I was having a conversation with my grandmother about my job prospects as I walked home in the rain the other day. She asked me what I wanted to do after college, which, of course, is every senior’s favorite question right now. I told her about how I was considering a lot of paths, from data analysis to marketing to management. I wasn’t sure which one was right.
I was worried that whichever job I chose would be the sole determinant of my entire future life and career. If I ended up in one city or one industry, I was sure I’d be stuck there forever.
She laughed, which was encouraging, and reminded me of the ever-comforting fact that I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen in the next year, two years, five years. While planning out my path can feel helpful and may illuminate which options are most likely to get me to a certain point, nothing is set in stone. I keep thinking that my first job is the end-all-be-all, which makes sense because I’ve never had one before.
My grandmother reminded me to think about my mom, who got her English degree from the College of the Holy Cross, where she still holds the highest scoring record for basketball at 2,253 points (without a three-point line!). To name a few, my mom has been a video producer, national broadcast analyst, athletic director and chief administrative officer at a startup.
She also founded her own production company and basketball camp (with her name on each). She is in three halls of fame, has coached her basketball teams to over 300 wins and has won many gold medals on an international stage.
My mom even still tells me about how she wants to own her own summer camp. Thinking about that reminds me that there is so much time for me to do all the things I want to do. In the grand scheme of things, a first job doesn’t matter in the way that I thought it did.
The location, industry or department of my first job isn’t necessarily that important. There is no way of knowing what’s ahead, and there are so many ways to pivot. What does matter are the connections, skills and contributions that I’m able to gain from that experience. This is the time in our lives to learn what we’re good at, how we work in teams and what work excites us.
One quote my mom likes to use is by Louis Pasteur, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” We never know what opportunities may arise in our first job, much less our second or third. As long as we are constantly learning, we can be ready for anything. We can be a little more comfortable with the uncertainty of chance.
As we go home to our families this week, a lot of us will face (well-meaning) questions about our future plans. If you do not have a job locked down (yet), it will be okay! You can always say to your family that: a) you are actively looking, b) most of your deadlines do not start until the later in the year and c) you’re waiting until the absolute right opportunity comes.
Also, it’s important to remember that it’s fine not to know. We are lucky to have smart, successful friends; as I have previously said, that does not mean that we are not also smart and successful.
Hopkins can sometimes make us think that it is abnormal not to have a job lined up already. But the majority of people I have talked to and the majority of college students across the country have not yet accepted positions.
When you’re so worried about not having a job, putting pressure on yourself can sometimes be a detriment to your application process. Relaxing can be just as effective preparation for applications and interviews as drilling yourself on questions.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect on your experiences, where you want your path to take you and what makes you a strong candidate.
Take (at least a little) pressure off of yourself and remember to be thankful for the connections you’ve made, skills you’ve learned and contributions that made a positive change. Then, when an interesting opportunity does come along, you’ll be more ready to take it.