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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Friday, March 31

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r / May 9, 2011 1:15 AM

"Passion" is an overrated concept; when you're figuring out what you're good at and what you might want to pursue as a career, measuring it by how "passionate" you are about it is a terrible idea. Sometimes the thing you should do is sitting right in the middle--not good, but not bad. You'll figure out where the scale tips later on.

Tracie / May 9, 2011 8:52 AM

The best advice I ever got was from a mentor who said, "Your unofficial job duty is to make your boss's job easier, not harder".

Pete / May 9, 2011 9:19 AM

Do what you love. The money will take care of itself. And if what you love somehow makes you a comfortable sum of money, consider yourself incredibly blessed.

paul / May 9, 2011 9:44 AM

Most important thing to remember before you leave school...
Don't leave that little dorm frige when you leave. You're going to need it when you're living in your parent's basement.

LaShawn Williams / May 9, 2011 10:49 AM

LMAO @ Paul!!

bob / May 9, 2011 11:37 AM

"Do what you love. The money will take care of itself."

pete - if that worked for you, congrats, seriously. but really, for a lot of people that just isn't gonna happen. sometimes taking a not-so-thrilling job that pays the bills and then doing the things you really love in your spare time is perfectly okay. 'following your dreams' and 'doing what your passionate about' is great in theory, but not always possible - or realistic - in practice.

c / May 9, 2011 12:19 PM

re: pete & bob

i would say to kids just finishing school who are at crossroads with this situation: maybe determine if what makes you happy has any possibility of paying the bills and/or helping you achieve your financial goals. whether that's just barely staying afloat, or buying a house or whatever.

this economy is super fucked. if you research the shit out of your field/passion and determine it is possible to meet your financial goals, pursue it with every fiber of your being.

however, if it's not, what bob said, theres nothing wrong with having really cool hobbies and a job that allows you this luxury.

jj / May 9, 2011 2:47 PM

Contrary to what everyone says, the money will probably not follow you doing what you love, because if it did then everyone would do whatever awesome thing you love, so don't go into any debt if you can help it.

Also, figure out what your dream job is, find someone who has that dream job, and figure out how he or she got there. If no one on earth has that dream job (i.e. it doesn't exist, because no one gets paid to be, say, a dolphin glamour photographer at the aquarium or, say, a cupcake baker catering to Kanye West exclusively), that's a pretty big clue that you're delusional/no one wants to pay for that service and the money isn't going to follow, so refer to my advice above.

Pete / May 9, 2011 3:53 PM

Bob, no, it didn't work out that way. Which is why I'm already doing what you recommend: grinning and bearing the not-so-thrilling job, and doing what I love on the side.

Mike / May 9, 2011 4:40 PM

1. Congrats. Your expensive B.A. is the new high school diploma. Get in line behind all of the other more experienced people who also don't have jobs.

2. Try to go five minutes without looking at your PDA/iPhone. Seriously, you all look like mouth-breathing zombies.

3. No one else on the train gives a shit about how wasted you got at Duffy's, or how you and Jenny got this great two-bedroom right by Wrigley. I know it's impossible because you were raised with nothing but positive affirmations on how special you are and discipline was a random "time-out" or two ... but please at least try not to be completely self-absorbed when in public.

mary s. / May 9, 2011 10:03 PM

it's ok if you make mistakes at work, but remember to learn from them and try not to make them a second time.

if you are disillusioned with your first job it's ok to job search sooner rather than later. don't get stuck at a job that is going to make you miserable when you are so young. you shouldn't necessarily be tunnel vision-ed when it comes to what you want in life, but you definitely don't need to settle.

PMan / May 9, 2011 10:52 PM

I was kind of shocked when I got out of school. Somebody said that being in college is like being a rock star, and you miss it when you're out. However, a few years into adult life I really had a good time.

If I were starting over, I would learn a skill I could do part time (like bartending). It would have helped me earn a few dollars during grad school or other low wage times.

CC / May 10, 2011 12:10 AM

I love all this advice, esp. From r and bob. I am sure I heard this in one form or another but I was too young and idealistic for it to sink in.

Hmmm, the real world is so different from being in school your whole life. Working hard does not equal to success. Navigate office politics in the best way you can, appear competent even if the learning curve is high. It's okay if you don't like your job, because each job trains you in some way for the
next job. Not necessarily just a set of skills, as much as "learning people" and learning from experiences.

charlie / May 10, 2011 7:10 AM


jao / May 10, 2011 7:38 AM

Acquire a taste for humble pie and you will never go hungry.

