The worst career advice I ever heard as a twenty-one year old near college graduate was to discover my passion and make it my job.
Words that for so long inspired individuality and wisdom in my search for purpose start to feel a little empty when put into practice.
When your family members have invested more than you can possibly imagine into making sure that you turn out to be a functional adult after four years of education, the main question on their minds when they finally get to see you over the holidays is, “so, now what?”
The first time I was asked this question, I panicked, because it made me realize that, although, in my current position, I was doing everything that I had been preparing for in college, and everything I had convinced myself I was good at and that I enjoyed doing, I couldn’t possibly visualize myself in the same career path for the rest of my life, or even for the next few months. But the only response I could muster was “I found a job in my field, and I think they’re keeping me.”
I had done everything right: I aced all my classes, completed three internships, stay involved on campus through student organizations, and most importantly, I had turned my last internship into a viable career. Writing and storytelling are two things that I’m passionate about, and I get to do a great deal of those in public relations. So what more could I ask for from myself?
The truth is, I felt useless at work and every day I walked into the office and sat at my cubicle, I could feel myself morphing from an overly eager young mind to an overly complacent worker bee.
And I sure as hell can’t go looking for a new passion now, three months away from graduating.
“But maybe that’s what it’s all about,” I thought to myself. “Who am I to think that I HAVE to be happy with my job at every step of the way?”
Maybe being an adult means letting go of this feeling of entitlement that convinced me that I deserve to be “happy” at work. Maybe after I graduate, I should just focus on helping my parents financially, considering that the last few years I had been draining their bank accounts.
How could I stop being a financial burden and finally become an extra hand, or an extra pocket in my household, if I was busy trying to pursue another passion?
Growing up in an immigrant household, I learned at an early age that having a job was simply a means to the sole end of generating revenue, so why am I so confused? And why is it so difficult for me to accept that my job is not where I need to look for purpose?
Maybe adulthood hasn’t quite gotten to me yet, but although I have no idea what that means for my life, I refuse to allow myself to believe that all I can get from a job is a paycheck. I want to be part of a community of leaders who empower one another to be significant, and I want to contribute to making a positive impact on the world, even if that sounds unrealistic.
I’m willing to silence these negative voices in my head for a while and find a career path that allows me to use my skills for a purpose that matters to me. And a paycheck would be nice too.
The first step in this search is asking myself two crucial questions: What does the world need? And how can I use my skills to have a positive impact on people?
I picked my major on a whim, on my first day of college, and I told myself that I’d figure out a way to make it work. But what I have found is that falling into an applied communication program by accident may have been one of the best and worst things that happened in my life:
I learned just enough about the psychology of people to convince myself that I need to do whatever it takes to feel emotionally and spiritually fulfilled, but not quite enough to always be practical with my decisions.
I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning excited to begin an eight-hour day of work, because work is difficult and requires effort, but what I think makes the difference in whether or not we enjoy what we do for a living is if we feel that what we contribute has a significant impact on the finished product.
So here’s the plan: I won’t go looking for a new passion, but what I will do is continue to fine tune my skills as I discover how I can use those skills to address the needs of my community.