Senior job search: Don’t sacrifice passion for security

If I see yet another status about how “#blessed” someone feels to have signed with their dream firm, corporation or graduate school, I am going to jump off a cliff.

Woah. That was a little dramatic. Let’s step back for a second.

Spring is undoubtedly a stressful time for all seniors. If you haven’t finalized your post-grad plans yet, you probably have upwards of 19 applications out there, floating around in resume land.

We all work hard here. We pursue our passions. We bust our butts. Don’t we all deserve what we’ve worked for?

Alas, the world is not so idealistic. Over the years, I’ve witnessed even the most passionate and intelligent of friends make sacrifices in the name of employment: the art aficionado signed with a consulting firm, the history lover chose pre-med, and the religious studies major now crunches numbers in a cubicle.

These people made the necessary trade: passion for stability. Right now we are in the midst of hiring season. The jobs and life paths that fall within that “stability” category have already recruited many of our classmates.

Those of us who are still figuring out our plans are far from lazy. We’re the ones applying to be writers, curators, graphic designers, non-profit employees and government workers. We wait because we chose the passionate path.

Sure, we’ll reside in a cardboard box next year and sustain ourselves with ramen noodles and cheap white wine. Yes, we’ll be doing something a little less common, a little less lucrative, but we’ll (hopefully) be doing what we love.

If you have a job or a plan for next year, congratulations, enjoy every minute of the D.C/ New York City business world. Really, I’m very happy for you and I mean that. You’ve worked hard too, and you earned those plans.

Until the rest of us hear about the future of our dreams, please keep your humble-brag social media posts to a minimum. No one wants to read another “It’s official! I’ll be doing blah blah blah” status.

If you tell friends the big news in person, I guarantee they’ll give you the warmest hugs.

Recently a friend of mine in the class of 2014 published a status quoting writer Cheryl Strayed that I think sums it up pretty well:

“You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. … Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts. You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth. But that’s all.”

This is the kind of Facebook post about the post-grad world worth posting between now and May 11. These next few weeks will bring lots of news, both exciting and unexpected.

I have no doubt that in due course the real world will strip away the majority of this unfettered idealism. But until then, good luck, my fellow seniors. Stay passionate.

Ariel Cohen is a Confusion Corner Columnist and is eagerly awaiting the end of the job-hunting season so that she can finally check her Facebook again.

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Senior Staff Writer Ariel Cohen '14 is a sociology major from Arlington, Va. She was previously Chief Staff Writer, News Editor, and Associate News Editor.


  1. This is a naive, bitter take on the path that others have chosen as their first foray into the working world. Ms. Cohen appears completely oblivious to the fact that her peers might just be achieving “stability” for the first time in their family’s history….that her peers may be faced with unprecedented levels of debt, eliminating the choice of “stability.”

    Her assertion that students pursuing “government jobs” out of passion, as opposed to those consultants seeking “stability” is particularly misguided. Best of luck to those seniors still seeking jobs, but don’t put your unemployment on a pedestal.

  2. My fellow alum is absolutely right. Additionally, Ms. Cohen is creating a false dichotomy, implying that for a stable job, one must sacrifice passion. This perpetuates the myth that a passion not monetized is a passion abandoned.

    Take her art aficionado friend who is now a consultant (cough*SELLOUT!*cough). Is this person no longer able to study and experience art? While it may not be his/her source of income, is this person not still free to visit museums and galleries, attend lectures, read books and otherwise pursue this passion outside of work? Maybe by becoming a consultant, this art aficionado now earns enough (and has enough paid vacation) to take the occasional vacation to Europe to visit the Tate or the Louvre, all while paying the electric bill and putting something in a 401(k)?

    Is it possible that instead of requiring them to sacrifice their passion, this person’s career path could actually enable them to pursue it AND provide stability?

    You could ask similar questions about her other two friends, the history-loving doctor and the theologian accountant.

    I know people who followed “the passionate path” and are unsatisfied, but not necessarily for lack of security. Oftentimes it’s because they lost their passion for their passion by becoming financially dependent on it. To put this into undergrad terms, have you ever had a best friend who you loved hanging out with, but once you became roommates you couldn’t stand to look at each other? Same idea.

    Instead of “Don’t Sacrifice Passion For Security,” a better piece of advice might have been “Don’t Sacrifice Passion OR Security for Happiness.”

    Even if your passion doesn’t involve Excel, passion and security don’t have to be mutually exclusive. So instead of wasting time wrestling with that non-existent trade-off, think instead about what is going to make you happy in the short, medium and long term. If stability is something that you value and
    you don’t think that your passion can provide you with the level stability you
    need to be happy, find a career that provides that does. Just make sure it still provides you with enough free time to pursue your passion on the side to (approximately) your satisfaction. You won’t haven’t sacrificed your passion; you’ll just be pursuing it in a different way.


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