University/ job stress

Warning: this post is basically just one big (probably quite boring) rant about various things in my life that are stressing me out right now. If you don’t want to put up with me blabbing on about university/ job-related stuff then run away now, while you still have a chance.

The last couple of days haven’t been great in terms of my mood. I’m not suicidal (yet) but I’ve been very low and I’m finding it impossible to see a positive future for myself. It’s getting more and more difficult to drag myself out of bed and get something productive done before it’s time to sleep again. Various things to do with university/ figuring out a career path are really stressing me out.

After I was told by the careers advisor that I can’t become a vet nurse with my current degree – I had unfortunately been given the wrong information by a few people, so didn’t know that this was the case – I sort of went into a mad panic about what I should do. It would almost definitely be too late for me to change course this year. However, if I stay on with my current course, my feeling is that I may as well complete it. Though if I did the vet nursing degree afterwards, I’d get no funding for it so would have to pay for it all myself. Another problem is that the vet nursing course has a prerequisite of at least 2 weeks of work experience in a veterinary practice. The careers advisor has encouraged me to ask around different practices for work experience opportunities as soon as possible but, again, it seems that I will have left it far too late. I curse my own stupidity for not finding out about this sooner. I don’t know how to deal with the fact that I may end up wasting 5 years of my life. But then…I’m not even 100% sure that vet nursing is what I’d like to do. Though working in a veterinary practice has always been one of my main career ideas, I’ve never really had a clue what I wanted to do in life. I lack ambition, I suppose. I feel that having social anxiety rules out quite a lot of career choices for me. All I’d really want is having a job that I wouldn’t completely despise and which wouldn’t make me completely miserable/ a complete nervous wreck every day, but judging by the vast majority of people, I’d say that’s extremely difficult to come by. I don’t think I’d ever know whether or not I wanted to do something until I’d actually had a direct experience of it, so trying to get work experience will become a priority over the remainder of the summer. The problem with this is that from what I gather, most vet practices are chock-a-block with work experience requests, and I have virtually no real work experience (apart from a week of work experience as a stablehand, which I did 4 and half years ago now). Therefore, what chances do I have of being chosen over people with far more work experience than I do? I phoned the SSPCA a couple of months ago to see about volunteering, and was put on their volunteer waiting list, but it could be months and months before I hear anything back from them (if I do hear back from them). I’m feeling very, very discouraged.

*Trigger warning for the next paragraph: self-injury/ scars*

Apart from the issues with a lack of work experience, my biggest issue with contacting local vet practices is, of course, my social anxiety. The thought of having to phone around and ask them for work experience is completely daunting and makes me feel ill. Though I suppose it’s not quite as bad as having to phone around asking for job opportunities (I’ll get to this later). I’m hoping that I can use the practice of phoning around for work experience as a stepping stone to phoning other places about job opportunities, but I really don’t know if I can manage it. Even if I somehow did manage to get work experience somewhere, I really don’t know how I’d cope with having to talk to other people there without looking like a complete freak. Another serious concern that I have is that in vet practices – as well as in most of the places I would like to apply to – the dress code is generally short-sleeved. As hard as I’ve tried, concealer does not hide my scars at all. I really worry about what other people will think. Will they know that the scars are self inflicted? Will they discriminate against me because of them? Will they treat me in a more negative way because of them? Once again, I curse my own stupidity – for scarring myself somewhere that is more difficult to hide/ for scarring myself in the first place. Even if I come up with a really good and plausible excuse (I’ve formulated one already) as to how they got there, there are probably quite a few people who still wouldn’t believe me.

My main priority after getting back from holiday was trying to find myself a summer job/ part-time job that I could also manage while at uni. The main problem is that – other than the student support/ disability advisor, I have no one to list as a referee on my CV. Most of the jobs that I want to apply to require at least two. In my desperation, I emailed my personal tutor, programme leader, and even my two high school guidance teachers to ask if it was okay to list them as a referee, but I haven’t heard back from any of them. So until at least one of them does reply, there are almost no jobs that I can actually apply for. I don’t know any other people who could give me a reference, other than my counsellor, but in doing that, I’d have to disclose my mental health difficulties. This is yet another worry. I asked a bunch of people from a social anxiety forum whether or not they disclose and the advantages/ disadvantages of doing either. Literally every single person who replied urged me not to disclose because employers can and will discriminate because of it. However, not disclosing puts me under even more pressure to try and act ‘normal’ (whatever that is) and fit in, as well as probably doing things that are well out of my comfort zone. Not disclosing also means that I may not even be able to list the support/disability advisor as a referee. We discussed this when I went to go and see her about various things on Friday. She’s known me for 2 years now and said that she could give me a really good reference with regards to being hard-working and always getting back to her emails quickly, as well as my good grades, but she’d obviously have to mention my poor social skills/ social difficulties if she was asked about how I am with other people. So I doubt that anyone is going to want to employ me.

