’Tis the season of resumes and references, skirts and suits, convincing employers that you’re right for them — and convincing yourself that they’re right for you.
Upperclassmen and some precocious young ’uns descend upon Payne Whitney today for the career fair put on by Undergraduate Career Services. The fair is a speed-dating marathon gone wrong, as recruiters and students shake hands and exchange resumes for brochures, wondering whether that might be the start of something special, or at least something lucrative.
And those of us who have never started something — high school, college, summer jobs — that didn’t have a clear end in sight are left wondering what it really means to work for one company for, potentially, the rest of our lives. Ten years ago, we were in middle school; how can we even begin to think what it means that 10 years from now we may be still working for someone whose hand we first shook at the UCS fair?
Of course, the reality is that 10 years from now we probably won’t be in the same cubicle, or the same office, or even the same city as we are start in after graduation. For all that we try to plan our lives out — fantasizing about what city to live in, whether to stay home with our children — we also have to realize that planning is more of a gesture than a guarantee.
So although we would be remiss to sit out the career madness enveloping campus, approaching it with a critical eye is essential. Private industry, government service or non-profit advocacy — we would argue that what matters is the attitude with which we will go into our first year of employment. Are we there because we feel we have to, because we find it fulfilling, or because it seemed the safest choice at the time?
We’re not here to tell you that you’re automatically a tool for wanting to spend the next two or three years at McKinsey or Bain, or that you should apply to Teach For America to start your quest to save the world. Get your resumes to UCS on time, but keep in mind that many people find rewarding careers in areas they did not intend to enter at the end of college. David Pogue ’85, the New York Times technology columnist who came back to campus to give a talk this week, is a perfect example — his goal was to work in musical theater, and now he is one of the most successful tech writers in the country. Take off the blinders and explore unconventional opportunities. You never know whether that random offer from a startup in India be more rewarding than that handshake from the consulting rep on Wall Street. And, on the flip side, you may find the State Department more instructive and eye-opening than a year spent assuaging your Yale guilt by teaching English in a failing Bronx school.
So when you go out on your own, be willing to try new jobs and new careers until you find the one that’s for you. Experimentation isn’t just for freshmen and hippies anymore.