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The Answer to “Should I Apply?” Is Probably “Yes!”

Here are good reasons NOT to apply for something (a job, internship, fellowship):

  • It doesn’t sound interesting.
  • Applying would take time away from other things that are more important to you.
  • You’re only thinking about it because it’s THERE, not because you want to do it.
  • You’re only thinking about it because other people you know are interested in it.

Those are all solid reasons to pass on putting together an application. Any one of them suggests that your energy is best spent elsewhere.

Here are BAD reasons not to apply for something. Are any of these holding you back?

  • “It sounds really interesting, but I’m not sure how it connects with any of my career plans.”  Your career path is a work in progress. The way you figure out where you will be successful and happy is by trying things. If something catches your attention, it’s worth checking out. EVERYTHING you explore will give you more insight into what you’re good at and where you thrive. Adhering too narrowly to a path that you’ve mapped out will lead you to miss out things that could be relevant to your future.
  • “Lots of other people are probably applying — I wouldn’t get it.”  This is a particularly terrible reason not to apply for something. Let the people who make these decisions do the deciding. There’s nothing to be gained by ruling yourself out. If you apply, you make it possible to succeed — and you may be precisely the person they’re looking for.
  • “I don’t have much (or any) experience doing this particular thing.” That’s not necessarily a problem. Some opportunities exist precisely to give people with no experience an opportunity to try something out. Enthusiasm about a field can be a desirable qualification, as someone who wants to learn is going to be more motivated to succeed. Let the employer decide how much experience is enough — go ahead and apply if you’re interested.
  • “There are some other things I’m thinking about applying for, and I’m not sure which path will be right for me.” Applying for something doesn’t necessarily mean it will work out. There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself options. Worst case scenario: you have to decide between a couple of different offers. Fortunately, there are people around (your academic advisor or the staff at the Humanities Professional Resource Center, the LAS Life & Career Design Lab. the Career Center, or your unit’s career services) to help you think through your decision.

Bottom line: go ahead and apply!

Some tips if you feel like your application is a stretch:

  • Tailor  your application. Read the available material about the opportunity carefully and look up terms that are unfamiliar. Demonstrate your interest in the field by using the language that the employer uses and emphasizing the requirements (if any) that you already fulfill.
  • Stick to the positive things you can say about yourself: other kinds of potentially relevant experience you have, the skills you can contribute, and your motivation for applying. Avoid drawing attention to your lack of experience or background.