Hi! I’m a senior in college and I have zero, ZERO motivation to start applying for jobs and thinking about life after school. At the same time, I keep having nightmares featuring ten-years-from-now me, unfulfilled and unhappy with her work because she didn’t take her 20s seriously. None of this is a question. The question is, then, can you help me find motivation? How do you get motivated during a huge, unimaginable life change that’s hurtling towards you and you can’t stop it?
Ooh, big question!
What is it that you do want to do? I don’t mean for work, just in general. Probably not literally nothing, right? I mean, maybe literally nothing for a couple of weeks after graduation. That’s normal. But after that?
Would you like to be … exercising a lot? Learning to cook? Making quilts? Throwing parties? Biking cross-country? Raising money for charity? Playing with babies? Tweeting all day? Weightlifting? Sampling all the snack foods of the world? Or just still in college?
Because all those things can be turned into accessible, doable business ideas.
And starting even a small, manageable, semi-adorable little business — think Babysitters’ Club — may help you more in your career, in the end, than working at one of those thankless office internships. When a future boss looks at your work history, she can’t actually tell that much about what you did all day or what you were like while working at an internship, or at your own business. But she can tell that the version of you that decided to get an internship did the ordinary, expected thing, and the version of you that decided to prepare paleo meals in people’s homes is a self-starter who acts on her ideas. That second you just stands out more, and that usually helps more than it hurts.
(Of course there are more options for young people than internships and microbusinesses, but the question writer isn’t feeling very motivated right now. If you are, then maybe think about starting a not-small business. Venture capitalists need to be pitched to by more women. There are groups of all-women angel investors. But back to the question….)
When you spend 17 years of your life being a student, you tend to think of some things as “real” — like, you get graded — and some things as not real. Somehow, interpreting poetry is real, but fashion isn’t. Or art history is real, but food and yoga and optimizing your inbox aren’t. If you’re the sort of person who skipped studying to throw parties and be with friends, well — there are actually a lot of jobs related to throwing parties and caring about people and making them feel good about themselves.
Maybe what you’re imagining as the working world is a little narrow. Not everyone works in an office, for a boss much older than themselves. Hardly anyone wears the dorky lady-suits in the stock photos anymore. Not everyone sits at a desk all day. Not everyone even has or uses a resume.
There are a lot of people doing the thing you’re supposed to do. That’s why the thing you’re supposed to do often doesn’t pay that well. Lots of English majors want to write for websites. Ideally, they’d like to write about themselves, but in the meantime they’ll write posts about whatever. Yeah, worst business model EVER, because the market is oversaturated, and specifically oversaturated with a demographic of people who are statistically unlikely to negotiate well or at all. Don’t go into a field full of meek young women. (Not all young women are meek — obviously — but enough are, in great part due to forces in society, and they tend to pursue professions where they can avoid direct conflict.) When they work for nothing, or almost nothing, it pushes down wages, hurts your ability to negotiate, and contributes to stereotypes that will not benefit you.
To be frank, you could do the thing you’re “supposed” to do and end up making $15 an hour. Or you could do some weird crazy thing that requires almost no training (you could read some stuff online and spend a day or two practicing, and be ready to come make paleo food in people’s homes), and charge more than $15 an hour. Money is only very vaguely related to merit. The straight-A students are not rewarded with dollars. People who provide more value to others — specifically, others who are able and willing to pay — are rewarded with more dollars.
One more thing: get some older friends.* Right now you’re trying to do too many life changes at once — stop thinking like a student, get a job, go to work, be an adult, dating is totally different, WTF?
Maybe you have an older sibling, or some friends who have graduated that you can reconnect with, and get them to introduce you to more people. Or just go sign up for things off-campus, like networking events and speeches and cute little classes about origami or wine tasting.
Your whole world is on campus, so pulling yourself away seems wrenching. Start centering your world in, you know … the world.
Good luck! I look forward to visiting your heavy metal yoga studio, or your social justice children’s story hour, or your Twitter consultancy. Or maybe you want to look for a job on a college campus. Also totally a thing.
*That’s basically Marnie’s problem on GIRLS. It’s been TWICE now that her friends do not understand the rules of dinner parties. I understand the rules of dinner parties. If Marnie invited me to her dinner party, I would show up on time, bring wine or flowers, and I would certainly not invite a bunch of dudes I just ran into on the street. Marnie, call me – your inner 35-year-old is lonely.