Career Advice

As a senior, nearing graduation and entrance into the workforce, I have done a lot of thinking about the type of career I would like to pursue. Although I have yet to reach a decision, I have come upon the two questions I feel are most important to consider when choosing a profession:

1.Will your job be enjoyable?

2.Will the impact of your work be positive?

Let us first address Question 1: will your job be enjoyable? If you cannot answer yes to this, then I ask you, why choose it? Why would one work as many as 16 hours a day unless it was at a job they truly loved. Even then, working that much leaves one with barely any time for leisure, family or friends. As far as I can tell, the only reason to take an unsatisfying job is the desire to earn a higher salary; let’s say $60,000 instead of the $20,000 typical of more enjoyable jobs.

However, one should keep in mind that even this seemingly large monetary difference may be deceiving. To begin with, it is before taxes. After federal taxes, $20,000 will become $17,634 and $60,000 will become $44,747, a difference of roughly 27,000 dollars. Granted, this is still quite a bit, but one also needs to remember that the employee making $60,000 averages 16 hour days while the employee earning $20,000 averages only 8 hour days. Assuming neither work weekends that is 8 (or 16) times 52 weeks a year times 5 days a week (not subtracting holiday time). 260 days x 8= 2080 hours (and 4160 hours for 16 hour workdays).

$44,747 divided by 4160 hours = $10.76/hour

$17,634 divided by 2080 hours = $8.48/hourWhat these numbers show is that in reality the student who chooses to pursue the more enjoyable career is sacrificing barely more than a couple of dollars an hour. Of course this adds up, but the majority of the $60,000 paycheck does not come from those extra couple of dollars but from the extra 2080 hours a year that one would be required to work. In that case, why not just get two 8 hour enjoyable jobs for $8.48 an hour? Sure you’ll lose about $8,000 a year, but wouldn’t having two stimulating jobs make up for that? Besides, as long as one is satisfied with buying an affordable compact car instead of a monstrous Sports Utility Vehicle, one can be content with a smaller salary.

The second element of the job search should include questioning whether the impact that your job makes is positive. If the answer is yes, great! Even if your job isn’t all that enjoyable, if your work truly benefits society then this is a good job. However, if the job does not produce a positive impact on society and it is not enjoyable, then I can only think of one reason why anyone would choose this job and that is because we are being tracked. Dartmouth is known for its recruiting success — and this perpetuates itself. What internships do many of us often get on our leave terms? We get ones with corporate firms, banks, etc. Why? Do these internships have a stronger impact on us than say, volunteering in a third world country or doing scientific research? Clearly not. However, in spite of the fact that there are so many options and so many resources at Dartmouth for funding those internships that do not pay as well as corporate ones, the majority of students are still drawn to the latter. Furthermore, once students have gotten an internship with a corporation, they have also received the necessary experience to go on in this field. Sometimes, they even get job offers from these firms and then, the choice seems easy. Why go through painful job searches when one already has a job?

In addition, it is the corporations that have the means to advertise and to recruit. How many advertisements have you seen in The Dartmouth for corporate firms? How many have you seen for non-profit organizations or teaching positions? We’re being pushed (by events like Corporate Recruiting) and pulled (through advertising and the Dartmouth culture) towards this option without even realizing it. We’re being tracked, but we still have the chance to change our future. I encourage you to look at the jobs you are researching or have accepted and apply the two questions. If the jobs seem to be neither enjoyable nor have a positive impact, why not look for a different one? There are hundreds of thousands of job openings out there. It’s up to you to choose what type of career you want to fill your days.

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