Mucky Fingers / May 10, 2011 10:32 AM

Half of what you want ain't gonna happen, and half of what you do you'll get wrong. It doesn't matter, don't worry about any of it. Knocked down seven times, get up eight.

vise77 / May 10, 2011 12:54 PM

Work hard, keep your head down, work harder, and don't worry about all the goofs who manage to get ahead without working nearly as hard as you do. There's nothing you can do about it, and envy gets you nowhere.

maardvark / May 10, 2011 8:47 PM


mike-ts / May 11, 2011 11:56 AM

Advice is worthless. One person will get a degree and fast track on his career. His equally talented classmate will work in the coffee house and put out resumes every day until he starts getting told "your degree is old - we're looking for grads from the last year and sooner." Someone else will spend his early 20's in a marijuana haze, then his uncle gets him in the union and he's knocking down $80,000. Someone else will apply himself and stay the straight and narrow and it won't do him a bit of good.

If you have a vocation that burns within you like a magnesium fire, go for it without wondering if you'll be successful, since doing what you felt you were born to do is in itself your success, and you'll never work a day in your life. If you don't pursue it you will live to regret it. My father played semi-pro ball and got called by the Cubs for their A team but chose the mill, and it was always there in the back of his head. I knew a guy who about kicked himself daily for not following through and pursuing the priesthood. For the rest of the 95% of you, darned if I know.

They say over 80% of the job market isn't posted, and almost everyone I know in a good job knew someone who pulled them in.

c / May 11, 2011 5:13 PM

mike-ts's post is on point. happenstance can be the best thing ever or the worst thing ever.

thats a lesson in, if you don't have that true calling, network as much as you can.

Spook / May 12, 2011 9:40 AM

The rotten corpse you see at your door step is that of american exceptionalism.

Yes, you should have smelled and seen the gangrenes spread, but your inhirited privalidge protected and blinded you like a 1980's american Express commercial. So buck up Candide, cause the main act is just now warming up.

Oh yes indeedy, you got all retroie, thrifty, hipstery, cyclie, but can you bring back and make medieval cool? Cause there is your salvation, unless you're a noble. Learn a real trade that you can advertise on a wooden sign hung over your front door; black smith, barber/doctor/dentists, lawyer, carpenter, undertaker, barkeep, miller,servant, pick pocket, priest, nun, etc.

oh and start learning to be nice to those Nigerians, Chinese, and Indians driving your cabs, because your sons and daughters will be working for them, all old school like.


Nuke LaLoosh / May 12, 2011 10:43 AM

You don't "find yourself" by hanging out doing little-to-nothing. You "make yourself" by going out and doing lots of different things and internalizing the lessons those experiences provide.

Several days a week, do some piece of productive work someplace, even if it is unpaid.

Learn a language other than English.

Meet lots of people, even if they seem different than you are, and stay in touch with the positive, realistic people you meet.

With the exception of a your school loans - which are probably too late to avoid at this point anyway - do your best to avoid paying interest on anything that doesn't accrue in value. A house may or may not be that thing, but a car loan or an unpaid credit card balance can really screw you.

Dennis Fritz / May 12, 2011 11:33 AM

With regards to career plans, remember only a lucky few get to do what they want to do. Most of us end up doing what there is to do. People who tell you not to think practically and tell you to "follow your dreams" may mean well, but they are giving you lousy advice.

Wilson / May 12, 2011 4:34 PM

This advice would have been useful before attending school but...learn a trade. After I graduated from college, I went to work at a manufacturing plant in the office. Skilled tradesman were making double what I was making and seemed to genuinely enjoy doing it. An undergraduate degree is a dime a dozen. A machinist? Not so much.

Outside of the trades, look at smaller firms. I thought working at a large, established F500 company was the way to go. I laugh at that thought now. You'll learn more at a smaller firm, have more opportunities to make an impact, and, if you're lucky, have a great opportunity to make some money if the company takes off.

Lastly, keep your options open. Don't buy that house right out of college because you'll be a slave to the mortgage. Take advantage of your company's benefits. Tuition reimbursement? Check. And don't believe the hype!

WC / May 13, 2011 4:25 AM

Join a labor union immediately. If none exists at your workplace, organize one. If you do any of these two things, whatever job you have will be made more pleasant and tolerable.
And ignore any advice that has you pandering to "bosses". 99% of them are incompetent.

vise77 / May 13, 2011 8:49 AM

"If none exists at your workplace, organize one."

Yeah, that's what new grads and new hires should do in this economy. Points for heart, though.

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