“What do you do?”
It’s one of the first questions we get asked when we meet someone new. For better or for worse, vocation is how others place us into context: where do we spend the majority of our time? What have we chosen to pursue with our talents? Ask any college senior what his least favorite question is and he’ll tell you: What are you going to do after you graduate?
I’ve always had a plan. Ask my friends and they’ll probably tell you, Becky knows where she’s going, she always has.
I decided early on in high school that I wanted to go to the University of Richmond. I had my application in before the first day of senior year (early decision, of course) and was one of the first in my class to know where I was heading after graduation.
My plans after college weren’t quite as concrete when graduation rolled around but I knew I was going to work abroad and then get my Master of Public Health. I already made a plan with one of my best friends to move back to Boston. I turned my application in for grad school on the very first day submissions opened and found out while living in Tanzania that I had been accepted to my first and only choice: Boston University.
When graduation came for the third time, I thought again that I knew exactly where I was headed. I even had the organization picked out. But doors started to close, one after the other, and I soon found myself questioning whether I was even going to stay in public health.
Three years later, I am working in a good job at BU. I have a wonderful boss who is an unbelievably skilled manager and we work with a truly incredible team.
But let me be honest with you, because as I said in my last post, we really have a lot to gain from each other by sharing these deep truths about our hearts:
I have no idea where I’m headed.
How is that possible? With a master’s degree and a history of planning and goal-setting, I should be steadily chugging along toward professional success. But I just don’t know anymore. Despite my limited experience interning and volunteering with a few organizations, the 8-5 grind is not what I thought it would be.
Or I guess maybe I’m not what I expected to be.
Somewhere along the way, I’ve let my heart become jaded. It’s not that I don’t recognize the importance of my work or that I don’t appreciate the challenges within an organization. i just find it too easy to become discouraged or disenfranchised with the system.
And then I start questioning where I fit into it all. Even back when I was planning and working toward specific goals, I never felt confident in what skills I had to offer. I’m not a finance person, an artist, an engineer, an athlete, a data whiz, a scientist… I thought for a minute that maybe I could be a teacher but that doesn’t really seem to fit either.
Even in my current job, what do I put on my LinkedIn profile? Am I in higher ed or public health? Do I consider my work student services? Curriculum development? Program management?
And where do I go from here?
There’s so much pressure these days to have it all figured out. I’m not looking for a new job right now but don’t you feel like you need to know what is coming next? Someone said in a meeting the other day that everyone wants to be a generalist yet employers are looking for specialists. I see students scrambling to get skills so that they can get jobs. I actually asked a student once if she even wanted to have that skill. Do you REALLY want to do that skill in your next job or are you grasping at it because you just want a job?
We are expected to change careers, not just jobs, several times in our lives. So where does that leave us? How do we plan? Aren’t our careers supposed to be fulfilling? Don’t we have unique gifts and abilities that we have a responsibility to share with the world?
This isn’t one of those posts where I tell you that guess what, I finally figured it out! I have not. And that’s part of the reason I signed up for Threshold this year because it’s really overwhelming to try to figure out what I want to do + what the job market is looking for + what my experience prepares me for. So I’m giving it to God to see what He has to say about it because ultimately, I want to be what He calls me to be, whatever that entails for me in my career(s).
And I’m sharing this with you because even though it’s risky to put it out in public where my co-workers will see it (and I know some of you will read this – maybe even my boss!) and it’s difficult to admit that I don’t have it all together (as I’d love for you all to believe)… I’m willing to bet that I’m not alone on this.
Am I right? Anyone else? Bueller? Bueller?
So that’s my #ShareSomethingReal for today – what’s yours?