Letters from the dorm: Use others’ success as motivation, instead of feeling threatened

  • Many university students are looking for summer internships, and competition can be fierce
  • It’s easy to be jealous of what your classmates have done, but it’s better to ask them for advice
Cyril Ip |

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Instead of being threatened by others' achievements, use them as a way to learn.

Every year, between the months of February and April, many university students search for summer internships.

The most ideal outcome would be four weeks of paid work at a reputable organisation that offers a programme or position catering to 20-year-olds. This would mean that you spend half of the summer gaining insight into your future field of work, and the other half taking part in leisure activities – chilling, reading, going to the beach and travelling. This kind of work-life balance is picture perfect.

We are engaged in a fierce competition, where each of us has written exquisite cover letters ready to be sent as soon as we see an opportunity. In short paragraphs, we tell the organisation about our strengths and achievements, anticipating that our words will outshine our peers’ efforts.

During this process, I saw myself become increasingly critical of what I have and have not done in my “career” as a student. The thought of “more could have been done” comes up daily. As I compared cover letters with my ambitious flatmate, I felt that I may be slightly behind – she is 20, with six internships under her name. But then, as I compared the situation with my classmate, who has never written a cover letter before, I felt calmer and relieved.

Letters from the dorm: Searching for positives in a time of uncertainty

It’s easier said than done, but we have to be all right with moving at our own pace. I am absolutely not advocating negligence or complacency – I am urging us all to be comfortable with being motivated by others’ success, rather than being threatened by it.

If we see someone who is ahead of us, we should ask them for advice so we can improve. If we see someone falling behind, offer them help so we can make progress together. If we look at the bigger picture, it’s better that we win as a generation than as individuals.

Moreover, be open to opportunities that are different from the ideal situation we have imagined for ourselves. The chance of reality being the same as what we have dreamed of is slim. We have to be prepared for that, and appreciate the good things, even if they aren’t what we have envisioned. The work can still be fruitful and meaningful.

You could even challenge yourself by working in a field that is different from what you are studying – it might inspire you to develop a new approach towards life.

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