I will graduate from college soon and like many of my classmates I am worried about finding a job after I graduate. I interned for a few places as an undergrad, including an artist management company that I really clicked with. They even said that they’d never bothered with interns before but after hiring me they didn’t know how the office would run without me there. It’s been six months since then, and I still keep in contact with the guys from the office, hoping it will turn into a full-time gig after I graduate. They recently told me they aren’t sure they have the funds to hire me as a full-time employee, but that I could come work for them part-time and sign the bands I really love – they’ll teach me the ropes and I’ll get commission once those bands start making money. However, I’d need another full-time job to be able to pay my bills and survive.
I know I’m lucky I at least have one offer when many of my peers are struggling to get interviews – and it really is my dream job, but should I take it if I know I won’t be getting paid? Yesterday I attended a graduation ceremony for my major where we were told it’s not the best time to be entering this market and that we should “cast a wide net” in hopes we can at least get jobs in a related field. Would it be smarter to apply for more a more practical position, where I’ll go in at entry level but at least have a steady pay check or the less stable dream job? I’m torn between following my passion and making the more economical decision.
Dear Practically Passionate,
Oh, college graduation! While you may not feel it right now, especially with the stress you’re under, this is one of the greatest times in your life – it just takes a little perspective to see it. It is exactly what your letter describes, a time of choice and discovery and taking risks.
I understand the two factions you are torn between rather well. I grew up with a strict and logical father. Over two decades in the military has a way of training someone to think in very efficient means, and my father advised his children in the same way. Imagine his surprise when his youngest decided she wanted to forgo law school (and following in his footsteps) to try more artistic pursuits in Hollywood. I was optimistic and naïve, thinking it’d be no problem for me to roll into town knowing no one and just get a job as someone’s assistant or just show up in the writer’s room of “General Hospital” (you may laugh, but I’ll have you know soap operas have jump-started the careers several successful actors and writers alike) and get to work.
Of course it didn’t work out like that. I spent months trying to find a job – over qualified for retail or restaurants and not enough experience to land a position at a
full-time company. It didn’t take too long for the depression to set in, which wasn’t helped by the constant emails from my father saying there was still time to apply to graduate school or better yet, “You were always good at math. Can’t you get a job in insurance? There’s always jobs in insurance.” But I was selfish, in a way that only privileged 20-somethings can be, and kept applying. I managed to grab a temporary position at fruit bouquet design store, which bought me some more time before I’d have to return home and forsake my dreams for something more practical, as you put it. I got lucky and landed a job at a new company that allowed me to use the marketing skills I had picked up in school and had flexible hours so I could take writing classes to continue on towards my dream. It wasn’t the glamorous situation, or paycheck, I had imagined when first leaving school but it set me in the right direction so I was only too eager to take it. And it was the first step on the path that lead me to writing this to you.
“I know I’m lucky” – do you, Practically? Do you really? It’s about more than you having a tentative job offer; you’re lucky to have this problem at all. You are in a unique position where you have to decide what will make you happy when so many in this world wake up every day deciding what they have to do to survive. I don’t say that to belittle you, but to remind you exactly of the privileged position you are in and make sure you don’t forget it. Many would kill to be in your shoes, so don’t waste the opportunity you’ve been given.
I’m advising you to be selfish. This is one of the few times in life where that’s an acceptable trait to have because as you get further into adulthood the happy choices
will more and more frequently be replaced by the survival ones. I feel like in your gut you already know that you want the “less stable” dream job but just are afraid of the risk. That’s not weird – every time you turn on the news you see a bleaker and bleaker picture of college graduate job prospects. However, what I’ve learned is that dream jobs hardly ever come for free or in the shiny packages we imagine they should come in. They require work and sacrifice to actually pay off into the dream we’ve imagined. So you may have to get an extra job waiting tables or making coffee at Starbucks but that’s such a small price to pay for the chance you’ve been given, deary. People have had to do far worse for much less.
I think you owe it to yourself, and for all of those who aren’t as lucky as you, to take the risk, to follow your heart, to follow your dreams because you don’t know if you’ll have the chance to be this lucky again.
* * *
Submit your questions, troubles, and predicaments to Cora via editor [at] intent [dot] com or in the comments section below. The Elephant in the Room advice column will be published every Friday – a blend of humor, compassion, and wisdom specially tailored for our Intent audience.