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.