Whether you’re starting college, taking a gap year, just graduating, or beginning a new job, entering a fresh chapter in your life feels invigorating…and super overwhelming. With all the unknowns and potential opportunities at your doorstep, how do you find balance?
I believed that working would be the only way to leave my parents' house and to make new friends. After applying for dozens of jobs, going to interviews, and struggling to find something that interested me, I gave up on the search. I didn’t give up permanently. I got burnt out from doing the same thing over and over again: applying, interviewing, waiting and waiting…
The beginning of my job hunting experience taught me that there is much more to post-grad life than work; there are so many opportunities for recent graduates, especially now that remote experience is abundant. Even volunteer work and internships are available online. Instead of looking for jobs, I started looking for opportunities.
Looking for an opportunity meant that I was looking for something to do, anything. I just needed to be productive again. Lo and behold, a few months after exiting the job hunting process, I received dozens of work-related inquiries. A majority of the responses were “We want to interview you” or “You look like a good candidate for this.” This made me really happy since I had been feeling discouraged from getting a ton of rejections. The praise and feedback that I got were what I needed to hear after struggling to find a job.
I quickly realized that I had applied for too many cool opportunities. I had to reject a handful of them because I didn’t have the time or energy to participate in everything. It took a lot of intense introspection, but I finally narrowed down three opportunities to accept. It wasn’t an easy task since I loved all of the positions I applied for, and didn’t want to let anyone down. At the end of the day, I chose to put my mental and physical health first.
For anyone struggling to say no to opportunities in school, post-grad, or whenever, refer to these 5 tips to help you make positive decisions.
1. Decide which opportunities are best for your physical and mental health.
Our physical and mental health matters. We cannot function in jobs, activities, and other opportunities if we don’t take care of our bodies and minds first. I’m a firm believer that mental health is critical to succeeding at any task - from doing laundry to volunteering. There’s no rush in life for you to get a job or internship. It’s ok to say “NO.”
2. Ask yourself if the opportunity helps your future goals.
You are in charge of your future. Ask yourself if the opportunity you are taking on is just some resume fluff or quick cash, or if it’s something that will help your future. Not every opportunity in life has to help your career, but when making job-oriented decisions, look at the long-term benefits of your choice.
3. Review the benefits/downsides of opportunities at hand.
When starting a new chapter in your life, you may not know what you want to do next. To be honest, nobody has it all figured out. Whether it’s an internship, job, or intramural soccer team, you may not know how a new opportunity will benefit you. Do some research beforehand, and weigh the pros and cons of taking on an opportunity. Even something as seemingly harmless as an intramural league may detract from precious self-care time!
4. Think about the logistics: Does this opportunity require transportation? How long is the commute? What is the growth potential? Will this opportunity fit into the lifestyle you envision for yourself?
When considering a new opportunity, planning, prioritizing, and budgeting are absolutely essential. Whether you’re joining an after-school club or taking on a full-time job, you must consider how you spend your time, energy, and money. It’s okay to say “NO” to an employer if the job pays less than what you are spending on the commute, and it’s okay to say “NO” to an activity that would drain your final ounce of energy.
5. Don’t take on an opportunity you don’t really want.
While making extra money and gaining experience may sound ideal, it is not always the healthiest idea for your body. Ask yourself: Would you rather be wealthy and overwhelmed, or living comfortably with time for friends and family? There is an opportunity out there with your name on it. Be patient. Don’t force yourself to do something for the sake of your resume or because you feel like you should.
At the end of the day, your mental and physical well-being should be prioritized over any job, internship, or activity. You can’t show up as your best self if you aren’t taking care of your body! I hope these tips provide a fresh perspective, and allow you to truly consider whether certain opportunities honestly deserve a big “NO.”
Written by: Katherine Chung