It barely feels like a year has passed since I signed with my current employer to officially land my first full-time gig.
With all that had happened in the past year, today I’d like to try to reflect a little bit on this very short amount of time that I have invested in building my career as a geologist. A position that truthfully, I never really knew would fit in or not, that I was never too confident about. Not because I thought I sucked at it, but because I personally never thought that I was exceptionally good at it.
I didn’t graduate cum laude in my undergraduate, unlike many of my classmates. The ability to find an interesting research question in this field does not come quite naturally for me. Any geology-related achievement that I ever made was more of a result of being scared of failure and becoming a disappointment, instead of a purely natural drive out of passion and curiosity. I’m lucky that I seem to still do pretty well in the past eight years which was mostly thanks to my innate perfectionism and commitment, I guess, but truthfully, I just never expected to really succeed in this field.
Maybe at least until a year ago.
(This title will be split into two-piece articles since apparently I had refrained so much from writing about my career, hence I’ve got so many thoughts to be poured now. This first part will mostly talk about my process of finding my entrance into my first full-time job. Buckle up if you decide to follow along, because this post isn’t particularly a short one.)
When I finished my Master’s in 2018, I told myself repeatedly, that I didn’t have to get a job as a geologist. That if I matched with another position, I would still be happy, content, satisfied, and thankful. Apart from the fact that the oil industry was still very unstable, I also knew that there were so many talented geology graduates who would all apply to the very few geology job openings, especially in the petroleum industry, which I had specialised in throughout my university years. With that much competition and uncertainty, I had set up my mind to not expect to get a job in the energy field, especially in oil and gas, despite it being what I had always envisioned for me throughout my university years.
I came back to Indonesia in 2019, and together with A who had also just come back home after completing his Master’s in petroleum-related studies, we tried to learn as much as we could about management consulting instead – where we saw many bright talents were aiming to get in. At some point I also applied for the banking industry, not knowing whether or not I’d actually like the industry if I ever got accepted, but I thought I needed at least the interview experience, so I kept going.
Yet out of the blue, a text from my senior in ITB came in one day, asking if I wanted an onsite job as a geologist at a national oil and gas company. He knew that I had just finished my Master’s and he needed someone to fill up this contract position. He thought that I’d be qualified for the gig because of my specialisation. So I took the offer, mainly because he’d allow me to keep looking for a full-time job, and that the salary was not an issue, and also because I thought this might as well be my last chance to actually work as a petroleum geologist.
Along the way, two oil and gas-related companies announced that they were hiring, and these were the kind of official management trainee vacancies that led to full-time positions, with supposedly well-defined career ladders and promising professional growth. Since it was quite a rare occasion in the industry, I applied to both, while not being brave to expect much.
The truth is, I never wanted to admit that I did want those jobs. I always told myself that I had nothing to lose, that I just wanted to try out of curiosity, that I just had no reasons to not apply. I told myself that if I didn’t get it, I wouldn’t be disappointed since I pretty much always thought that I didn’t quite belong in geology as much as I seem to do in other fields such as creative fields anyway, that someday I’d find a career outside geology that suits me as a whole – even though I invested five years of my life studying it, and another year in-between working in it.
I didn’t know if it was true to some extent, or whether it was merely a denial statement to protect myself from being disappointed if I never get a job in this field.
However, the universe seemed to have conspired unexpectedly in my favour. To my surprise, I eventually landed both positions. Yes, I was surprised – though not too surprised. Surprised, because I had never been that lucky before and my competitions were not any less talented. Not too surprised, because like the perfectionist that I am, I prepared everything so well during all the recruitment steps, so the hard work fortunately did pay off.
They weren’t even just another corporate jobs. They were both perhaps the most ideal entry-level positions for aspiring petroleum geologists that all domestic geology graduates would’ve dreamed to have, that years ago I literally thought it was just a dream that I didn’t dare to even think about, thanks to my low self-esteem.
I knew that I was extremely fortunate to get both job offers, especially when the oil and gas industry was still trying to stay afloat. However, half of me thinks that I probably… Didn’t even deserve it? Especially when there were many other talented graduates who were also trying to pave their ways into the industry.
Even though I knew that throughout the past few years, I had tried my best to build everything in my resume that I probably shouldn’t have thought that I didn’t deserve it, the thoughts were still creeping in. For years, I had worked so hard to get to that point, only to think that this was probably, literally too good to be true for me. After all, who even am I without this trait of constantly doubting my capabilities? It’s just the same old myself.
I tried to think that maybe this is the universe’s way to tell me that perhaps, I kind of belong in geology. Maybe, I’m better at this than I always assumed I was. But I really was that nervous to take the job that I didn’t even change my LinkedIn until I passed the probation period. I didn’t even choose to share the update with my network.
I know I’m not supposed to feel “guilty” for getting this job while other talented people did not. I know I don’t have to feel awkward about getting my effort and hard work recognized. I know I shouldn’t feel like stealing away other people’s opportunities, because as someone who believes in religious views, I believe that we all have our own proportion of fortune that had been written for each of us. I know that it’s not my fault that some of the people that I know to be good geologists, maybe even better than me, have not yet found their ideal career paths. After all, I didn’t do anything wrong to bring me to this point and I came this far only after surviving multiple failures as well previously.
All my efforts were valid, and other people’s businesses have nothing to do with whether or not I deserve any of it. I know that. I just can’t help suffering from these thoughts.
If you’re patient enough to bear with my ramblings until this point, you’ll probably notice how my impostor syndrome seems to mostly stem from me being constantly bothered about the fact that I think there are other people who are better than me at this, and that I may deserve less than them.
I guess along the way, as I execute more of my jobs properly, I’d hopefully find the comfort in trusting my own ability and stop thinking that I get too much than what I actually deserve. It’ll be a very long road ahead, but hopefully, I can carry myself all the way to get there.
If you’ve ever suffered from impostor syndrome as well, how did you survive it? I’d like to learn more about how people deal with these insecurities, so feel free to drop your comments and thoughts.
On a side note, the story behind deciding to take one offer and not the other is probably worth a standalone post for another time. This is probably something I’d like to review in the upcoming three years when hopefully I would’ve finished my fixed-step training at my current workplace (and still employed here).