It’s me, not the job…

To all you lucky college graduates!

A lot of my good friends will be finishing their undergraduate degrees shortly and moving on to the next chapter of their life.

I’ve been there and I know the feeling — the freedom, the pride, the joy, the deep breath. I’m happy for all of you and I want to share some advice for your not so distant future.

Get comfortable with doing something you don’t enjoy. Lack of experience combined with a fairly competitive job market forces college graduates to take that first job offer. Did I ever dream of being a research associate for a Real Estate company? No, of course not. I dreamed of being the accountant, financial advisor to CEO’s, sports agent, and world-renowed journalist.

My assumptions of work were so skewed it didn’t matter what job I took — I knew I would hate it. I could be in the best job in the world and still wouldn’t enjoy the work. This has been an important lesson to learn.

Cal Newport (one of my favorite bloggers when I was in college) writes constantly on the subject of doing passionate work. He’s of the opinion that we shouldn’t seek out a career in our passions. While I was in school, I fervently disagreed with this notion. I’ve heard the statements, “love what you do and it will never feel like work.”

Now, months into my first job, I realize Cal is on to something. The job is not the problem. The problem is me. (Read this article).

I’ve wanted to quit my job after two weeks. I’ve been putting feelers out since that day, but I’m beginning to realize I can’t pull the trigger. There are two reasons:

  1. I have no idea what I want to do and don’t even know where to start and,
  2. The job won’t make the difference. My mindset is set against working.

I have a good job. I love my boss, I enjoy the work I do, and I am learning very valuable skills. People would be lucky to be in the position I am currently enjoying and yet I find myself frustrated, angry, and hateful.

I hear the advice of “change your job.” While good advice if something is truly bothering you, maybe we should start giving advice like this:

Finding the right work pales in importance to learning how to work right.

In college, we are conditioned to beat the system. I hacked studying, test taking, and college in general. I’ve learned it is very difficult to hack work. I can’t take shortcuts. The right job won’t solve my problems. Learning how to work is what has been missing in my life.

I think this change is a combination of personal pride in your own work and identifying your expectations and assumptions. I’m at the stage in my career where I need to work eight hours a day. In fact, most people work much harder than me and make less money. I need to stop comparing myself to people years older than me and expecting to have their life, their career.

So, youthful college graduates, find a job that can challenge you, offers growth, and isn’t completely miserable. Hone your skills, set realistic expectations, and learn to work. When that next opportunity comes along, you might just find the one thing you love.

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