First Job

I recently read excerpts from an interview with Anna Helen Petersen. One of her comments really struck me. She was talking about expectations recent college graduates have about their first job and said:

“What they wanted was a job that was simultaneously cool, something that they could brag about to their friends, impressive, something that their parents would be OK with, but also something that they were personally passionate about. That is such a high order for your first job – or any job.”

I have written blogs on the responsibility of managers to explain the big picture to employees about how their job fits into the overall plans of the company and how the company seeks to provide something that people want, but no amount of explanation will make a job fit all of the above. In addition, Anna points out that social media distorts people’s view of other jobs, because everyone only posts the best (or worst) parts of their life. I sure don’t spend a lot of time posting pictures and talking about reviewing workpapers or working the 10th iteration of a proposed report in my blogs, but that is an important part of my job.

Every job has good parts and bad parts; that’s why someone pays you to do it. If a job was fun all the time, I’m thinking we would be paying our employer for the right to work there, kind of like we pay Disney for the ability to live a few days in fantasyland. Looking at other aspects of the expectations for a first job, cool is in the eye of the beholder. I know people who love being a CPA and think being one is really cool. I also know people who, even when they understand what CPAs really do, would find our work meaningless. Quite frankly, the same thing can be said about parents being OK with a job. Some parents would be thrilled with someone becoming a teacher, while other parents would wonder if their child was crazy for taking such a job.

The part that really gets me is the passionate part. I think we need to set the bar differently. Rather than passionate, are you happy to be going into work every morning or are you miserable? Isn’t a job that’s something you’re good at, pays the rent and doesn’t make you want to hit the snooze button 10 times every morning good enough? Maybe just such a job will allow you to have the time to spend on something else you are truly passionate about.

I’ve known CPAs who are part of their community orchestra and others who spend a great deal of time helping disadvantaged children. Their job may not be their passion, but their job enables them to pursue their passion. In fact, such an arrangement offers more balance, because their entire identity is not wrapped up into a single role.

So, here’s my challenge: what are you besides your job? If you can’t answer that, maybe you need to spend some time figuring it out.

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