When I considered whether or not I'd publish this post, I hesitated. I knew I was risking turning people off who might assume I'm whining or entitled. However, despite the cliche, great risks reap great rewards, and I know that our increased tunnel vision on ROI leaves room for regression away from RUI - R U Inspired? Creativity and ROI can go hand-in-hand, but only if we value that in the next generation of employees. This afternoon, I had a conversation with a professional from a company I recently applied to, and my wide ambition was met with typical frustration. But I think my wide-ranging hopes and dreams make me versatile. That's exactly why I decided to share my thoughts on the pains that parallel the modern job search.
“Do you know how you get those types of people who are like, “I know I want to be a lawyer, I want to be a doctor, I want to be this…”? They have that set goal. I never had that.”
Those were the words of Claire Buyson Perez, founder and CEO of Lakwatsa Bubble Tea, when I interviewed her in July. In context, it sounds rather romantic, since Perez went on to found Lakwatsa, a growing brand carving out a new and unique entrepreneurial space as London’s first bubble-tea pop-up shop. However, when she spoke those words to me, I felt instant pangs of familiarity, stifling my internal yelp: “FINALLY! Someone understands.”
As I step toward the exit from my graduate program at Boston University, I feel renewed pressure to pinpoint exactly one thing I want to do for the rest of my life – and to immediately rush as fast as humanly possible – into it.
When I began my program in the College of Communication at Boston University, a professor made us go around the room, in the highly original task of sharing our name, major, career aspirations, and a totally-unique-never-before-heard-actually-interesting-fun-fact. In my case, the latter two would have sufficed as one since, until I began graduate school, I lied every time someone asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I picked something that I was definitely interested in doing, made it sound like a sustainable career, and spit it out before I could see the distinct glimmer of judgement and humor blending in the eyes of my inquisitor. In those moments, I could hear the inevitable response in the event that I ever decided to share the truth: What do you mean you “don’t know”? Haven’t you even thought about it?
Of course I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about it ad nauseum. I’ve thought about it since I was a child, just like everyone else. An artist, a lawyer, a veterinarian, a singer, an actress, a writer, a teacher, a journalist, an author, an activist, a historian, a chef, a blogger, a photographer – and the list goes on. I still think about pursuing many of those careers. So, when it came time to tell my new graduate peers where I want my career to go, I answered, for the first time ever, with a little fun-fact about myself: I am the kind of person that looks at my career path and sees 50 different roads, but I want to travel down all of them at once. I want to do many different, creative types of work, and with that comes two major problems – the first being time.
Frankie Bergstein, a character from Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie” and my new personal role model, reminds us: “Time is construct.” But it certainly doesn’t feel that way when you’re approaching your mid-twenties in a society emphasizing instead: “Time is money.” With each passing year, and more recently, with each passing minute, I feel like I’m wasting my youth not making millions. As much as I like to pretend that capitalism doesn’t own me, it certainly owns my deeply-indoctrinated subconscious.
The second problem is opportunity. Yes, as a young white female from a rural middle-class background with a graduate-level education, my goblet of opportunities certainly runneth over, and for that I’m grateful. The only opportunity-problem I’ve found is that those I dream up and imagine aren’t there when I type my latest wishful phrase into the search bar on Indeed.com, and I hit a bit of a wall. Not because I can’t get the opportunities I desire to just fall into my lap, but because I know I am not alone in feeling inspired with a lot more to offer. And like many others, I don’t know how to manifest that into one thing I want to do or one simple and clean job title from the corporate office.
I constantly feel inspired to create something colorful, new, and inviting in a society that appears determined to manufacture gray, cold models of efficiency complete with a special lens for focusing on ROI. The argument remains that both are important for business savvy and survival – but in a world increasingly dominated by programmatics and ROI, is compromise possible? While I tune out the complaints about millennials unwilling to accept those frigid shells and ill-fitting stamps, I’ll keep searching for the right opportunities that won’t require selling some of my color for nothing more than a higher monetary value.