Cultivating Resilience through Learning

I wish I could invent a word that accurately encapsulated the current state of crippling anxiety this pandemic has thrust us all into – especially when describing the pandemic's toll on economic activity.

No doubt that as fresh graduates, it is incredibly unnerving to live in constant uncertainty of not having secured a job. Firstly – it's because that's all we've ever been conditioned to know or work towards after coming out of school. Step 1, graduate. Step 2, find a job and pay off your tuition loans. Secondly, because a job is the route to financial freedom for some of us, and for others, a much-needed source of income to support their families financially. A job can mean so many things, and it doesn't help that the current pandemic economy has hijacked the journeys of so many fresh-graduate jobseekers before it could even begin proper.

These feelings of exasperation are completely valid. We can't avoid circumstances, be it good or bad, and this one's particularly awful.

That being said, we also cannot deny that the pandemic economy has posed deep questions as to how our mindsets function. In other words, it has really tested our response to circumstances that don't go as planned. I say this while I recognise the immense privilege that I have as a fresh graduate with a full-time job, for which I am beyond grateful. But I do think that times like this have compelled us to enter a space of deep introspection, one where we have to actively internalise how essential it has become to pivot away from the norm and embrace a growth mindset. A mindset where we carve out opportunities from the boundaries that have been enclosed upon on us. One that I believe ultimately leads to perspective, gratitude, and most importantly – resilience.

I am no expert, but I believe the way to cultivate that mindset is to really, from the very core, invest time in learning. Whatever it may be. Find your rhythm to focus on something you want to build on, a skill you want to pick up out of genuine interest to learn. Be proactive and tap on the innumerable resources that our universities (i.e. NUS SCALE initiative offering professional certificates) have put out to upskill ourselves, reach out to your career advisors. Do an internship, a traineeship, or engage in a volunteering opportunity. Pick up a book, or study a subject you have never explored before. Don't always go in with the mindset of "where will this get me in 2 years' time". Learning becomes so incredulously calculative when we approach it from that angle. No matter how small or big any opportunity you take up, it counts. And you'll be surprised at how much of a takeaway each engagement offers you with.

Secondly, the key to capture those learnings is introspection. Reflect on those opportunity's takeaway - put them in words. Process them. It builds awareness for you to be able to shape the next opportunity you choose thereafter.

Why I say the things I say is because I've always felt that we need to steer away from the utilitarian mindset whereby we "ought" to capitalise on everything that we do. While I don't discount the importance of evaluating the pros and cons before investing our time in something, train your mind to also find peace in the process of learning rather than the outcome of it. Take the time to build on your current as well as your future potential both in material & non-material ways, no matter what the consequence is employment wise.

We've been given the golden gift of time as fresh graduates, and while the pandemic has handicapped us from an economic standpoint, it has created room for us to really investigate the day-to-day choices we make and how we make them. These ultimately will shape how we operate as employees, once recruited.

American psychologist and author, Adam M. Grant, recently shared something incredibly thought-provoking and humbling and I quote —

"In job interviews and college admissions, we focus too much on what candidates have accomplished and too little on what obstacles they've overcome. The true measure of people's potential is not the height of the peak they've reached, but how far they've climbed to get there."

Understand that we are living in times of unprecedented unemployment numbers. But I urge you to take this time to keep learning and keep reflecting. No matter where you may be, your journey in this extraordinary battle counts.

By Megha Saha, (FASS, '20) Early Response Escalations Specialist, Facebook

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