I’m definitely not the first to compare Lewis Carroll’s character of Alice lost down a rabbit hole to the career exploration process. However, sometimes as a career counselor I feel a little like the Cheshire Cat, if slightly less cheeky. With that said, I do feel this particular sassy feline has a lot of good advice to offer, particularly as it relates to looking for that first job after graduation. Here are some of my favorite quotes of his and how they apply to life after Penn:
Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “I don’t much care where –”
Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
Before you start applying for jobs, it is important to have some direction because what you want greatly influences how and where you look for those opportunities. Once you identify a goal, we in Career Services are happy to help you develop a strategy to get there. However, if you aren’t sure what you want and you’re not ready to decide (a topic for a whole different blog), then you open yourself up to possibilities, which can be as exciting as having a more concrete goal. Just like Alice picking from different possible paths, if you aren’t sure of what your long-term plans are, just about any first job will help you get there. This is because any role will help you develop new skills that you can use in future positions as well as give you a better sense of what you want (or don’t want) in future jobs. The trick is to take advantage of all experiences put in front of you because you never know which path they will help illuminate next. You might even think of it as an adventure…
And, as the Cheshire Cat also wisely said, “Every adventure requires a first step. Trite, but true, even here.” In other words, don’t be afraid to test yourself and explore new things. Even in the nerve-wracking and stressful process of figuring out life after graduation, each small step along the way, whether that’s updating your resume or doing an informational interview with a Penn alum, can help you get there. Or, taking a risk on an unusual first job may also be that first step towards an adventure.
“Only a few find the way, some don’t recognize it when they do – some… don’t ever want to.”
This quote could be interpreted many ways but in this instance I take it to mean that very few people find careers about which they are truly passionate. And even fewer are passionate about something as a senior in college. Some spend the rest of their lives looking for it and some never find it. For those lucky few who seem born to do what they do (think Steve Jobs, Jim Henson, Jane Goodall), they have typically taken the path less traveled or more risky to get there. So it’s okay if you’re not passionate about something now. That’s not what your first job is all about. It’s just the first step along your adventure. But as you travel on your own winding path or tumble down a rabbit hole, be on the lookout for the Cheshire Cats in your own lives. We may be frustrating, or even cheeky, but hopefully we will help you ask questions of yourself, what’s important to you, and which way you want to go.