Updated: Sep 4, 2020
The problem with applications is that it is not a “necessary” endeavour, compared to compulsory essays and trawling for accommodation. You most certainly do not have to do it, but there an array of forces that coerce you into the practice – a mentality that is undoubtedly especially detrimental to mental health. As a second year student, I felt that I was obligated to jump on the applications freight-train, not only because of surrounding pressures of friends in banking and law who were always on the verge of mental breakdowns from their relentless employment pursuits.
Having had two “free” summers devoid of internships or work experience, I felt as if I was lagging behind (confirmed, to me, by my lacklustre resumé), spoiled by a three-month “holiday” as my friends interned at Deloitte, volunteered at WWF, and assisted think-tanks. The notion of the summer months as a slow, calm transition – as I believe it should be – had become to many of my friends a pressure cooker, within which was a torpedo of work, stress, and time spent away from families who had already not seen them for a year.
I am working on two applications on top of more than 10 I have already sent out, as well as a 5000 word essay as I write this. The toil does not cease after the applications are over – the long wait is one of unfaltering anxiety. What do you do if no one accepts you? What are your backup plans? Studying English Literature and Creative Writing also ventures from the convention ordained by internships. As opposed to “spring weeks”, “vacation schemes”, “training contracts” and the like, my interests lie in editorial, writing and journalism internships. They are far more limited in the jobs market, rendering the process more arduous than it already is.
What I ultimately question is a variety of internalised notions: that applications are a necessary rite of passage, that the stress from applications should be downplayed as it is a “voluntary” task, that opportunities prior to higher education such as apprenticeships are not “good enough” as they are more unconventional routes to take.
Applications aren’t a requirement, and if they undercut your mental wellbeing, the latter should take utmost priority. At the end of the day, you are still young and you still have time. The stress originating from application season should not be overlooked either. It is a matter which concerns a future which is highly uncertain, volatile, and capricious, and when your mental health is balanced upon such a delicate precipice, a crash is only imminent.
Finally, apprenticeships and work placements are not an impossibility at this stage – for a fresh alternative or a new pathway to allay current worries. Looking at more long-term opportunities may be intimidating, but they maybe the answer after all.
Nonetheless, boarding the applications express, there is indeed a feeling of relief in sending applications away, with even the smallest glimmer of hope that one person will approve of you and take you in, under their wing. As a second year, it is this hope that encourages me, and which will contribute to my maturation even if it is revealed to be false. At the end of the day, applications themselves are a learning process – and you will take away from it more than you think.
For other creative humanities students in the same boat, I recommend websites such as The Dots, Ad Job Wall, Google Careers, and of course, LinkedIn, for less commonly advertised opportunities (speculative applications are also a good method too). Attending events such as Warwick’s new annual creative careers conference, CHL Warwick, and the Creative Industries careers fair hosted by the university are also incredibly useful.