It’s 5pm on a Friday, and like the last scene of the Breakfast club, you are throwing your arm in the air as you taste the sweet freedom of the weekend. Sure, you still have to work on your assignment tomorrow, and to turn up to your part-time job on Sunday, but for just one evening you might be able to chill. Ah, such bliss.
Just before you leave uni, you check your phone and open up an email notification, with the weight of your mistake setting in.
Innovation…cutting edge… just what employers are looking for… and the cruncher:
An opportunity that will look great on your CV.
It must be really great then, right? Especially considering they don’t pay anything, want full availability and write their pitch like the whole of New Zealand is applying for it. Well, you better do it. You’ll have time in your work breaks and in the ten minutes between classes to fill out the application, and then if you get it… eh, cross that bridge when you come to it.
You buy into this descriptive fluff and throw yourself in, because if nothing else it will add some glitter to your resume, even if it is at the expense of your grades, sleep and your well-balanced hauora.
As you soldier on through your mountain of extra-curricular responsibilities, the overwhelming bombardment of what your resume should look like continues. You get told by one expert that you should volunteer for 18 hours a week at an animal shelter because your employer will probably like cats (even though you study accounting) and then some-wise guy swoops in with a
“Oh, didn’t you know that your CV is only meant to be on one page? They won’t look at it otherwise”.
No matter what font you artistically try to cram on that document, there is no way that the free work will fit on it. You consider sacrificing your contact number for your own sanity.
You know what, maybe you should quit it now so you can focus on other things… if only quitting didn’t look bad on your CV.
Well people, I think we’re getting played. From volunteering, internships, club committees or whatever extra-curricular activity, there is always someone in your ear with this classic line ready to leach onto your free time as suck it dry. Ever since the latter years of college, there has been an expectation that we obsess over our resumes like they’re our golden ticket into the chocolate factory of our dreams. After years of this message gracing our ear-waves more than Khalid on The Edge, I find myself becoming very sceptical, and wondering if most of these ‘rare opportunities’ are just a fancy way of saying ‘free labour’.
Of course, if your activity of choice truly benefits you in experience or if you genuinely enjoy it, it makes sense to do. However, according to the pitches we get, every extra-curricular is relevant to what we want to do, because apparently everything needs innovation and all of the other modern-day employee buzz words, and we simply need to differentiate ourselves from the next person.
It’s almost like you aren’t allowed to do university without being on the brink of a Brittany Spears 2007, because being on top of your work apparently means you have time for something else, making us feel obliged to take on everything that comes our way.
Or do we like it like that? Students can be just as bad at re-circulating these unfair ideas about what you ‘should’ do in the form of subtle competition. See, if you decide against all of the propaganda to solely focus on university, it only takes a simple, “yeah just finished an internship with GRRU for the KDT programme to help with my HCSU application” in reply to a, “what have you been up to” to make you feel like you made a bad decision.
Then you can surge forth into moralistic arguments, like how free work is just not financially doable for some students, so can only the rich have self-less saint applications?
Then a true blue New Zealander joins the pub discussion, adding that you do not deserve a saintly title if you are only doing these things, so you can brag to the all-important employers about your good deeds like a child nagging, “look at my picture!” Are you really a good New Zealander if being a humble Kiwi is not the most important thing?
It would seem we have reached another one of those, ‘you can’t win’ conclusions. You are either looking great on paper but are potentially getting taken advantage of, having a life but being told you won’t get hired, or just sounding like a rich, pretentious over-achiever in a culture of the staunchly modest.
So students, let’s put ourselves first and defiantly ignore everyone but our guts. Who knows what will happen if you free yourself from these expectations… you might even be as rebelliously preposterous as to not have a LinkedIn and still get a job (sorry, Business School). The formulaic strictness of what your CV ‘should’ look like is long gone, so it is time to let the content follow suit so it portrays you the way you want it to.