Thursday, April 5, 2012

Who Will I Be When I Graduate?

I'm graduating from college in about five weeks.  It's terrifying.

I've been applying for jobs for the last few months, submitting resumes and writing cover letters in between homework assigments.  I've had some interviews.  (People tell me that this means I'm one of the lucky ones.)

Rewinding a bit, a bit after I started college, my career was my number-one goal. I had a written Life Plan, complete with basic theory of how the world worked and numbered steps.  It went like this:

1.) Finish two-year degree in business administration.
2.) Research and pursue four-year degree in some combination of business and technology/engineering.
2.5) Consider MBA or CPA, obtain if necessary.
3.) Obtain real-world experience and develop a nest egg in case of failure.
4.) Write comprehensive business plan.
5.) Obtain appropriate financing, certifications, etc.
6.) Launch business.
7.) Foster growth at a rate sustainable in the market.

It's not a bad plan, exactly.  I got my two-year degree in 2009, and I'm almost done with the four-year degree. I dutifully applied for, accepted, and completed internships. (I considered an MBA, and decided that it was not necessary.)

That said, I'm stuck. It's not that step #3 is impossible: I'll graduate nearly debt-free thanks to the internships and generous parents (hi Mom and Dad!), and my university has good job placement rates.

The problem is that, when I interview, employers keep asking me what industry I want and what I want to do, and I don't have an answer for them.  I don't know, specifically, what I want to do, and to be completely honest, I don't even care.  I want to find gainful employment for three to five years, get paid, save some money and then quit so I can start my own business.  Quitting after a few years is entirely normal for my generation, and I am completely capable of providing value to a company during the time range I want to be there in a variety of roles.  I have a broad skill set, and there are a variety of roles I can happily and competently fill.

The other problem is that there are a few things that I know I do want.  I'm engaged. I've been engaged for well over a year now.  I want to get married at some point over the next two years, in part because I hate saying the word "fiancé".  I want children (preferably, before I'm thirty).  These are all pretty new goals for me, and it's a little bit weird. 

I get the sense that the companies I've applied to want me to have a "dream job".  Specifically, they want my "dream job" to be the role I'm applying for.  They want to see me, five years down the road, still working for them. They want me to be willing to move anywhere in the country, at a time of their choosing, ostensibly because I love my job and their company.

Four years ago, when I wrote my life-goals, all of this would have been fine.  In fact, I did move for my internships (to Missouri and to Florida, respectively).  I'm not inflexible when it comes to meeting the needs of an employer, but there are things that I want now. I want to live close to my family.  Not necessarily same-city close, but "able to drive home for Thanksgiving" close (a six-hour drive to home is OK, much further than that is pushing it).  I want to make a major move (from one city to another) at most once in the next five years.  Travel is fine, temporary rotational assignments are fine, but I want a home*.  I want to live somewhere where I can volunteer, join an exercise class, and register to vote without knowing I'll have to start all over again in a year. I want to find work in a place where my fiancé can also find work.

I feel like employers don't think that these are reasonable things to want, especially at the entry level.  So, I'm conflicted.  How do I balance these different roles?  How can I be both an employee and a daughter?  Will I also be able to be a wife and a mother?  How can anyone decide what responsibilities of these roles to pause in the fulfillment of the duties of the others?

*There are programs that start you out in City A for a year and then decide, after that year, where they want to permanently locate your job, without your input.

1 comment:

  1. All those Human Resources people who struggle to understand "generational issues" should get to read this blog. Thank you for putting your thoughts so clearly into words.

    I recommend that you tell them that you "will be focused on giving 100%+ to your job for as long as you are there, but that truthfully your family is important to you and thus work-life balance will be important factors for future decisions. Right now you are focused on the job before you and you plan to take it one step at a time!" Good luck!

    You may be surprised. I just read an annual review of one of my clients who is considered too devoted to her job by her supervisor - the only critique. However this woman is dying to leave her company because she feels that they only way she can get a good performance review for the job is by working 15 hour days! She has no life and she's unhappy - and her boss, and I'll bet, the people around her can tell.