top student’. And what’s the cost? Just a delay of 1–2 years in a lifespan of 60–70 more years! Not a bad deal at all? Unless you convince yourself otherwise.
Of course other people will write your story as if you knew what you wanted all along, that you ‘worked for 10 years to achieve your life purpose’. Because they need those stories to serve as a pain reliever for their own sad feelings.
But you would know it is nothing complex and grand like that.
You would know that all you asked yourself was “Regardless of what I feel this means about me, what is the best I can do right now?” and just took one step at a time.