College: University of Pennsylvania
Major: Art History
Hometown: Warren, New Jersey
First Job: Traveling to London this fall and working there for six months.
I had vaguely always thought that my primary criterion for a first job was simply to get hired. Having been in school my entire life, I could never imagine actually being offered a paid position — one for which I would not mind getting out of bed each morning. With that in mind, I approached my job search my senior year of college with a take-no-prisoners attitude: I would graduate with a job, or else. Since I was fortunate enough (or perhaps unfortunate) to attend a university with a student body heavily recruited by Fortune 500 companies, I had ample opportunity to meet my objective.
Several suit-shopping expeditions and interviews and countless cover letters and trips to Kinko’s later, I am officially in the “or else” category.
Although it was easy at school to get caught up in the consulting/training program/corporate America route, it was never the right path for me. It was not only that I am an Art History major with a minor in Italian Studies, or that I have a distaste for anything resembling a business class. It was that the available positions had little to do with my criteria for a first job or with my priorities for my life — all of which took me my entire senior year to figure out, and which I am still pondering today.
With a year’s worth of soul searching and job anxiety behind me, a hazy picture of my first job has become somewhat clearer. I want first and foremost to learn, and if I must do so in the midst of photocopying, faxing, and answering phones, then so be it. I am not naïve enough to suppose that I will be able to bypass administrative work, as long as I am doing something worthwhile and gaining some crucial experience in the process.
It would be nice if my first job were fun, if it fit my daydream of spending my days among dynamic, interesting people in a fast-paced, creative environment such as a magazine, a publishing house, a new media company, or MTV. Alongside such concerns I now find myself questioning if there is room for growth or lateral movement and if the company promotes from within. No matter how fun or youth-oriented the office culture may be, I do not want to find myself in a dead-end job.
The factor that looms least importantly in my mind, in terms of necessity, but perhaps appears most frequently, is pay. For the industries in which I am interested — publishing, writing, art auctioning, new media — the salary situation is not promising. There is simply no way in which I will be able to support myself in New York (my probable destination) on the compensation routinely offered in these fields. Moreover, the situation may not be likely to improve in several years. I may not be financially independent not only next year, but also four years from now. If I am happy, however, then the question of salary is academic. My college education will have more than paid off.