There’s often immense pressure on university students to make themselves into employment-ready graduates. It’s almost as though they are commodities competing for the highest possible value.
The society of career ladders and high-status jobs tends to infiltrate the university experience, pressuring students to prepare for their future jobs.
Before students have even had time to develop the independence and personal responsibility that comes with living away from home, they are rushed into planning for a career that may not be best suited to them.
Seen as cogs being polished to replace rusty parts of the machine, they are encouraged to get work experience, make industry connections and find a well-paying grad job without so much of a wink towards individual development.
Millennials are often criticised for having little self-discipline and quitting as soon as the going gets tough. They are self-entitled and self-obsessed, market analysers will say when considering why young people are economically mobile.
But when students are pressured to be the shiniest graduate on the shelf among thousands of others just like them, the character building effect of genuine life experience can sometimes go amiss.
After all, who has time to go on perspective-broadening trips around the world and work on understanding their strengths and weaknesses when there are internships that have to be added to your CV?
This leads students to produce a version of themselves that looks good on paper, but apply them to real-world situations, and their substance can be lacking.
At the very least, they will be career-hungry graduates ready to climb their way to the top. All they bring to a company culture is competitivity, with creativity and kindness left out of their progression plan.
More likely, they will invest their time into a career they’re not even sure is right for them, and be ill-equipped to cope with challenges in their professional and personal lives when it comes crashing down.
Instead, to prepare for the dynamic 21st Century job market and be masters of their lives, students should invest their time into personal growth.
This could take numerous forms: it could well be trying out a professional internship, travelling to the other side of the world or even working with a counsellor to understand the way your mind works. Unlike with becoming as employable as possible – only you will know which road is best.
University is a unique time where you have the safety net of academia to support you while you learn how to be an independent adult. There will be plenty of time after graduation to work a nine-to-five job – and trying to be the most employable graduate could have the opposite effect.
In a job market where all graduates have industry experience and applicable knowledge, you’ll need something truly unique to stand out from the crowd. You dedicate your time to industry placements, networking events and Linkedin – but guess what, so has almost every other student.
By taking your time to authentically grow as an individual, you will gain an understanding of your unique personality that will guide you towards the right career.
Rather than blindly following the path walked by so many students before you, you’ll find your own unique stride.
Building a solid foundation based on your identity, talents and self-worth will be invaluable to you when you enter the often cut-throat working world. Your dream industry will always be there for you to experience, but the ability to explore your interests and discover your niche won’t last forever.
In turn, the experience of putting yourself above anything else will translate to irresistible confidence and self-belief. Allowing you to smoothly handle tricky interview questions or stressful periods at work, your commitment to personal growth will propel you forward within your career, even if this wasn’t your original intention.