Last night on the ride home from a fulfilling and delicious dinner comprised of subway and frozen yogurt (yum), John and I got on the topic of careers. He was feeling frustrated with his job, and like anyone who is fed up with work he was trying to figure out other career paths he might be interested in someday. Even though his alternatives consisted of a truck driver or the ever impressive bank-robber (kidding), it still got me thinking seriously about twenty somethings and our careers. I found myself asking this question: the day we graduate, are we doomed to take a job we dislike simply because we don’t feel like we have any other options?
I enrolled in a Photography course in high school and felt an immediate passion for making photographs, so it was of no surprise to anyone when I decided I wanted to pursue a career in the arts. I felt a little lost during most of my high school years and couldn’t quite figure out where I saw myself career-wise, so this was a pretty important decision for me to make. I visited the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and instantly felt it was the right place for me. For 3 years, I worked incredibly hard to develop a strong portfolio and thought I had everything all figured out. Then I actually graduated.
Reality hit me. Hard. School was over, I would no longer receive a monthly student loan check to cover the cost of my rent and bills, I only had 6 months to get my act together before I had to start paying back my loans, I was entering the workforce during an economic recession and I was without a roommate in an apartment I definitely couldn’t afford. While in school, I was only worried about school itself, not what would happen after. I didn’t realize how unprepared I actually was for the real world. I had no clients and no resources to make my dream career happen. I felt like an absolute failure.
I did my best to make ends meet (while also developing a post-grad drinking problem) and got 2 part time jobs until I could find a full time position. I sometimes relied entirely on my parents to help me out with monthly expenses. With the help of my best friend, I eventually landed a full-time position in Merchandising with a major company. Soon I was receiving a steady paycheck and thus gained financial security, but I still felt unfulfilled. My job was making me unhappy, but I didn’t feel as though I had any other option.
I found myself in a place familiar to any twenty-something. I was in twenty-something limbo, stuck between who I was at the time and who I ultimately wanted to become. I could see my end goal, but was having a hard time figuring out how to get there. While I took a few part time jobs and worked a 9-5 I didn’t love, it was all part of my career path that got me to where I am now. My new job is in marketing, where I get to be creative and also use my photography skills for marketing purposes. I have the opportunity for freelance assignments combined with the financial security of a full time job, and I’m extremely happy with where I’m at.
My lesson learned is that every job should be viewed as a stepping stone. Fresh out of college, you probably won’t land your dream job, and you’re going to have to work incredibly hard to get the career you want. Don’t let the jobs you take out of desperation make you feel doomed forever, because they may just turn out to be your stepping stones to something even better.