Guest Blogger Steph McMurray
1 January 2016
2015 was a very challenging year for me. That may surprise some of you – given it was relatively quiet compared to overseas placement or finishing an aerospace degree – but even though I didn’t move to a Non-English speaking country or have a final project to complete, that’s kind of what made it hard. For the first time in my life I felt like I didn’t have a purpose or a goal. For the first time, I wasn’t busy. And I hated it.
I was a very studious person all through my school years. I was considered the nerd among friends and I embraced that title. I knew who I was and who I wanted to be. I wasn’t ashamed of my hard work and dedication, I was proud of it. I always put all of my energy into my work and wanted to do well. So I was at a complete loss when all that hard work and all those good grades didn’t land me a job in my field. It felt like all I really got was a handful of rejection emails and a big dose of self-doubt. And although I know that “comparison is the thief of joy,” I just couldn’t help it. I’d look at all my friends seemingly moving on and getting jobs and I’d think, why not me? I started to feel like I wasn’t smart enough or charming enough to land the job, and it started affecting my confidence.
I started boycotting family events and catching up with friends because I dreaded the question that people always ask: What have you been up to? Because to be perfectly honest there were one or two months back there when I basically became best friends with my Netflix subscription and didn’t achieve much else. One night in particular I can remember actually being reduced to tears because I absolutely could not face another relative and tell them I was still on the job hunt and still doing the same thing I’d been doing months ago.
Of course my family have actually always been my biggest supporters. My parents have always encouraged me and been there for me through out all of my previous challenges. And they’re the only ones who’ll answer my late night/early morning skype calls without question.
So why did it scare me so much? And why was I finding this gap in my school-uni-career trajectory so hard to deal with? Well, now that it’s mostly behind me and I have had time to reflect, I can say that I think it came down to three things.
- This was not in my life plan. I mean, back in high school I definitely didn’t expect to still be living at home at 24, and I didn’t expect finding a job after uni to be so challenging. Things weren’t working out the way I had planned and the perfectionist in me was way too hard on myself because of it.
- I was too focussed on my failures and forgot about all of my achievements. It was so easy for me to focus on all the rejection letters I was receiving and forget about everything I had achieved through-out my degree. I worked at Rolls-Royce Duestchland. I studied at Purdue. I got selected to go to a freaking rocket launch for goodness sake. And it was all because of the hard work I had put in and the strengths I had demonstrated, but all of that seemed insignificant if I couldn’t seal the deal and land a grad job.
- I stopped believing in myself. For the past five years I have worked with a group of young people to run a seminar aimed to inspire and motivate other young people to become better leaders. We teach people about the importance of confidence and self-esteem. The importance of being positive and believing in yourself in order to achieve your goals. But even with all the tools at my disposal, I found it so, so difficult to apply that mantra to my own life. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had failed and that I wasn’t good enough. I felt like giving up. I stopped applying and even questioned my decision to study engineering. How are you supposed to sell yourself to a prospective employer when you don’t even believe that you’re a strong candidate?
When I look back now, I can acknowledge so many positives that have come out of the year and lots of things that I accomplished. I am the fittest I’ve been in years and get a lot of enjoyment out of being outside and being active. I strengthened friendships with old friends and made a lot of new ones. I had a number of different jobs that challenged me and taught me new skills. I saw parts of Australia I’d never been to. I saw T-Swift live! But most importantly I learnt a lot about myself.
Once I started focussing on the positives and living in the moment, things got easier. My confidence improved, I was accepting of my current situation and I was actually happy. I started making plans for the future, setting goals and putting realistic expectations on myself.
And then – completely out of the blue when I wasn’t even actively applying – I got called in for an interview. And all within a week I met with the company and was offered a graduate engineering position.
Getting that call was exciting, but more than anything I felt relief. I did it. I made it through the toughest year yet and I could enjoy the rest of 2015 knowing that I had a job and my career was going to start in the new year.
I wanted to share this story because I know that a lot of us put pressure on ourselves, whether it’s to get into uni, get that job or even just to be the best version of ourselves. And I want to tell you that it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to doubt yourself and it’s even okay to cry about it if you feel like it.
But just know that if you’re confident in yourself, if you focus on the positives and if you just keep on going then things will come, just like they finally did for me. Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, and in 2015 I learnt that life can still be great even when your plans don’t work out.
This first appeared on stephinberlin.com and has been republished with permission.