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I wonder how many of us are in this situation: I studied something which I loved in college, and still love, but had no delusions was going to be a vocation without graduate study. When I thought about what to do after school, the most appealing options were overseas volunteer or educational internships, and I figured that was a workable-enough plan until I had something more concrete figured out. In the meantime, I met my future husband the summer before senior year in college, and knew that if there were a person on earth with whom I could imagine spending any significant amount of time – let alone the rest of my life – I had found him. I decided this relationship was something I had no desire to pass up or take for granted. Fortunately, he felt the same way and we were married soon after I graduated college.
Flash forward to my first September out of school since I was five years old. Living with my new husband in a new city 1,000 miles from my folks, paying rent for the first time, and looking for work, armed with an undergraduate degree in Music History and a bazillion extra-curricular activities which probably wouldn’t help my cause. Oh, and very minimal job experience, consisting of interning at an 18th-century backcountry farm and playing in a string quartet. I tend to forget how desperate I felt to find a job at that time, but I do recall that I canvassed the areas around our apartment, applying everywhere I could, including CVS, Pier One, a local ice cream shop, a local grocery store, and LensCrafters. “Oh, you have experience analyzing the modulations in the Third Movement of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony? That’s just the type of thing we’re looking for here at LensCrafters. Why don’t you have a seat and fill out the tax information?”
Thank God I found a job which, quite honestly, suited me to a “T” and was with a company I adore, Ten Thousand Villages (look it up. For real.) I still work for them, as they have many locations in the U.S. and I was able to transfer when we moved to where we live now. I currently work 20-24 hours a week there as well as at the Historical Society a couple hours a week, and I’ve also got eight violin students and do a little paperwork for a local nonprofit organization. None of these is a “perfect job,” but as time continues to pass, I wonder if that single job exists for me. My current conclusion is that piecing together all of these different options creates an ideal situation for my interests, abilities, and desires. The reason I share this is because, for me, it is a key to appreciating this time of life more fully.
One of my best friends and I initially bonded over a wonderful book called Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher. In it she discusses the necessity of determining your interests, skills, and goals in choosing a profession (or two or three). If it sounds rudimentary, it is–it’s just that I had never thought of it in her terms before. I found it incredibly liberating that it was “okay” to have several different interests and desires for myself in terms of employment, both paid and unpaid. As long as we are able to pay our bills, it’s fine not to have one full-time job. Remember that company I was telling you about that I started work with after college and still adore? They offer health benefits for part-time employees. Yep, these types of situations really exist! At this time in my life, it actually does make the most sense to spend my time in all these employments, because it enables me to use and develop different parts of myself–organizing, creating, reading, teaching, learning, helping others. More specifically, it helps me to integrate interests I have without leaving any aside–music, history, world crafts and cultures, and community development (Oh, and, get paid to do it).
If I were writing this to myself right out of college, I would advise myself to take opportunities that present themselves and to not be afraid of change, to be willing to try something new even if it doesn’t seem like a perfect fit. Yes, it would have been nice to study something more likely to be directly transferable into the job market, like education or nursing. But I am grateful for the rich experiences I’ve had over the past six years, including a stint working at a bakery chain, where working the closing shift promised delicious leftover baked goods for breakfast the next three days! And if you are in this boat, I want to encourage you to realize you likely have more transferable skills than you think you do. Off the top of my head, here are some things I learned in college which have undoubtedly helped me along the way: punctuality, teamwork, delegation, time management skills, listening to instruction and following directions, respecting authority, approaching a problem with creative solutions, and most importantly being able to pursue and learn anything new that interests me.
At the end of the day, I am satisfied with the ways I spend my time and energy, and I look forward to continuing to develop skills and interests I pick up throughout my life. I may not know where we’ll be in a year’s time or what I’ll be doing, but at least this time I’ll have a little more job experience on my resume.
What are some ways you have used unexpected skills in your job/jobs? How do you integrate varying interests and abilities in your employment? Has this been especially challenging or easy being on the graduate wife journey?