AL DAKKAK: Finishing strong

Having just graduated, I guess my first piece of advice for you is to enjoy senior year immediately, because it will go by far faster than you know. And odds are that you will not be at such a magical place for quite some time; make sure you make the most of it. If you have any CR/D/Fs left, don’t wait! Now is the time to use them. Take that class you’ve always wanted to take — double majoring was always overrated anyway.

If you are like most seniors, advice about enjoying your last year at Yale might seem a little impractical at present. I know most of you are thinking of upcoming job interviews, fitting case studies between classes, and trying to find the perfect answer to “What is your biggest weakness?” (There is no perfect answer, by the way.) I know I certainly was, and was considerably stressed at several points in the year.

But your experience throughout this process (whether it ends fall semester, or extends throughout the entirety of senior year) will depend on a dose of perspective. Your outlook will impact both your enjoyment and performance. It is very easy to get carried away by the on-campus hype and get the feeling that this is it. It is easy to start stressing and believing that you are one mistake away from a fatal error from which you will not recover.

Alternatively, this can be a time for reflection — a time to internalize Yale, what you’ve learned and achieved, and where you want to go moving forward (or where you don’t want to go, if that question is easier to answer). The process of applying to jobs can be a great opportunity to understand your priorities and goals, your talents and predilections. Job interviews are a great chance to learn about your interests, how to market your gifts to different people, and understand what you can bring to the table in the game of life. You have the chance to emerge out of this process a stronger, more confident, and reflective individual — even if you don’t know the answer to all the questions you started with, or even a job.

It is easy to make the mistake of believing that these interviews will determine your future, and that one mistake will get you off that perfect path (which usually sounds like: two years at BCG, Wharton MBA, a fulfilling life and career and ultimate happiness). One thing I learned from senior year is that there is no perfect job, no ideal track, nothing of the sort. Go out there apply anywhere and everywhere, to any place you might want to work. With effort and an open mind, things will eventually work out, usually in unexpected ways. Most importantly, you will learn more about yourself than you ever did before — failure and only failure can give you that. In fact, with a positive attitude and a mind eager to learn from your mistakes you are more likely to secure that ever-elusive job (and you will secure one eventually).

In the words of a fellow Yalie at 3:30 a.m. on an average college day: “Whether we stress about this problem set or finish it smiling — we still have to finish. At this point, we can only choose our attitude.”

Nafez Al Dakkak is 2011 graduate of Calhoun College.

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