Well hell-O there, Dear Reader. How YOU doin’?
Per usual, I come to you from the clouds. Flying seems like the only time I get to write these days, which I suppose is about as good of an excuse as Snapchat is for not sleeping or studying. Gotta nix that shix. Let’s jump into it.
The primary concern of my peers and me these days seems to be getting a job. And by primary, I mean primary, secondary, and, in some cases, tertiary. It’s a huge, sopping concern.
Campus conversations are riddled with inquiries about what everyone’s plans are for post-grad. Everyone’s dipping out of school for days at a time to complete interviews in every which corner of the country. Tensions climb as we all debate the merits of projecting buttoned-up copies of ourselves at the latest consulting info session. (If I wore ties, this is the part where I’d loosen mine.)
I wish I could say I don’t identify with the mad dash to find full-time employment. But as these days go on, I’m finding more and more that wishes don’t really mean sh*t in this world. (Shout out to all the blown eyelashes and shooting stars to which I’ve ever pinned mine in the past. Rest in peace, fellas.)
Truth is, I’m lucky enough to be in a situation where I already have an offer on the table. That’s right! Can you believe it? Kids, don’t believe anything your elementary school librarian tells you about how everything you post on social media is going to come back to haunt you when you try to get a job. I built a college career around divulging my personal information on the internet. I haven’t gone up in flames yet!
But even with one offer outstanding—and it is a great position at a company I would love, love, love to work for—I find it positively terrifying to commit to anything outside of the walls of this university. That’s where I differ drastically from my peers in the career search. So many of my classmates have a “gotta lock it down” attitude, whereas I’m fleeing from commitment like a 21-year-old man. (General jab, not personal callout. Thanks for checking.)
The truth is, life on the other side of graduation is such a dramatic unknown to me that I can’t even begin to picture it. Even something as simple as my morning routine in just eight months is a total mystery to me. Yes, I’ll wash my face and brush my teeth, but which side of the country will I be living on? Who will I say hello to when I make breakfast each morning? What on God’s green earth will I do all day if not school?!
Now you might be thinking, “Well, Cath, if you had the cajones to lock down an opportunity, then this wouldn’t be such a point of stress for you.”
Touché. A little harsh on the delivery, but point taken.
In truth, my hesitancy is borne primarily from a concern that my first job will dictate the direction of my lifelong career. (I do intend to work for a long time.) This notion comes almost exclusively from conversations I’ve had with my peers. There seems to be a strong perception that every career move we make, including the first, will—at least to a certain extent—limit options down the line. Cue: Sweat glands.
In contrast, what I’ve gathered from talking with actual experienced professionals (see: alumni who have graduated before the year 2000,) is a very different story. Nearly every working person I’ve talked to above the age of 35 has expressed that their career opportunities have proliferated over time, rather than withered. With each job, they say they become more experienced, gaining skills and learning every day about the different parts of their industry. They eventually then use that experience to apply for higher positions, where they continue the upward climb of gaining even more work experience and becoming ever more qualified for the next job they seek.
Nearly every working person I’ve talked to above the age of 35 has expressed that their career opportunities have proliferated over time, rather than withered.
And while this may not be true for every single career track—I’ve had this made clear to me multiple times—from what I can gather here on the ground, it seems to be true for many, if not most.
I think there’s truth in the idea that college students—perhaps particularly at ~elite~ institutions like Stanford—put an undue amount of pressure on themselves. To write a bangin’ thesis, to take the hardest classes (and then ace them,) to start the shnazziest startup, to land the cushiest job. We’re really good at following tracks. It’s basically all that we’ve done since we could hold a pair of kiddie scissors. But what do we do when the tracks go away, and all that’s left is a blank canvas and a palette containing every color we could possibly imagine?
Well. That’s the fun part.
Honestly, it has to be. For our sanity. And I’m pretty sure it’s faith that’s gonna get us there.
I have faith in the ability of my peers to figure sh*t out. I have faith that we’ll be inquisitive enough in our first jobs to learn more than just the bare minimum. I have faith that we’ll create side hustles and stay in touch with our peers and constantly be thinking about the world and ways to make it better. I have faith that we won’t stop at one measly ladder, and that we’ll climb all the way back down and start at the base of a new one if we want to. (Or better yet, figure out a way to hop across the rungs!) I’m not saying I expect all of us to hack the system and mold totally unique, amazing, weird careers for ourselves—just those of us who choose to do so. 🙂
Not having everything so clearly laid out for us is the scariest part of being an adult, but it’s also the most exciting. I really do think this is what they were talking about when they said you gotta leave the nest to fly (or whatever.) And it all gets a little bit easier when you resign the burden of figuring out your next life move in 10 years to your future self in 9 years. She’ll be far better equipped to make that decision anyways.
I’d like to end with a related excerpt from a recent reinvigorating and faith-instilling conversation I had with Stanford OG homie, Slim Sungmoon Shady.
Yus. Yus, indeed.
To all our tangled, veiny, not-Stanford trees—CHEERS TO 2018: A year for one of many future beginnings!