Living with Career Anxiety in College

Caroline Hess, a rising senior and journalism major at Northwestern University, had yet to find an internship for the summer. Even as someone coming from a reputed university, she was confronted by career uncertainty like many other college students.

To make their resume competitive, many college students start planning for their careers as early as their freshman year.

Owen Auger, a rising senior pursuing a career path in finance, has an exemplary profile: freshman year, campus networking; sophomore summer, internship at a start-up consulting company; junior summer, a 4A company internship that will probably grant him a return offer once he graduates.

For people who have a clear goal for their future like Auger, college is a place filled with resources and opportunities. However, more people like Hess are still in the process of exploring and experimenting with their interests.

“It’s just hard to ‘plan’ before I know what I want to do,” Hess said.

As an aspiring journalist, Hess realized that she has little passion for becoming a journalist after freelancing for media platforms, hosting podcasts and doing individual projects over the past three years. Most of her friends in the same situation have switched tracks toward marketing or public relations. But Hess doesn’t want to blindly follow them just because it seems like the right thing to do.

Lia Zeng, a recent graduate who studied Statistics, also did not enjoy her past internships. Instead of finding a job immediately after graduation, she is pursuing a master’s degree in Business Analytics at UCLA this fall.

“Grad school is more like a transition,” Zeng said. “It gives me more time to figure out what I want to do.”

Wishing to delay the transition from school to the workplace, Hess is also planning to apply for grad school. While she plans to study for GRE and write application essays over the summer, she says it’s more important to just enjoy her life. She wants to spend more time painting, dancing and traveling. She is also considering working at Happy Lemon, a local beverage store, to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a barista.

Hess knows that these commitments may not boost her resume, but she does not feel anxious about the uncertainty in her future career. She is excited that she can still try various things before settling down to one.

“I may have to spend more than 40 years in the workplace,” Hess said. “So for now I just want to enjoy my four years in college.”

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