How do we know when to take an opportunity by the hand and run with it? How can the fine line be drawn between a positive experience and one that could possible cause more harm than help? What processes do we go through to make these decisions? And how can we justify each outcomes, within a broad perspective of what is important to us and our wellbeing?
Opportunities come in from angles as diverse as their offers. You may get the chance to meet a family member you’ve only heard of through discussions over the family tree, or you might be invited to an exclusive event where you’d receive a backstage pass to be an assistant working with the celebrities in attendance. Maybe you have the chance to volunteer within the community to give something back, or maybe your mum offers to take you out for breakfast next Sunday morning. You could be thrown an opportunity to take up an internship at a well known advertising agency or you might be given the chance to make a significant change in your own life, that others have recommended would be for the better. Maybe you decide to defer your university degree for a semester or two while you travel the world, watch movies and listen to good music. Alternatively, you might choose to tackle a full-time job, head on, learning skills of cooperation, customer service, teamwork and accumulating personal growth.
No two people will be presented with exactly the same opportunities. But often many people are offered the same opportunity, for which there will be only one successful recipient. For example, a few months back, I applied for an internship at an online news organisation, based in Melbourne. I wrote what I felt to be a strong cover letter, responding to the selection criteria, and send it off with my CV to the relevant contact. To my surprise, I received an interview soon after. During the interview process, the staff I met with seemed pleased with my application and I felt encouraged by their responses. Inevitably, I did not gain the internship position. I was too young, with not enough experience. This is fair enough to some extent, but I cannot change my age. I will not make up stories that say I’ve experienced more than I have and I won’t lie about my interests and current studies. I recently listened to a podcast that discussed how an extraordinary number of job applicants deceive their prospective employers with illegitimate referees, imagined work experience and even false university degrees. In the United States, you can purchase a college degree (transcript and all) for a couple of hundred dollars. What is a university education really worth?
In time, you will not fool anyone. And honestly, you are setting yourself up for failure that could have manifested as a success within another industry or position for which you were qualified or had the required knowledge.
I want my university degree to mean something and I want to finish knowing I’ve done the very best I could do. Of course, circumstances outside the realm of study alone have to be considered. And here is where I pose my question. Would you put your study on hold temporarily, if given the opportunity to possibly improve another aspect of your life? What would be the deciding factor(s)? What if the structure of your study is something that kept you going, and that you gained pleasure out of? What if in order to gain the benefits of this other opportunity you had to forgo the comfort of your own home, your daily routines, habits and familiar situations, and set yourself up for an environment with posed rules and regulations about what you can and cannot do, despite being of adult age?
And in order to reconnect, they say you must disconnect. No social media, limited phone use, restricted face-to-face time with relatives and set requirements for the duration of the opportunity.
I want to do well in my studies. Really, that is number one. I don’t mind being alone, in fact, I like it. I’m an introvert to the greatest extent. But generally, I like setting my own rules, and living by my own standards and routines. I work best when I know I have control over assignments, make daily plans, know what’s coming up ahead and can organise myself accordingly. But these plans are mine. Not someone else’s. And I hate the idea of being treated as a kid again. It’s gone on for too long. I constantly am asked what year I am in at school, how old I am, and when I asked a trainer at the gym the other night for an exercise to help with muscular strain, she demonstrated and replied “and this one you can even do in class while you’re bored and waiting for lunchtime!”.
So yeah. I look 15. But that’s just who I am. I am short (thanks, Mum) and I have a youthful face. But despite this, I need to look past these barriers and pursue opportunities regardless. That interview earlier in the year where I was told I was too young is actually only one of many where I’ve received the same response.
“Oh, you look so young!”
I get it. But stop holding it against me. Because I’ve taken up opportunities that others haven’t and I’ve lived my life, which may not be what you’d expect of someone my age/look/attitudes.
So I’m going to keep applying for work experience, carefully considering opportunities within all contexts of my days and try not to be held back as I predict the immediate response I will hear if I am in fact offered an interview or progress to the opportunity’s next stage.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Open the book, discover its contents and try and gauge the weight of its offerings before throwing it aside.
I used to scan bookstores and only pick out the books that had a hot pink spine. Surprisingly, I got some pretty good reads out of that selection of young adult fiction. But by restricting myself to the world of pink literature I was missing out on everything else. With so much on offer to us in today’s society, some decisions become more complicated than they need to be. But make sure you don’t overlook those that go deeper. Zoom out. See the bigger picture. Everyone’s so sure YOLO but that doesn’t mean every opportunity is the best one to be taken at a particular time.
How do you make difficult decisions? And what are the risks in taking a chance?