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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Know Thy Self

So far, job searching has made me feel like this
I'm beginning to realize that the hardest person to know is yourself. You just get so caught up in being "you," and being completely saturated and surrounded by "you," that you never really bother to define "you." This actually remind me of a discussion in a course I took on narratology. We were reading a short story in which the main character referred to the audience he was speaking to in the second person. Our professor asked us, in his super cool British accent, the question, "Who is this character "You"?" At this point in my life, what with graduation, and all the informal career counseling I've been getting for the past month, I feel like I am constantly being asked this question, not only by others, but also by myself.

Obviously, getting a job is the next step, but what kind of job is the question that now plagues me.  I've been working part-time temp for over six months now for two reasons: the jobs I was interviewing for weren't hiring me, and I had no idea where else to find work. Coming from a relatively poor, working class family (I was the first in my family to go to college), even with an education from a top university, it's still hard for me separate out the conceptual differences between a "job" and a "career." A job is "a paid position of regular employment," basically something that you do because you need to make money. Usually with a job, you will do work, or work for a company, that you have not real vested interest in. On the other hand, a career is "an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life and with opportunities for progress," and usually involving "special training." With a career, you usually have a specific field, or expertise, that you want to work in. I keep looking for "jobs" because that's all everyone I know well (parents, close relatives) have ever had, and I am not particularly interested in one thing, making a career focus very difficult at this point.

In the office where I'm working now, there is a graduating student worker who is also a History major, and is also having a hard to finding a job. Of course, the economy plays a big part in this, but the other part of the problem is the trouble that liberal arts major have getting hired in America. Even companies that are non-profit, or not in a business field, would rather hire someone with a management of finance degree, than someone with a liberal arts degree. I've heard that it's the exact opposite in Europe. But, back to the subject at hand. This other student has been going to Career Services, but is finding it very frustrating. I know exactly how he feels. I went to Career Services, and sent emails to them for advice/questions from about April to September of last year; nearly 6 months. In no way am I saying that using Career Service is a waste of time, but I think they are more helpful if you already know what you want to do. They can point you to job sites for specific fields and industries, and advise you on the next step to take, and so forth. But, if you have absolutely no idea, like me and countless others, then it probably won't help you.

I remember going there to get advise on the kind of career I should consider. The career counselor saw that I was a History major, and said that I should look into something involving research, writing, or editing, because those are some of the major characteristics of history course work. I did do an internship after I graduated that involved all of these things, and I absolutely hated it; it was the most boring job I have ever had. Instead, it's the jobs where I'm being active, and all over the place, and constantly interacting with people that I've liked the most. Through a good bit of job/internship trial and error, along with the informal career counseling I've been getting, I have found that it was not only the writing, but being able to develop and communicate my ideas/interpretations, and working against time and a deadline that I liked about being a History major, not so much the research and the editing. I think career services needs to realized that liberal arts, especially, don't line up with specific skills/occupations the same way more qualitative majors, such as with engineering, management, etc. Their good at selling a lot of fluff and encouragement, but not a lot of helpful substance.

After I total of 3 hours talking with 3different people within the university, I found out more about myself, and what I'm looking for in a career than nearly a year going to career services. Although certain things my seem rather obvious, like how I like to work in a fast-paced environment, and how I like international things, I had never thought about them being part of my personality before, and probably would never have if I had not talked to the right people. Instead of just asking, "What do you like to do?/What did you major in?", they asked questions like "What about doing this did you like?", "What about this previous experience/interest do you like?" It is these kind of deep questions, and personal motive prying that really get at the meat of the matter, and then help you to figure out what it is that you really want for yourself. Hopefully, armed with tons more knowledge about me and what I want, my job searching will be more fruitful and catered, instead of just applying for whatever I find out there.

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