You Just Started Your ‘Career’. Now What?

Kait Gaiss has a cool blog. Check it out here. She recently graduated from Duke and is a few months into her career in the Bay Area start-up community. She is very up front about the ups and downs during the transition from college to work. It’s a good read.

For me, my early-20s were a weird time. For me, college didn’t prepare me at all for the day-to-day realities of the working world. Sure, I worked hard in college, going all out on academics, extracurricular activities, and at one point, having three concurrent jobs to help pay for it all.

But, I didn’t have to worry about the mundane things like: food (the dining hall took care of that), dry cleaning (back then, most of us wore suits, dress shirts and ties to work), and the loss of autonomy (as an entry-level corporate employee, your boss pretty much owns you).

The biggest challenge, though, was understanding what work meant to me. A ticket to business school? “Get ahead” in some relativistic way? Save for retirement? Buy a car and a house one day? Boost my self-esteem?

In the end, it was none of those. But, it took me a few years to figure it out. Here’s what I mean.

My first job out of college was investment banking. I hated it. I realized in the end that I liked the idea of being in investment banking, but I didn’t like the actual job once I started to do the tasks. So, once the tasks didn’t generate much passion in me, I felt pretty lost.

Yes, I plugged away and did well in my boss’s eyes, but I felt like I was wasting my time. The job didn’t sync up with my values, which were still being formed. So, there wasn’t alignment between personal meaning and how I was spending most of my waking hours.

If you’re early in your career and are finding yourself nod as you read this post, don’t worry. What you’re feeling is natural. Everybody goes through it, but few of your peers will admit it.

IMO, you should try to develop a strong sense of self and personal values. Try different jobs and see how you react. Then, once you’ve developed a personal sense of Mission, it will be much easier to find a job that fits that. Otherwise, you’re solving a math equation with too many unknowns. And, that is hard to do.

Next, it takes some conscious effort to undo the Madison Ave. brainwashing we’ve all been through. Money, status and power account for only 10 percent of happiness. TV ads tell us the opposite because they all want us to buy more stuff. It takes a while to rewire our brains.

So, in the end, the answer as to which job will lead to your happiness resides in you. There’s no short cut.

One thought on “You Just Started Your ‘Career’. Now What?

  1. Jo – Awesome post!

    This line really summed it up for me: “The more I have focused on what makes me excited to go to work, and de-emphasized money, the more financial success I have had”

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