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Good job hunting

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I suppose Notre Dame does a good job of filling us with enough anxiety and terror concerning our post-grad life. The barrage of Career fairs, expos, seminars and practice meetings is starting to drive me a little crazy especially now that I am a senior. Thus, instead of getting asked about my future plans by my family members and underclassmen who thought I was a senior, I get asked the fateful query almost every day.

Every time someone asks about my future plans, I think about that scene in Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon tells Robin Williams he wants to be a shepherd and have a flock to tend. That option is looking sweeter every day – a quiet life, working with things that do not talk and basically making my own hours. Hmmmm. Then I remember I do not like sheep and return to reality.

For anyone preparing to enter the Career Fair this eve, I would like to share with you my philosophy of post-grad, whether you like it or not.

First rule: Have your own standards. It is your life and your decision. We should get excited at a job prospect. Work is so central to our “selves.” Through our labor we not only take care of ourselves, but also get a chance to contribute to our world, and if we are lucky, can be creative and express ourselves. So the questions we should be asking ourselves – what would make me most happy to do? Can this job allow me to innovate within the ranks?

Second rule: Do not fret over the resume. This kind of only applies if you are going to get some face time with the employer. I think it is so much more impressive to convey yourself with expressive and genuine stories of your experiences. Think to those rare jewels you have in your life, the times where you shined, conquered or failed miserably but picked yourself up valiantly. Laying those babies out there to employers will be so much better than a fancily worded resume or a robotic set of responses.

Third rule: Do not feel like you have to go to every Career Center event. Instead, try having a few heart-to-hearts with friends, clergy, faculty and others on campus about this job process. The people you end up flying with – whether it’s the lefty justice crowd or young Fortune 500-ers – know stuff about jobs and programs that might fit you, since they know you.

Fourth rule: Check out the labor conditions. This may be easy to overlook, but it is vital. Ask if an employer or program offers health insurance. Find out what kind of starting hours are expected of you. Wonder if this company is currently being boycotted or having labor abuses. We are all going to be invited to sign the Pledge of Social Responsibility, which affirms we will take the teachings of social justice and responsibility with us beyond Notre Dame to our careers and lives. Apparently, from our marketing image, we are a school with a “Higher Education,” so we should emerge from that to work for places that uplift human dignity, social justice and the common good.

So, I shall not be attending tonight’s career fest for two reasons: no career that fits my standards would be there and I am really not that anxious about post-May 2006. I am taking a more relational approach: looking at what is in front of me, talking to friends and guides about possible options and making connections through my existing social networks. Also, I have got one definite job in the bag already. Jealous much? Seriously, I do have a good prospect if a want it and I never wrote a single resume, did a single nervous interview or any of that other song and dance. I reached into my own network of relationships, told good stories about myself and was serious about making my preferences known.

So do not freak out about this career stuff; resourceful people who know other people of like interests should not have a problem getting something together. Yet, I do not want to assume most of my readers have personality and grace, so if you are one of those people, do not go to the Career Fair. Instead, go to LaFortune or Legends, mingle, meet some people and grow some social skills and backbone. It would be far worse to leave college with a job, but no style, personality or sense of self. Mock interviews will not teach you how to live and interact; we each have to force ourselves to learn that lesson. And do not sell your soul for a huge paycheck. Working 100 hours a week for a fortune is not what I call living; it looks more like dying.

Kamaria Porter is a senior history major and takes Fridays off. Contact her at kporter@nd.edu, but only as a last resort for real conversation.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.