I also went to see an academic advisor on Friday. He’s contacted the programme leader for vet nursing for me but – as he’s apparently on holiday – it’s looking extremely unlikely that I’ll get on the course this year. I felt a lot worse after talking to the academic advisor but the support/ disability advisor made me feel a bit better about the whole thing. Both she and the academic advisor mentioned that having good grades would help in getting a place on the vet nurse course and with getting work experience. The academic advisor actually said that I have some of the best results he’s ever seen. While it’s nice to see that all the work I’ve put into my course over the last 2 years has paid off, for some reason I still don’t feel that I really have done well. I always feel like I should be doing so much better or that people are only saying that I’ve done well just because they’re being nice. I’m too much of a perfectionist, I suppose. Though I still don’t see how good grades are going to give me a better chance of work experience at a vet practice if other people have more experience in working with animals/ are more enthusiastic and cheerful/ have far better people skills.

I felt even worse after talking to my family about changing course when I got home. I get really stressed out about the whole thing if I think about it too much. I really don’t have a clue what to do. I have no idea what to do with my life. I am really enjoying my current course but the career opportunities aren’t as broad as they would be with a vet nursing degree.

I will have to start emailing/ phoning around for work experience at some point in the next couple of days, so it seems that I’m just going to have to ‘bite the bullet’ and do it, scary as it seems. I’m worried about every tiny little thing that could possibly go wrong. What if I stumble over my words? What if I come across as rude? What if my mind goes completely blank and I forget what to say? What if my voice shakes? I really hope that it won’t be as bad as I’m building it up to be.

</boring and pointless rant>

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2 Responses to University/ job stress

  1. JC says:

    Hello! It’s taken me a while to get my brain “right” enough to type out something vaguely coherent, plus dealing with my commenting-nerves (I still get self-conscious because of that “I’m bothering people” feeling), but here’s the promised lengthy ramble, full-to-bursting with *empathy* and *hugs*!

    I have the greatest respect for this post. Ditto, in every sense (except the actual degree subject!). I’m in a very similar position, in that I’ve got through two years of a course I’m pretty sure won’t lead me to a career I’ll be comfortable with, and done pretty well by most people’s standards, and I have an idea of where I’d rather be headed (but no real enthusiasm for anything specific; my requirements are the same as yours, job-wise). I’ve decided to stick it out until the end, mainly because I’d feel worse if I stopped without getting a qualification, but I have no idea what to do next because of the fee increase.

    Worse is the feeling that the longer I avoid getting jobs/work experience, the wider the CV gap becomes. I’ve never had a paid job, and I had two weeks’ work experience in an unrelated field four years ago, and they had to make lots of compromises for me to even do that, so I’ve not got a lot of optimism there. Not to mention the fact that I have nothing extracurricular at all to add for the “all-roundedness quotient”.

    I can’t even look at job requirements without feeling that I fall short so much that there’s no point even trying. I’ve been told that I have all the qualities most employers actually want, in that my memory’s pretty good, I pay attention and don’t need to be told things twice (unless I’m nervous, of course, which makes it a moot quality really…), I’m meticulous as hell and polite (although that’s nerves-related as well usually). But it’s the job descriptions themselves that are really the problem, because even the least social kinds of jobs now need “dynamic personalities” or some such rubbish, and it puts me off straight away. We used to have someone come to our house to do the family haircuts (my fault again!), and she told us about her application to work part-time on a supermarket checkout; she had to do a full day of interviews, group work and presentations, just to be allowed to work on a till.

