Recently, I pursued a very exciting opportunity, one that afforded me the chance to work in an industry I’ve loved since I can remember: sports. Of all the extracurricular opportunities I’ve involved myself in this year — professional fraternities, sports business groups, writing for this awesome paper, etc. — this felt different. This was the chance of a lifetime, one that could define my college career.
One thing you should know about me is that when I go after something, I go all-in. I’m sure many of you do as well. It’s one of the traits which defines the student population here: when we want something, we go after it with a vengeance. So, that’s exactly what I did. Networking calls, emails, talking to people who held the position formerly — everything you’re supposed to do, by the book, to position yourself in the best way possible.
Yet, as I stubbornly pursued this opportunity, I found myself growing more doubtful. This doesn’t feel right, I told myself. What the heck is wrong here? As I asked more and more questions, I received answers which didn’t necessarily excite me. I kept scrambling for the right inquiry, one that would unlock my lost enthusiasm (my original motivation for the position). Unfortunately, it never came. I realized, throughout the process, that more is not always better. I chose to affiliate myself with a couple of select student organizations already; I liked the people I met, the objectives of the organizations and believed in their respective potentials. Quite honestly, I thought I had struck gold when, in reality, this should be the standard across the board.
No one should have to feel like they are settling. This exact sentiment made my emotions all the more troublesome. On the surface, this athletic opportunity should be my dream. However, I turned it down because it wasn’t the right fit for me. Now, a few days after, I still feel in shock. I question whether it will turn out to be the right decision. Right now, in my gut, I think it is.
Frictional unemployment, as defined by Professor Ed Cho, is “workers taking the time to search for jobs that match their skills or tastes.” Granted, at first, this seems like an overwhelming, intimidating concept. No one should want to turn down employment if they need it, right? True, although I propose that frictional unemployment may actually be a positive idea.
Quite simply, we should pursue opportunities that are not only engaging, but those that achieve this quality without forcing us to compromise our well-being. Our desire to be involved is one thing; seeking commitments which are enriching, re-energizing and leave us fulfilled after putting in work is another. Scott Dust, professor of management at Miami University, notes that “person-organization fit is a strong predictor of whether or not someone will be committed to an organization in the long-term.” Additionally, individuals who experience “higher levels of this type of fit typically enjoy being at work and connecting with colleagues.”
In my short two years here, I have been told to take informal, informative interviews seriously as “you are interviewing them for as much as they are interviewing you.” For the longest time, I never understood this advice or how to determine whether a position is a healthy fit. To do so, I started to break down what a responsibility entails into comprehensible questions. How does this obligation agree with my personality and morals? Will it allow me to balance my other competing interests? Does this opportunity provide adequate benefit for the time I will put in?
These may seem like basic inquiries at first glance, but I discovered that answering them truthfully requires intricate, complex rationalization. I don’t always like my answers, but at the very least I know they are sincere. Therefore, I believe there is power in introspection and, more importantly, self-honesty. While the demands of our ‘dream job’ may at first seem too glorious to pass up, it is important to understand who we are as evolving individuals; we need not jump at our first offer, our second, but rather the one which speaks best to our personality and lifestyle.
The sooner we learn to prioritize our well-being over what we believe to be ‘professionally outstanding,’ the better off we will be in the long run. Granted, when Fortune 500 companies are offering six figures upon graduation, I understand this might be easier said than done. In my anecdote, it is not like I would be unhappy working within sports. In fact, I’d be over-the-moon ecstatic. In this role, however, I just would not be as excited as I could be, and that, personally, is a red flag. If I can’t be fair to myself, how can I be fair to the organization?
Thus, I encourage you to keep digging, keep soul-searching for the ‘perfect’ opportunity. Refuse to compromise the first few years of your professional career for a better one later on. Ideally, you should not have to accept mortgaging your future. Trust yourself now, in the moment, and know that everything is going to be alright.
Sam Woiteshek is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org