As graduation looms just around the corner for seniors, I can’t help but to think, “I’m so glad I’m not one of them.”
Like most students, I change my idea of what I want to be when I “grow up” more times than is probably sane. After listening to career panels, I can usually eliminate three different jobs I once thought I might have had an interest in. Internships have taught me more about what I know I don’t want in a job than what I can actually envision myself doing in the future.
I have a high and definitely unrealistic expectation that my first job out of college will be my dream job. And I know it’s unreasonable thinking. But I view a career as finding something similar to a soul mate. The thought of never finding a career that’s fulfilling and exciting scares me more than never finding a human companion. Many other students feel the exact same way.
MTV recently released a study called “No Collar Workers” (ouch), which surveyed 509 people in the millennial generation, who they defined as people in their twenties and thirties. The results proved that people my age are feeling the same way I am, even if comes at the cost of actually having a job. Half of those surveyed would rather not have a job than have one they hate. Eighty percent of millennial workers want regular feedback and recognition at their workplace.
The study also finds that millennial workers believe their bosses can learn something from them, and many want to decide how to do projects at work. The results painted a picture that made my generation seem self-absorbed, idealistic and, well, quite possibly out of touch.
It’s unsettling to read studies like these because there’s such a dichotomy between what we want and what we can reasonably expect. We’re still feeling the effects of a recession. We crave creative opportunities. Jobs are scarce. We need a career that fulfills us. The list, unfortunately, goes on.
But really, it’s more than just thinking we’re intellectual wonders. We want something out of our careers that previously hasn’t been discussed. It’s not about working 9 to 5 and bringing home a decent paycheck anymore. We want to form connections with our work. We crave collaboration with others, including our supervisors. And we don’t want to blindly follow calling orders.
Many of us have been raised to embrace our uniqueness, and most of the classes at the University support this. Many are theory-based, emphasizing critical thinking and writing. Even this week, the University was praised for its teaching style on The Colbert Report. But, this kind of learning doesn’t always translate to technical and specific skills needed for many jobs.
It’s not impossible to reconcile these competing interests. The biggest thing I think we can do as students soon entering the workforce is to realize that our first job may not be our dream job. And that’s a little difficult to imagine for some. I’ve always had this romantic idea of finding an entry-level job at a company or government agency I loved and then working my way up. That’s just not the case for most people, nor is it practical.
We need some sort of income, thus we need jobs. We can’t afford to be selective to such an extent that we inhibit ourselves from gaining valuable experience, wherever it may come from.
Employers need to understand that we have valuable skill sets that can be intentionally enhanced in certain ways. Collaborative working and creative input are what we desire, thus making the results of our work much richer and, consequently, more valuable.
Post-college life is frightening. Even though I still have plenty of time left to decide where my life is heading, I consider more career prospects than I probably should. We, as a generation, are much more active in obtaining internships and preparing for careers early on. So it’s intimidating to hear that what we yearn for in a job may not exactly match reality.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that with any story of happiness, you have to go through a few — or many — bad relationships to eventually find it. It’s just as important to remember that in the end, there is a career out there for you, and now is the time to take the classes and participate in the extra-curricular activities you love. Because if you are indifferent to the career path you will soon be on, you may be stuck in a bad marriage with no escape in sight.
Adrienne Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.