You did it—you graduated college.
After four or five or seven years, you’ve completed the supposed rite of passage to getting your dream job.
And you’ve got the goods to prove it: the applicable degree; the glowing references; the chiseled LinkedIn profile with a not-holding-a-beer profile picture.
As professed by the romanticized Instagram quote—you can finally get a job “doing what you love.”
A few months pass, and someone hires you.
You have insurance. You’re getting paid. But you dread your job.
Your job title doesn’t reflect the artsy Twitter bio, with glamorous words like storyteller/creative/maker. Instead, you’re just the Junior something.
It’s not because of your degree; and it’s not because of your skills. It’s because doing what you love was never supposed to be the goal.
Well, as written by Austin Kleon, who we’ll revisit later, “Anybody who tells people to ‘do what you love no matter what’ should also have to teach a money management course.”
That’s some discouraging shit that no one, myself included, wants to believe.
So what now? As young people starting our careers, how do we accept this sobering truth?
Simple: We change our perspective of work.
Enter Ann Friedman and Austin Kleon: praised influencers in journalism and authorship that profess the perspective of work that will save all recent grads from their but-I-should-be-doing-what-I-love woes.
They break it into two steps:
- Find your side project
- Keep your day job
1. Find Your Side Project
In her New York Magazine piece titled, “Career Resolutions Based on My Professional Failures,” Ann pairs her professional failures with a career resolution—a nugget of wisdom.
Ann’s failure number one: “That time I thought it would be easy to get the job I wanted.”
Ann, who today is an award-winning journalist, reflects on her likelihood of finding her dream job right out of college: “Armed with some cursory work experience (three internships), a Bachelor of Journalism degree (seriously, my diploma says ‘B.J.’), and a college-journalism award for an article I wrote, I felt pretty good about my prospects.”
But after hearing “precisely nothing” from employers, her perspective shifted:
“…faced with the choice between compromising my standards and moving back into my parents’ basement in Iowa, I ‘got real’… And I was lucky enough to get an entry-level job at a women’s-rights nonprofit in New York.”
Ann later explains that, “The work was easy. [But] I hated it.”
However, that hated job opened her to a side project, which set the course for what would eventually be her livelihood.
“Around that time—actually, through the job I didn’t love—I met a group of women who had just started a blog… It got me comfortable writing for the internet, which is the way I make my living now.“
Ann’s resolution to her but-I-should-be-doing-what-I-love woes:
“I will quit being a snob and take the job I can get. Then I’ll look for a great side project.”
So we’ve got part one down: Find your side project.
Once you’ve found your side project, perhaps you’re imagining going full-time. You’ve found something that you love—so why not?
Austin Kleon follows with part two: Keep your day job.
2. Keep Your Day Job
Austin Kleon, the self-proclaimed “writer who draws,” is an advocate for not only finding your side project, but once you do, keeping your day job.
On his Tumblr, Austin responded to a question he claims to get more than any other:
itsbrittanywilmes asks, “What’s your advice for someone like me who needs to pay the bills but just wants to be immersed in creating and building community around that?”
Austin didn’t respond with, “Do what you love.” Instead, he encouraged itsbrittanywilmes to change her perspective:
“One thing I would recommend is to see the day job as a positive, not a negative: A day job gives you money, a connection to the world, and a routine. Freedom from financial stress also means freedom in your art.”
He later elaborates on the meaning of a job: “The ‘meaning’ in your job is: it pays the bills. Get as good at it as you can, because it’ll make the job more interesting to you, and it will provide you exits to another one. Then find the rest of your meaning elsewhere.”
Right out of college, finding any job is hard enough without constantly questioning if it’s a job that entails “doing what you love.”
Instead, be proud of your degree. Be proud of your references. Be proud of your LinkedIn profile, including all of your mother’s endorsements. And most important, be proud of the job you get.
Then, knowing that you’re making money, knowing that you’re paying all the bills on time, knowing that you can finally end your tweets with #adulting, rest in the fact that your side project will always be there for you.
Photo Courtesy: Phil and Pam