We’re told to follow a certain path of hard work and long hours to get the “American Dream” our parents once knew. But do we even want that dream anymore? Didn’t our parents work hard so that we could do what makes us happy for a living? As we navigate adulthood we begin to realize the contradictions in choosing a profession, we ask ourselves “is it more important to make enough money to have the traditional American Dream or should I love what I do for work and risk not being able to earn enough money in the present?”
College allows us to spend 4-6 years asking the question above, we change majors, talk with advisors, travel to different countries, and join clubs to figure out what we’re good at and what we like. They tell us to get an education, then work hard. Okay, so we did that, but the banks won’t loan us money, the credit card companies sent us cards to use when we were 18 and we can’t pay the bill now, and Sallie Mae calls our phone once a week to remind us we owe “her” money. So I ask: Now what? The unfortunate reality is now we owe thousands of dollars in student loans and we’re forced to pay these loans despite being consistently underemployed and underpaid. So considering all of this, my answer to the “now what” question is: make your own path. That said, the bills still have to get paid and financial stability is as rare these days as typhoid, which those of you who played Oregon Trail as a kid will remember, your best friend always died of. But I digress, the goal of this post is to propose a beginning; the start of an exploration that so many of us are doing on our own without talking about it, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do: talk about it.
What’s so wrong with Social Work? Nothing! But I don’t think it’s my last stop...
The decision to begin exploring other options for my career began over the last month when I started to meet people in the process of developing their own businesses. They were working in various industries, recognizing clear contradictions in the effectiveness of their work, and most importantly recognizing that if their employers weren’t going to consider another more productive way, then they would, on their own. In addition to diversifying my social network, I recently had a conversation with a friend who attended graduate school with me. After our discussion I realized something about our profession…it’s not for me. At least not right now. Social Work is something that comes easy to me, I’m able to build rapport with clients from all walks of life, this is even true of friends I meet and complete strangers. It’s a gift I’ve developed over the years, but only recently have I realized that this gift can be applied to much more than the non-profit sector.
Many of the reasons for reconsidering my professional choices are financial. In 2009 I finished graduate school; our country was still heavily engaged in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the recession was effecting nearly every aspect of our lives, and social service agencies were seeing cuts to their budgets causing a perfect storm for those of us entering the workforce. Some lucky few were able to land jobs right away, but others searched on for months after searching unsuccessfully or refusing positions that were educationally and financially inappropriate. Through a networking program that matched me to a professional in a local non-profit, I found work immediately, and was lucky to have the opportunity to learn a variety of positions at a small non-profit in Cleveland. This learning, while useful, came at a cost; the days were long, the work was never finished, and there was never enough funding to hire enough people to do things properly. These facts didn’t prevent supervisors from holding you accountable when goals weren’t met, and despite the impossible nature of the situation you always left feeling guilty that you didn’t finish the job. Growing up my father used to always tell us to do things right if we were going to do them at all, “don’t half-ass it” he would say (for all you Yankees this is a common southern saying meaning don’t just do what you need to do to get by; do the task well and complete it). I try to practice this idea with everything I do in life. Unfortunately, I’ve found that in many environments doing the work right doesn’t always align with doing it effectively. Sometimes you can’t take all the necessary steps to finish the task in time and you have to prioritize and do what’s absolutely necessary to meet a deadline. So, in an effort to maintain my own ethics, I’m attempting to create a path here, at wordpress where I’ll explore my personal and professional goals in writing.
Thank you for reading and I hope you’ll follow my page for the next post. See below for a short description.
Live to eat, or eat to live? Neither, and both.
In the next post I’ll discuss my weight loss of over 45lbs since moving to New York City including diet and exercise tips that worked for me and might work for you too!