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Secrest: Our self worth, inner peace shouldn’t hinge on job title

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Collegian | Sophia Sirokman

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

College builds toward the pivotal moment of graduation: diplomas are received, caps are tossed — and then what? What follows the completion of education?

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For many the answer is getting a job, likely something to do with what you studied, that will bring you a steady income, good benefits and a retirement plan. Even with those goals in mind, choosing a career is daunting, and there is one aspect that is often neglected: Where will you be happiest? 

This question isn’t necessarily new. Books like “Make Your Job a Calling: How the Psychology of Vocation Can Change Your Life at Work” by Bryan J. Dik and Ryan D. Duffy and “Love + Work: How to Find What You Love, Love What You Do and Do It for the Rest of Your Life” by Marcus Buckingham have explored this idea in depth. Evidently, how we find joy during our nearly 50 years in the workforce is something many of us would like to know.  

Buckingham argues that love is essential in the details of what we do so that we find a passion for our careers and lives. Say you love working with teams, talking to people and being creative; marketing could be for you, but so could art, communications, web design or even science, if you’re so inclined. 

Of course, many of us college kids are pumped up with this idea of finding the perfect position in life, avoiding a desk job and something that, ideally, allows us to travel. I’m sure you’ve met students who are dead set on being a lawyer or a veterinarian, and no alternative can be entertained. 

But what if we did entertain it? What if one day we all went into the career center and said, “This is what I like. Now help me find a place to do that forever.” And what if all jobs were entertained? What if you truly are meant to go into custodial services or be a bartender, and what if we don’t use “flipping burgers for the rest of your life” as an insult but rather an opportunity?

The truth is that many of us will get desk jobs, and some of us will be flipping burgers for the rest of our lives. We should not be ashamed of that; in fact, we should be proud, and we should try to find joy in it. 

Part of why we struggle to accept taking a nonprestigious position is because of the way people in these professions are treated. Most people do not want to become a janitor because they don’t garner the same level of respect as other workers — the position does not offer good benefits, and often, these people are heavily overworked. 

The COVID-19 pandemic changed that. All of a sudden these jobs we couldn’t imagine ourselves in as college graduates became essential, and they had perks and benefits. Essential workers got vaccinated first and were able to continue working. 

So if we have watched our world fall apart and know that society must value all working-class positions to function, why don’t we allow jobs to reflect that? Why don’t we make it easier to find joy in what we do? 

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College graduates have a lower unemployment rate than workers without a bachelor’s degree, and COVID-19 widened that gap. Prior to the pandemic, 1.9% of college graduates above the age of 25 were unemployed, according to the Pew Research Center. That number shot up to 6.8% by June 2020. For noncollege graduates with a high school diploma, that number rose from 3.7% to 12.2% in the same timespan. 

We ask people to find jobs they love, but it has become more common than not to find jobs that are simply satisfactory. However, there is joy to be found in stability, and it is OK to pursue that in tandem. Just because you graduate less likely to be unemployed doesn’t mean you are going to end up in the field you studied.

As of December 2021, 41.5% of college graduates ages 22 to 27 were underemployed, while only 33.8% of all college graduates were underemployed, according to an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Underemployment means being hired in a field that doesn’t require a degree. 

Unemployment and underemployment rates increased during the pandemic but have since returned to somewhat normal rates. All of this may feel overwhelming or like a long-winded way of saying drop out now, but that’s not the point. 

The point is that you don’t know. You don’t know if you’ll graduate with your dream job or graduate to manage a McDonald’s. So why put so much weight into that result? Why hinge your happiness on a job market that fluctuates and may not give you the title you want? 

Instead of giving your career so much power over your life, focus instead on your inner satisfaction with your life, find joy in the mundane, get comfortable with doing nothing and love what you do because it allows you to live life outside of your job. 

Reach Ivy Secrest at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @IvySecrest.

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Ivy Secrest
Ivy Secrest, Content Managing Editor
Ivy Secrest is The Collegian's content managing editor. Secrest uses she/her/hers pronouns and has worked for The Collegian previously as a reporter and as life and culture director for the 2022-23 academic year. As a senior in the journalism and media communications department, Secrest enjoys reporting on environmental and social issues with a special interest in science communication. She is president of the Science Communication Club and is pursuing a minor in global environmental sustainability with hopes of utilizing her education in her career. Growing up in Denver, Secrest developed a deep love for the outdoors. She could happily spend the rest of her life hiking alpine environments, jumping into lakes, taking photos of the wildflowers and listening to folk music. She's passionate about skiing, hiking, dancing, painting, writing poetry and camping. Secrest's passions spurred her career in journalism, helping her reach out to her community and get involved in topics that students and residents of Fort Collins truly care about. She has taken every opportunity to connect with the communities she has reported in and has written for several of the desks at The Collegian, including news, life and culture, cannabis, arts and entertainment and opinion. She uses her connections with the community to inform both managerial and editorial decisions with hopes that the publication serves as a true reflection of the student body's interests and concerns. Secrest is an advocate of community-centered journalism, believing in the importance of fostering meaningful dialogue between press and community.

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