"Before commencing each interview, I would go into the bathroom and apply my clown makeup."Odessa Chitty

It was the final week of term: I had five supervisions, four interviews/assessment centres, and was running low on clown makeup to get me through it all.

By this point in the term, I had already submitted 27 job applications and had a range of interviews/assessment centres which were prompting an identity crisis, considering the jobs were in areas as diverse as law and banking to communications and marketing. The vast differences in the jobs to which I was applying were definitely my fault; but, the problem remained that I was not entirely certain about what I wanted to do next year after graduation.

Importantly, what I was certain of was that I needed a job if I wanted to have somewhere to live in the UK the following year.

So came my proclivity for clown makeup.

“I discovered the need to paint on a new face and create a different identity for each of the interviews.”

At the end of August, when I first began the rigorous stream of pre-recorded interviews, I discovered the need to paint on a new face and create a different identity for each of the interviews. Why? Because very few of the roles to which I was applying were similar, and so they demanded a different personal narrative of why the decisions in my life had led me to apply for this job in this industry, and why this was the only job for me. Clearly, I was not going to be able to pull off this charade without a distinctive persona which was different for each of the interviews: hence the need for clown makeup.

Before commencing each interview, I would go into the bathroom and apply my clown makeup, reminding myself of who I was today and why supposedly my skills and interests perfectly aligned me with the job. While completing this mental exercise, I was regularly reminded of Alice in Wonderland, one of the books which I was reading for my dissertation at the time. In the novel, Alice is similarly going through a sort of an ontological crisis, as she struggles with her own identity, responding to the Caterpillar’s question of “who are you?”, with “I hardly know”. Herein, I took solace in the fact that I, as another blonde, was facing similar problems to one of my favourite childhood characters.

As application season continued to heat up, I spent more and more time applying more elaborate makeup, as the job interviews became more and more different and less and less aligned with my skillset and interest. However, after one of my interviews at a top law firm where a partner straight out said that, in his opinion, I would not suit a law environment due to my love of being and interacting with people constantly, I was forced to reconsider if I indeed was going about applying for jobs in a productive fashion.

At that moment, as the partner brought me back to reality, I once again was reminded of Alice in Wonderland, which at this point I had read half a dozen times. During one of Alice’s interactions with The Cheshire Cat, she asks “would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” to which the Cat responds, “that depends a good deal on where you want to get to”. Funnily enough, I had not thought enough about where I wanted to go with my career. Instead, I had spent far too much time fixated on the idea of a job, so that I could live in the UK post June 2021. As a result, I had not spent adequate time thinking about the type of job which would suit me, rather I was blindly following my friends who had converted law, consulting, and banking jobs from their second-year internships and vacation schemes.

“I decided to rethink my career path and realign my applications around one or two careers which I thought would be most interesting.”

So, after hearing directly from the partner, I decided to rethink my career path and realign my applications around one or two careers which I thought would be most interesting. By narrowing my focus, I was able to spend more time researching and writing my applications which meant that, in turn, I knew more for my interviews. With this tighter focus now, I only needed a little bit of eye makeup here and there, compared to a whole face which I was doing for my interviews earlier during the term and over summer, not only helping my skin but also keeping my identity crisis at bay! Only then was I able to convert my first non-law/consulting/banking final interview into a full-time job, hence ending my need for clown makeup (for now).


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Whilst there was luck involved in my experience, I think it serves as a good reminder to those searching for jobs that not every Cambridge student needs to be a lawyer, consultant, or banker (except for my friends, so they can take me to fancy bars and pay for the bill). If you have thought about it a lot and one of those careers is definitely for you, apply. However, if you are unsure and think you may be just applying for these roles as lots of your friends are, take a moment to really think about what you want, as it will save you a lot of time in the long run.

Ultimately, I guess what I am trying to say is that many of us are going or have already fallen down the rabbit hole of job applications. However, before you fall, make sure you have an idea of where it could lead you, as then, hopefully, you will not need to pack your own clown makeup.