Struggling with Job Search Anxiety? You're Not Alone.


Enter the Career Center at any day of the week recently, and you will find hordes of students dressed in suits, ties, blazers, and maybe even a briefcase or two. You may ask yourself: Why are all my peers dressed so professionally? Did I time-travel ten years into the future? Does Drop-In Career Advising have a business attire requirement that I’m unaware of?

The answer to both of these is no; rather, it’s interview season here in the Duke Career Center and surely on other university campuses around the country. What you’re witnessing is on-campus recruiting, a super fun event where companies flock to Duke’s campus to interview students for a variety of jobs or internships.

To some of you, this might sound all-too-familiar because you’ve lived it yourself. As much as I appreciate you, my loyal reader, this blog post isn’t for you. Instead, it is for those of us who are not pursuing jobs or internships that participate in the on-campus, or even off-campus, recruitment of undergraduate students. Which, by the way, includes jobs in most other sectors. Among these fields include, but are not limited to, public sector jobs, NGOs, think-tanks, campaign work, and many research positions.

Being in this environment, seemingly surrounded by students who are en route or have already secured offers for post-graduation life can be extremely intimidating. I’ve experienced this phenomenon, which I will now be referring to as Job Search Anxiety (JSA), in various forms over my college years. The first time I remember experiencing JSA was the spring of my sophomore year, as I rapidly fired off applications for months while many of my peers had already nailed down internships for the upcoming summer as early as October or November. Since then, JSA has popped up at various points, but never as acutely and intensely as it has during my senior year.

I first felt JSA this year immediately upon returning to Duke after a summer abroad. I spent this past summer in Cameroon on an independent DukeEngage project, which was a very different summer experience than many of my friends. While I’d known that I was in the minority of my peers by doing a DukeEngage project as a rising senior, it didn’t really hit me until getting back to campus and being bombarded with those who’d spent the summer working at major companies, many of which had already provided them with return offers.

This realization catapulted me into JSA, and I began spending hours researching potential jobs, reaching out to Duke alumni, and updating my LinkedIn and resume. Just a few weeks into September, I’d already spoken with multiple alums in current or former positions I was interested in, and had been given the same advice by all of them: it’ll work out, just be patient.

What they were saying is that for the kinds of jobs I was asking about, I had to wait to be eligible. The places I’m interested in working for don’t base their available positions around the graduation of college students. If anything, that’s how most companies and organizations work: you apply when you’re available to work in positions that have become available. This means I can’t really apply to jobs until March, April, even May of next year, and that is OKAY! Not having chosen a career path that provides me with an offer sooner does not make me, you, or anyone else any less intelligent, capable, or qualified than our peers who did.

I am someone who likes to have a plan; I like schedules and lists and knowing what is coming next. Being surrounded by peers who know where they’ll be a year from now when I have no idea made me call into question my own choices and interests, but it shouldn’t have. What is most important, to me, is that I feel passionate, interested, and excited about where I go to work next year. I just wasn’t interested in the places that are recruiting now, and knowing that about myself is a strength within itself.

At the end of the day, it’s November and we’ve all got plenty of time. And don’t worry, our moment to be in the chaotic midst of applications and interviews will come. In the meantime, you can do some research, browse jobs on CareerConnections, and polish your resume. Take a step back to reaffirm your faith in yourself and the process, and remember that you are not alone!