I’m a planner by nature. Many of my careers of interest have had some sort of planning emphasis—like an urban or media planner. I also jump at the opportunity to plan my annual family vacation and get a rush out of attempting to plan my finances.
So like many anal-retentive planners, I created the first draft of my career plan in middle school. Yes, I was that serious. And by the year before I entered university I had it all figured out. Or so I thought. During undergrad, the recession started to go into full effect. It hit job opportunities in my dream field particularly hard and my carefully laid plan started to unravel.
But after graduation I still managed to approach the job market with some hope intact. I had gotten good grades, done extracurriculars, interned, networked, and all that stuff that career advisors tell you to do. I’d land a decent paying job sooner rather than later, right?
Nope. Shit got real.
As I applied to career-related jobs from Cleveland to Washington D.C., it only reaffirmed that I was one of a very large pool of recent graduates that had done the “right things” in order to compete for an extremely limited selection of jobs. So eventually frustration creeped in, and I shifted away from applying to positions like “Policy Research Assistant” opting instead for “Pizza Hut Waitress”.
Not only was I frustrated that I was struggling to find employment. I was also frustrated that the plan that I had spent nearly 10 years perfecting was obsolete.
I began to mope. My mom, probably annoyed by my negativity, made me watch The Secret for the tenth time. She also told me to lighten up and keep two things in mind:
1.) Things would get better as long as I was willing to adjust my mind-set.
2.) Something was coming along that would overshadow what I originally had planned.
So I listened to my mom, since mothers are usually right. I adjusted my mind-set. And things did change.
A few months later I landed both a sweet paid internship and part-time job in my city that actually utilized my degree. However, both jobs were temporary, so I was positioned to take a major risk. I decided to apply to graduate schools overseas. So to make an even longer story short, I ended up moving nearly 4,000 miles away from the US to London. Originally, merely visiting London seemed like some sort of lofty goal, let alone living there. Mind blown.
I often think what if I had gotten one of the jobs that I had anxiously applied for? Instead of having the opportunity to live abroad, I’d more than likely be tucked in an office somewhere on K Street in D.C., too comfortable to ever make the leap. I wouldn’t have met all of the fabulous people that I met or experienced daily living in the awesomeness that is London. And I probably wouldn’t have learned some crucial life lessons that I learned during that year abroad (but that’s a story for another post).
On the surface simply keeping a positive outlook and having faith that things will eventually end up better than planned may seem simplistic and perhaps unrealistic. Especially if you’re going through an extremely dire situation. Also, sometimes before things start to straighten out there may be scenarios that seem to drag us deeper into despair. However, it’s important to be hopeful anyway. I have a really dear friend who suddenly lost his job and struggled to find work for nearly a year. For a while he was nearly homeless and ate one meal a day. But he had unwavering faith and knew that things would work out. Eventually his situation began to turn around and job offers started to pour in.
So as I attempt to make yet another revision to my plan, I try to keep in mind my mother’s words: things will end up better than I can possibly imagine at this point in time.
And besides, mom usually does know best.