Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Get a Job

When I turned sixteen my parents insisted that I work. Following in the illustrious footsteps of my older brother, I joined the crowd of pimple faced teenagers and got a job at the McDonald's 5 minutes from our home. I hated everything about that job from the high water pants I was forced to wear as part of my uniform to the greasy, sludgy floor I had to slide across to bring impatient customers their Big Macs, Super Size Fries, two fajitas, strawberry sundaes, and diet Cokes. The only thing I enjoyed about the job was complaining about it constantly. As parents do when their children whine, my mother finally got fed up and told me to stop complaining about the degredation of scraping dried ketchup from linoleum walls because, "It's just a job, not your career." Nine years later, I finally get what she meant. I wish I would've gotten a job after I graduated college. Having a job would make my life a thousand times easier than it is right now. Unlike most of my friends, I didn't get myself a job after getting my degree. Nope, I just had to go the extra mile and get myself a career.
Senior year of college, I was burnt out. Another few years of higher education was the last thing I wanted, so I decided to embark on a job search. I went down to the career services office and hammered out a first rate resume, bought myself a new suit, then hit the campus recruiting circuit. I didn't just want any job. How could I? I was about to graduate from one of the premiere universities in the country, and working just to pay the bills wouldn't do. I applied to management training programs, complete with 12 month rotational assignments and a clear path straight to a corner office in 10 years. After three months of searching, I got exactly what I wished for, including a company car, expense account, and signing bonus. Meanwhile, many of my friends decided to forgo the career fairs and company info sessions, instead opting to just find a job upon graduation. For the life of me I couldn't understand why they wouldn't take advantage of the opportunity to tie their names to a fortune 500 company and reap the benefits of annual bonuses, 401Ks, and stock options. Now I know. They didn't want to be tied down.
Four years later, I feel as though I put the proverbial cart before the horse. I rushed into a profession, climbed up the ladder (one rung, but hey it was a climb), bought a house, invested in a 401K. I've done exactly what's expected. Now, I want to take the time to explore my options. My parents, family, and friends keep asking me when I'm going to go back to school for the MBA, because of course that's the next step on the path I chose. I don't even want to go back to school anytime soon, but if I did business school is NOT where I would head. I desperately want off this path, but getting off is easier said than done. I didn't realize the commitment I made to this life when I chose it. Careers come with attachments and security, and those are a bitch to let go.
I didn't give jobs enough credit back in 2001. Jobs pay the bills and make ends meet. Jobs let you try new things and figure out life. It's exactly what I need now, but I started a career and now no one wants to give me a job. The thing about careers is that they tend to define a person. It's not just what you do, it's who you are. I defined myself before I knew who I was and it's biting me in the ass now. It's hard to get people to see who I really am, when the resume says something completely different.
As my friends shove countless grad school essays under my nose, wondering if their reason for wanting to go to ________ (fill in a program) School sounds unique, I have to admit I'm sort of envious. They're all moving forward, but I got ahead of myself, and now have to move backwards. The same people who I thought were crazy for not getting "real" jobs after college are pursuing their dreams without hesitation. Some of them are continuing on to what they've always wanted to do, others switched it up and went in a different direction. Regardless, they can go anywhere (provided they get accepted) and don't have attachments tying them to anything. In a couple months they will tell their employers they are leaving, and it really won't matter much. See, that's the thing about jobs. They're whole lot easier to leave than a career.


Anonymous said...

You seem to be regretting your decision, but you can get out of it. There are worse predicaments. Aren't 401ks transferable? The home is an investment you could maybe turn into a rental property; you've amassed equity at least instead of throwing away money on rent. You've realized you want a change while you're still young. You did what you thought was best and your work experience and maturity could work in your favor in gaining admission to a grad program of your choice. I imagine you're interested in pursuing a more creative career prospect most likely involving writing. You're lucky you didn't commit to a program, e.g. law school, that will consume 3+ years of your life while you amass serious debt only to realize it's not really what you want to do. You've done fine for yourself and fortunately you can leave your job, I mean "career". You should research the programs/assignments, etc. you're interested in and make a plan to go for it. Or, you may decide to continue your career path while pursuing your other work to support yourself. Lots of ppl change career paths. Commit to a fulfilled life. Realize that your experiences led to your realization; you may have regretted having a "job" instead of a career if you had done that.


Anonymous said...

Found you on Stephanie's site. Great blog. I too, am a Michigan girl, but I live in New York now. This is such an interesting post. I am 29 and make a great living doing a job--I would NEVER consider it a career. I fget down on myself all the time because it's just a job, and one that I feel nothing for. I write with the spare time that I have and I love this city so much. Your post kind of made me thankful for the position I'm in. You know what they say, though, the grass is always greener....

I'll keep reading!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tilda. It's not too late to change career paths but, as you've already discovered, it's probably going to be difficult. No biggie! You've overcome bigger challenges and I'm sure you can do it! I'll be one of those unlucky bastards going to law school and amassing thousands in debt; and after years of believing this is the only route for me, I pray I don't regret it down the line.
Also, take it from me, there's not much difference b/w a job and a "career" as far as it defining you. Working in the legal field for nearly 4 years has made it nearly impossible for me to find work in any other industry. They all want experience, and if it's entry level, then they justify paying you pennies b/c you're inexperienced!
Furthermore, I think you're career choices were judicious. You have security, benefits, and amenities that many people only wish for. With companies being bought out and tanking left and right, having a job is risky business. You were better off going with a career. Quit believing you're indebted to that, though. You have just as much right to quit/resign/flip them the bird as anyone else. This is your life!

Buffy said...

Been there. Done that.

Sweetie, sometimes you just have to close your eyes .... and jump. It's the scariest thing you'll ever do.

But it's the most fulfilling.

If you don't at least 'try it'...you'll always wonder...

What if? And that's no where to be.

Anonymous said...

I told you that you can quit your job and move to Germany with me. I will support you, and your habits. All I ask is that you are home (with dinner ready) when I get home from work. The offer is out there!

Anonymous said...

We've had this convo already you just have to go hard for what you wnat. Your in an enviable position right now your not swamped in debt, your not dependent on family and you have all the tools you need to make your move and being in a career does not prevent you form making hte move you want to, shit you see what Me and a few other heads with Full Time gigs are doing as far as Grad School. you just have to knwo you wnat it and go after it but be careful not to jump without a parachute because then you'd really be pissed as yourself.