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Career Reflections

A friend from college and I were having coffee together on my day off, and I was telling her about my job. She laughed half-heartedly at some of the more ridiculous call situations, then cleared her throat and said, seriously, “You know, you really should start looking for another career. So things didn’t work out with whatever it is you wanted to do when we graduated. What was it you wanted to do again? Never mind. The point is it didn’t work out. So find something else. I mean, is this what you really want to be doing? Answering phones and having people yell at you?”

She had a point, of course: I don’t like my job, and since my original career aspirations did not pan out, it is definitely time to redefine my goals. The problem is I’m having a nightmare of a time trying to decide in which direction I should shape them. And the increased difficulty of landing jobs or internships “just to see what the field is like” isn’t making getting back on track any easier.

“But you have to have some idea,” she pressed. “You need to make a plan and get on it like, yesterday.”

The problem with being surrounded by friends who, on average, knew by the age of seven that they wanted to be doctors or engineers is that they can’t understand someone like me, a person who is still trying to find her way, who has yet to find Life’s Great Calling. To these friends, my inability to pick a direction and take off running is incomprehensible. To them, I am lazy and unmotivated.

College Friend went on to give me a lecture, reminding me of how much time I’m wasting and telling me to work harder. “You don’t want to turn out to be nothing in the end, do you?”

There’s an article in a prominent newspaper that I’ve spent the last month reading and rereading. The focus of the story is a young graduate who, despite having completing her education with high marks, was unable to find employment in her field and so had to move from her university’s busy metropolitan area back to her small hometown, where she accepted a minimum wage service sector job. I empathize with the girl, not only because I know very much how she feels, but also because the journalist is remarkably sympathetic to her, citing both the competitive nature of her intended field (business), and the rough labor market in general. Many people are in my boat—or, like the journalist, at least understand my situation, I thought, feeling comforted. For this reason, I naively assumed the comments section of the online version of the article would be bursting with well wishes or commiserations. I expected to read things like, “Hang in there, kiddo” and “You’ll find your own path in your own time.” Instead, mixed in with downright mean comments telling the girl to get a nose job or to dump her boyfriend for being a “loser,” most of the comments I managed to read before getting too depressed to go on echoed my friend: Get it together. Pick a career; it’s not that hard.

I let my friend go on for a few more minutes, thanking her sincerely when she was done, because while I could have done without the tone, I do appreciate being made accountable for my decisions. We said our goodbyes a half hour later. She drove away with a wave, probably thinking she had done me a favor. I sat in my car for a minute.

Pick a career; it’s not that hard.

For some people, maybe it’s not. But maybe some of us are late bloomers. I’d like to think that’s not such a bad thing.