Defining a ‘real’ job in the real world

When I was in first grade I wanted to be a waitress. I had a little toy cash register and I served my parents everything from hamburgers to grapes to the array of plastic food that I kept in my toy box. I have long since abandoned such aspirations, but I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I do know, however, that if I walked into the Office of Career Counseling and told them that I want to wait tables for the rest of my life, I would probably receive advice to seek of other options.

One of my favorite camp songs is one in which the campers are asked to suggest various professions that are then inserted into the song about a father with the given job, and how much we all want to be like this father when we are older. The song always starts out with a father who is a fisherman as a model. One of my girls this summer raised her hand and suggested “venture capitalist.” I’m not even sure if I fully know what a venture capitalist does, but coming from a ten-year-old girl this scared me.

As all of my senior friends are currently being wooed by one investment banking firm or another, I wonder what percentage of them once aspired to be astronauts or Broadway singers. This is not to say that everyone should follow his or her dream, no mater how unrealistic. It is just disheartening to see that money has become the ultimate driving force for so many of the decisions that we make. Salary should be a consideration in the quest for a job, not the reason for which you choose your major or a summer internship.

Every year when I return from my summer at camp, my friends ask me when I’m going to get a “real” job. I asked one such friend what her definition of a real job was and she answered that it is one that you can put on your resume. As a sophomore I realize that I will soon have to begin work on this mythical piece of paper that is to someday serve to represent all of my achievements to date. And yet, I wouldn’t trade a single moment of my summers kayaking through the San Juan Islands just so that I could write the name of some publishing firm, for whom I stuffed envelopes, on this piece paper.

After I graduate from Williams I will have to get a full-time job. This is a reality that most students must face at one time or another. Therefore, the time until graduation should be treated as a time to explore the many possibilities and worlds that will no longer be accessible once we leave the security of college life. Internships and other career-based jobs are a wonderful way to test out whether a certain career is right for you. However, if these positions are being used as tools to appear accomplished on a resume, then they represent time poorly spent, no matter how “real” the job may seem.

The Webster’s dictionary definition of real is as follows, “not artificial, fraudulent, illusory, or apparent.” I see nothing more fraudulent then accepting a summer job simply for the status or career opportunity that it may or may not serve to further. In doing so, you are cheating yourself.

I know that working at a summer camp may not look good on my resume. More importantly, I know that my summers have taught me that the point of a job is not the money you receive or the way in which other people perceive what it is that you have accomplished. If you are able to work in an environment that allows you to be true to yourself, then you have found a job that is truly real.