When I talk to friends and family members about future job prospects, there is a now nigh standardized list of ideas and opinions that seems to inevitably meet the air: “You should go to law school.”
Yes, as a trained journalist and devout academic scholar, I seem to have a knack for all things research-based and detail-oriented. And ever since I began to see America’s legal system in action, there has been a part of me that readily identifies with the profession and feels I could easily become one of the thousands of well-paid lawyers across the country.
At the same time, though, I must say there is some aspect of law school that strikes me as undeniably mundane and typical. To employ a clichéd description, I don’t know if anything screams “selling out” quite like attending law school. Of course, that’s my personal opinion – but to me, it is the sum of all things “safe,” “expected,” and “what your girlfriend’s parents might like their future son-in-law to do if he isn’t a doctor or a celebrity.”
If not law school, though, what course of action might best suit my talents and interests?
With a background in editorial decision-making and writing, not to mention a decent amount of print and web design experience, I’ve naturally focused on job opportunities within those sectors. But communications agencies are tough to break into and many require that potential full-time entry-level employees fulfill an internship post-graduation. Those internships are frequently unpaid and there is an upfront emphasis on the fact that interns may not – and, in this economy especially, chances are, will not – be hired after the summer months. The idea, of course, is that work-place competition and increased selectivity in turn engenders more successful paid hires in a tightly budgeted and relatively small industry. All of that is well and good, but even for the most confident of applicants, the idea of heading to a new city with no guarantee of long-term growth or a permanent job is a potentially worrisome hurdle to overcome.
Elsewhere in the communications world, truly viable job prospects seem few and far between. There are plenty of interviews to be had, even in this tough economy, but what is missing is an easily accessible pool of entry-level positions tasked with the type of far-ranging creative work in which I have an interest. I might be able to find work as a marketing associate or as a corporate communications assistant, but the degree of responsibility – how multi-faceted an opportunity is – entrusted to me would most likely be lacking if the average job description holds any truth.
The end result is a feeling on my part that accepting a job for the sake of having a job would be, much like law school, settling for something I don’t whole-heartedly want to do. I’m a passionate person, a devoted person, and a hard-working person – but I have to believe in what I’m doing, and I have to feel like whatever I’m working on takes full advantage of all my talents and mental abilities. Perhaps from a pejorative stance that makes me highly selective and/or slightly inflexible. On the other hand, I consider this potential weakness one of my greatest strengths: Whether in good or bad times, I won’t settle for anything less than the best.
That notion of “refusing to settle,” though, brings to mind perhaps my biggest fear about the “real world” and the job market. I’m a firm believer in the pursuit of happiness – in a quest for existential meaning and philosophical understanding. Some might even say that the questions of truth – What makes living worthwhile? How can man better his condition? How does one become a hero if becoming a hero is possible? – tend to dominate my thinking on a wide range of subjects.
And so, now on the verge of entering a consumerist, very non-philosophical world (in which the bottom line reigns supreme and one’s only goal is to fulfill the demands of his job), I am somewhat concerned that any job opportunity will require me to make a personal sacrifice – to X-out or subdue the Nietzsche-loving student, to replace the self-directed author and literary critic with a mechanical businessman removed from higher, more human devotions.
Which is better? Which is more immature – to obsess over truth or to obsess over completing menial tasks?
The answers to those questions are profoundly personal, and everyone has a different opinion to share. That much has been made clear to me while I’ve searched high and low for the elusive perfect opportunity.
As for how I’ll respond to such musings, I have yet to determine what I’ll do next. I’ve come to a cliff – it’s time to jump or run…
Thomas Madrecki is a fourth-year Echols Scholar at the University of Virginia and the former managing editor of The Cavalier Daily newspaper. A true media chameleon, he hopes his extensive writing background and knowledge of various print/web design options makes him the perfect candidate for a career in brand management, communications, journalism, and/or public affairs. On the side, he’s also a former Dexter USBC High School All-American bowler (averaging about 225) and a budding, Nietzsche-adoring philosopher with a keen interest in existentialism and the pursuit of happiness. Make sure you check out his online portfolio!Google+