College Pre-Professionalism: It’s Not All Bad

I have just recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, a university known for its prestige, but also known for being pretty stressful. Campus was filled with people walking around in suits going to On Campus Recruiting interviews. Often the topic of conversation with others would be “How’s the job search?”. I didn’t mind this topic with close friends, but it was a little less pleasant when talking to acquaintances who didn’t understand my path–not that I understand it. At the risk of answering the dreaded question, I’m still not sure about my post-grad plans. I’m thinking of going into digital media writing. I typically think of myself falling into the category of “creative jobs”, a path that few people from my university seemed to take. There tended to be a corporate culture, something that certain creative people would view as a bad thing. Sometimes it seems like no matter what you go into, there are a few people choosing the “opposite” path  that have something negative to say. Perhaps out of some sort of retaliation, I find a pressure put on people going into creative jobs, nonprofits, or anything not-so-corporate, to judge anyone who does banking or works in a cubicle as boring or selfish. Furthermore, simply having any concern about one’s job search is considered being a part of this corporate culture that is apparently inherently bad. And frankly, it really annoys me.

I will first state that it’s truly admirable to go into a job that makes less money in order to help others, or to stray from the status quo in order to be yourself. I myself dream of being a writer. I look up to my dad who is a musician and a teacher. I believe that teachers are underpaid and underappreciated, and the fact that they teach children in the wake of being underpaid makes them even more admirable. But I don’t just write off everyone else as boring, selfish, or snobby. I’m not saying I didn’t meet my share of snobs, or that I didn’t have my own snobby moments, but sometimes the way people of different passions and professions judge each other seemed like World War 3.

I try to check my privilege as much as I can, being a former student who was provided with the resources and the family foundation that helped me get to an Ivy League university. I realize that not everyone has the privilege to be even worrying about job applications. But since I have that privilege, shouldn’t I be fully checking it by worrying just a little? Okay, so maybe “worrying” isn’t exactly the right term. And I certainly don’t have the right to be complaining about it, though I’ll admit I’ve been guilty of it. But I do believe that if I was given this opportunity to study at Penn, I should realize that I am armed with an education and a series of resources that will help me get jobs, even if that’s a pretty unfair part of society. I know that many people in the world don’t have jobs. But isn’t that something that should drive me further, especially as a person of color who has had the privilege to graduate from a prestigious university?

I may be coming off just a little intense here, so I will say that I am honestly not the type to get extremely stressed out about grades and jobs. It was just this week upon arriving home, that I had the “Whoa, what am I going to do with my life?” moment. Furthermore, I believe that mental health holds importance over all of this and that guilting oneself this way is unhealthy if done in large doses. But from the perspective of a perhaps rare Penn kid who wasn’t particularly stressed when it came to school work, I sometimes do need to guilt myself a little. I need to stop relaxing sometimes, and realizing that isn’t something to be ashamed of. It doesn’t mean I’m contributing to an overly high-strung culture.

I truly believe that there are many people out there who didn’t get accepted to Penn — and heck, many people who didn’t even consider going to college — that have the drive to do everything that I have done. They deserve my spot at Penn just as much as I did if not more, and if I don’t succeed, I feel almost like I’m metaphorically throwing a wasted Ivy League education in their faces.

I’m not saying I need to be employed tomorrow, and I’m not saying I can’t relax once and a while. I will always prefer casual friendships to ones solely based in networking – though I believe some friendships can have a combination of both. But I believe that as a person of color, and as a member of this socially stratified society, I’m not being so crazy by wanting to take opportunities that I was lucky enough to receive. So maybe I want to network every once in a while, or see some kind of job in my future. I’ve been given the idea from others that by worrying about jobs I’m overlooking my privilege, and while I see where this perspective comes from, I think that being career-driven is a way of checking that privilege. Overall, I’m excited to see where the next few months take me, and if my journey happens to take me to a job in a cubicle *gasp*, then maybe that’s where I belong. Only time will tell, but I hope that one day each person can travel their own path without being vilified as being part of some greater “evil”. Maybe we’re all just trying to be ourselves.