Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Just Starting Out from the Lens of a Fresh Graduate

So here many of us are on the edge of our future. Gone are the days when even if our summer wasn’t going well, we knew we’d be back in school in September, ready to face classes, grades, and fun with our friends. As a fresh alum of UMass, there is no going back in September, no more structure to everyday life. Now is the time for me and my classmates to build our future and create a new structure that involves adult responsibilities. We cannot postpone thinking about our future anymore, which brings the question, What do you want to do with your life?

Since childhood, we have been told that being a doctor, or a lawyer, or a scientist is the way to go. With all the money we’d make in our job, we could have anything we wanted. Several years later, this can be interpreted as, “Even if you don’t like reading books all day or hate doing math, it’s ok because you can use the money you make to do what you really want to do when you’re not at work.” But why not turn the tables and do what makes you happy to begin with? From having several internships throughout college, from sales to customer relations, to advertising, I have come to discover in positive and negative ways that if you can barely get up in the morning to face your job, you will not be happy outside of it either. I’d rather love getting up every morning with a sense of purpose and making less money than dragging myself through the day and making more money. After all, you do spend 8 hours a day at your job, and much more time outside of it thinking about it. If you do not go for what you truly want to do, you will only be feeling a sense of relief when the day and the week are over. This is not happiness. But what happens Sunday night when you now have to face another week of the same old thing that you hate? It’s back to being unhappy. In this type of scenario, if you are just doing it for the money, then you won’t last. You will feel unauthentic, and you will be “found out” by your colleagues, boss, and customers. As a former financial representative intern for a large insurance company, I noticed this phenomenon firsthand. If I didn’t believe in my product, but I tried to sell it to other people because I could make a good commission off of it, it would backfire. Potential customers could tell by the way I spoke and through other non-verbal cues whether I truly believed something or didn’t, and that would be carried out in how I presented the products whether or not I wanted it to.

So back to the question: What do you want to do with your life? Some of my peers have discovered what they want to do with their lives, as I have (more on that later), but that’s only the beginning. In one of my business classes last semester, we had several speakers come in to talk to us about how they started their own businesses. The string that linked each of them together was following what they believed was their calling and not giving up in the face of obstacles. Given the way they became successful, they challenged each of us to do the same – to throw caution to the wind and go after what we really want to do. After all, this is the time to do it. We have no children, no mortgage, and no real responsibilities. Many of my peers pointed out after each speaker that to them, taking a year off or waiting for what they really want to do just isn’t practical. After all, health insurance would expire upon graduation and loans would start to kick in six months later. Not to mention that there were companies out there recruiting that were dangling high salaries and sign on bonuses in front of students, tempting them to take an offer that they weren’t too excited about just because of the money and the slumped economy.

What is the solution? To allow me to better follow my purpose, I have chosen, and am very grateful, to live with my parents for now and work a part time job while I actively seek out what I want to do with my life. But what about my peers? I think the solution to the obstacles we face today in following our purpose is to move back home and start searching for the right opportunity. It all comes down to choice though. If, as a fresh graduate, you value your independence and want to rent an apartment, then that’s fine. That’s a choice you make that will require you to sacrifice in other areas of your life. On a broader scale, each of us has many little choices to make each day that will either bring us closer to fulfilling our purpose or farther away from it. As long as we are making progress each day towards fulfilling our purpose, it is better than feeling trapped in a job that is just a “job.” Remember that we cannot blame the economy, our parents, or the weather for why we aren’t moving towards what we really want to do. The choice is ours; we just have to want it badly enough. What choices are you making to move towards your purpose?

1 comment:

  1. Vanessa, I think it takes a lot of courage and faith to follow your purpose. Thanks for sharing your experiences. It is always a good reminder that we have choices every moment. Best wishes on your journey!