    Don’t be discouraged, though (I have to tell myself this a hell of a lot). I can’t help thinking about how ridiculous it all is, and while it doesn’t actively help, it does make me feel better in a superficial way, which is something at least. My argument is usually that surely the human race hasn’t evolved that much in, what, less than fifty-odd years, that it’s somehow now reasonable to expect all applicants to have bucketloads more “qualities” (read: jargon words unrelated to the job itself) and time to develop them, for that matter, simply because there’s more competition for the jobs themselves? My dad has never had a CV (he’s 60 this year), and only one interview in his life (“When can you start?” – and nothing more – was pretty much the way it went), and yet we were expected to have an A4 CV completely filled before we started GCSEs. We’re prone to feeling inadequate because of the problem we have, but a lot of the time, it’s really genuinely not our fault, or indeed anything to do with us.

    I think you’re much more of a catch than you think you are. You’re certainly braver than me, for even considering “biting the bullet”, and I wish you luck and *hugs*. Planning usually helps if it’s something important (like job-related things), in my experience, whereas the opposite (deliberately not giving yourself a chance to think about it) is easier if it’s not – although it might feel important, of course, but you know what I mean!

    Technically I have more to say, because I’ve not even covered the empathy I have for the short-sleeves problem, or the results thing (main point there: you can’t argue with the numbers, at least, so try and allow yourself to bask in your brilliance, even if just for a minute or two), or the disclosure thing (I prefer to tell people in advance, simply to avoid expectations of “normal” – my CV has “disability-friendly environments” as part of the personal statement, to ward off any unsympathetic types), but I’ll give your brain a much-needed rest for having got through all my blatherings 😀

    (Also, just in case, I won’t take it personally if you don’t feel up to replying; I have trouble with anxiety when phrasing replies to long comments, so I can’t judge!)

    Right. I really will stop typing now. I won’t read this through or I’ll obsess, so… deep breath, *more hugs* aaaand *click*.

    -JC 🙂

    • Gemma says:

      Thanks for the comment, JC. 🙂 You’re not bothering me at all. I feel exactly the same with the extracurricular stuff – I’ve never been part of any clubs or anything like that at uni, and I have nothing social to put on my CV. I also relate completely to looking at job descriptions and feeling like there is absolutely no point in applying for them because of how much social/ teamwork skills and enthusiasm, etc are emphasised. It’s difficult enough for anyone our age to find a job right now, but when you take out anything that involves a lot of interacting with other people, you’re left with virtually nothing. Since dealing with some social interaction is as basic requirement for – as far as I’m aware – all jobs, I am trying to push myself to apply for slightly ‘easier’-sounding jobs in that respect, but the thought of interviews and everything completely freaks me out. My counsellor has told me that I have quite a few qualities that employers are looking for, but I don’t really believe him. My complete lack of social skills probably negates most of those anyway.

      You’re right about not getting discouraged though – I suppose we just have to keep trying, as pointless as it often seems. My parents are much the same – my mum has never had to write a CV, and has been working for the same company since she was 17 (she’s nearly 48 now). My dad has worked for the same company for most of his life as well. Both my parents tell me that getting a job was a lot easier when they were my age – my dad said that it was often just a case of turning up to the interview in appropriate clothing and saying when you could start work. Expecting you to have had a full page CV before you’d even started your GCSEs does sound a bit ridiculous though – what on earth are you supposed to put on it at that age? I’m not sure about your school but my school never helped us with CV writing or job hunting, or anything like that. And since my parents don’t really know much about it either, and I don’t have any ‘real life’ friends that I can ask, I’m pretty much on my own. My uni might be able to help a little bit but I still don’t really have much of a clue how to write a good CV.

      Despite my anxiety, I did manage to phone a local charity shop the other day, to see if I could volunteer. I’ve to go in for a chat about it on Thursday, which I’m absolutely dreading, but if I can manage it, volunteer work will look good on my CV and it’ll hopefully help me feel slightly more confident in talking to other people. I still haven’t phoned around any vet practices – mostly because I’d rather see the ‘CV Doctor’ at uni before sending my CV to them. I think you’re right with the planning thing. I’ll probably have a loose script/ list of questions written down to help me when I finally face the epic task of phoning around different practices.

      Thanks again for your kind comments. 🙂 *Hugs and empathy back* I hope things go well for you with uni/ job-searching.

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