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Meaningful Work

I’ve hit a rut in my job hunt. It’s a terrible thing to admit, but after pounding down doors for the last 3 months, meeting with people for informational interviews, coffee breaks and “real” interviews, I’m mentally (and physically) exhausted. It’s easy in times like these to fall back on some of the constants in your life, like homework or a severely neglected social life, but one of the most important skills that I have learned since coming to college and overwhelming myself with work and school is the ability to push the “reset” button. Similar to restoring a computer hardrive to a time when everything worked properly, I take a step outside of my current situation and look back on what I have done, where I am going and most importantly, what I ultimately want to accomplish.

The last time I was this overwhelmed during my job search, I sent an email to one of my favorite professors asking him for a little advice on what I should be looking for, or atleast, how I should be looking. He kicked back a short email with an article from the MIT Sloan management review about the importance of finding meaningful work that took my jumbled pile random job search piece and re-established a new understanding and sense of direction, and I would like to share some of the valuable insights from this article with you.

The article posed these 3 important questions that any recent college graduate should ask themselves before embarking on a job search journey or accepting a position:

1. A year out of this program, what do you expect your job will be?

For anyone searching for a job or weighing the value of a potential opportunity the main question they should ask is what they expect to gain from the experience. For many college students planning to graduate during such an intense recession, approaching this question with an extreme level of realism rather than idealism based on hearsay or potential outdated sources on the internet, (particularly when compensation is factored into expectations), is extremely important. From a more holistic perspective, an offshoot of this question might be how will this experience set me apart among my peers or how will this experience propel my career forward and increase the number of opportunities that I have access to?

2. What kind of job contributes most to general well-being?

Is work-life balance critical for you to be successful, or do you feel most comfortable when you are overwhelmed with work. Are you a profit driven or a service driven person. How important in competitive compensation to you? This question addresses one of the most stressful questions that most recent grads have when it comes to choosing a career or field which is the balance between doing something that makes a lot of money versus doing something that is social responsibility. Many people feel like the choice is as black and white as socially responsible, passion driven work is generally lower paying, or that they cannot afford to take a job that pays less but gives them more satisfaction, but when it comes to an entry level job, in most cases everyone starts out at the bottom. There is plenty of time to move up and move around, so college students should look at entry level positions as opportunities to learn as much as they can in order to find a balance that contributes to their general well-being.

3. Practicality aside, if you could be doing anything 10 years from now, what would it be?

As crazy as it sounds, a lot of people forget how to dream. Job searches can suck the romance out of life long goals that no longer seem possible, and college courses can get so specific and competition among peers for internships and summer jobs can become so fierce, that many people feel more discouraged than empowered by the time they walk across the stage to receive their diploma, but it’s too early to give up on dreams now, and understanding what you want to do in the future can help guide your decisions to take on opportunities in the present.

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