Widgets Magazine


Apply yourself: Applications as tools of growth

Dec. 17 through Jan. 6 found me alternating between days spent carelessly at Kaimana’s Beach in Hawaii’s Diamond Head and hours clacking away on various summer job applications at every decent, semi-decent and downright bad coffee shop within walking distance of my apartment. Occasionally, the transition from sand to linoleum prompted me to order a pineapple smoothie in an attempt at compromise.

Somewhere between composing an essay on what I hoped to learn about independent publishing and responding to the question of what I most value in a co-worker, my conception of this answering application questions process began to change. I discovered a strange joy in taking the time to stop and engage in opportunities for self-reflection.

So rarely are we given, or do we take the time to investigate ourselves through asking complex questions. And then to be asked these queries by strangers — well, it stopped me short.

I found myself wondering why people who are close to me, and indeed why I myself, haven’t made the asking of these questions more central to my daily life. For surely, the care behind each of these questions would deepen the relationship between myself and the question-asker. For surely once begun, continued reflection on these questions is bound to serve as a means of charting one’s growth and thought progression.

“When was a time you failed at something, and how did you learn from this failure,” may seem like the perfect opportunity for a carefully crafted bogus response, intended to reveal strengths.

Such a question, however, provides one with the opportunity to return to a past moment, perhaps an instance unresolved or abandoned to the ceaselessness of time. This mental return, buffered by hours, days, months or years past, is a removed yet important entrance into memory. Indeed, these questions serve as jumping-off points for essential conversations that may lead to important understandings of past, present and future.

My personal favorite from the pool of questions that I responded to was, “What makes you happy?” And yes, you could make the argument that whomever is reading the applications doesn’t really care what your answer is, but in the end, this process is not about them. It’s about you. It’s about providing yourself with the space and time to understand those parts of yourself which may not always be obvious or accessible.

I, a reformed hermit with a long standing tendency to take family for granted, was surprised to find that my answer to what makes me happy is spending time with my family. Such a changed perspective prompted me to reflect on the events in my life that led me to this important connection with family. And so, thanks to the most seemingly tedious of processes, I worked towards personal growth.


Contact Hannah Broderick at inbloom ‘at’ stanford.edu.