College–Often a Weak Career Launching Pad
When I was in college, I could not decide whether to major in History, Religion or English, and my college allowed me to craft my own major with a focus in Humanities–the perfect decision that allowed me NOT to make a decision. College was an academically invigorating, intellect-broadening experience, but good training to acquire a career it was not. Once graduated, I didn’t know what I wanted to do or what I was even able to do professionally. I had always seen myself as a teacher, but I also liked—from years in music and drama—-performing. College had sparked a love of writing, so maybe I could write for a living. These were all viable dreams whose consideration brought equal amounts of excitement and panic as I hit a pretty tight and unforgiving job market in 1990.
Vocational aspiration gave way to more of a “catch-as-catch-can” approach, and my performer, author and teacher success dreams slipped away in a grinding few months full of resumes, telephone calls, interviews and one rejection after another. I ended up taking, in desperation, a job in admissions (sales) for a vocational school. While the process was bruising and my new reality failed in most ways to live up to the dreams that had been so well fed within the safety of college walls, I soon found that my new employer had a host of goals and problems (all businesses do), and the more readily and overtly I assumed these goals and problems, taking them on as my own, the tighter my new company clung to me and invested in my success.
When the Group’s Goals and Problems Become My Own
Within a couple of years at this school, I had worked myself into a community outreach position in which I spoke to local schools and community groups about my company and the work that we did. I moved into career development to help graduating students take charge of their own careers (a topic I felt very connected to at that point), and I started writing both curricula on career development and both image and outreach pieces for the company.
I had wanted to be an author, a performer, or maybe a teacher, but I took a job in a proprietary school because I could not find a job I wanted, and I had a family to support and rent to pay. The world around me drove on, and I needed to work within those realities. I never stopped thinking of myself as a performer, a teacher and an author though, and a funny thing happened. In less than five short years–in the rear view mirror, it now seems but a moment–I had become a public speaker, a writer and a teacher–not exactly with the trappings I had imagined, but I actually ended up with what I wanted.
To anyone newly dumped into a tight and unwelcoming job market, I offer this: imagine yourself happy, intellectually engaged and energized by the work you do. Keep that image in your mind and visit it often. While doing this, take the best job you can find and commit yourself to learning how to do it well, solve the group’s problems and make their goals your own. This is the best chance you have to craft a career. The future you want is created, not found.
OKA is a leader in the field of training and development–helping people with the self-awareness, interaction and communication tools needed to build and sharpen their careers since 1977. For a full list of our classes and offerings, visit OKA online. If there is some way that we at OKA can help you and your career development, we look forward to hearing from you.