By Sharon Fleshman
Recently, two of my colleagues offered some food for thought regarding the search for passion and meaning in a career. Hopefully, Pat Rose’s blog – Passion? What Passion?, and Claire Klieger’s blog – Career Exploration Lessons from the Cheshire Cat will encourage you to give yourself permission to not have things all figured out as you get started in your career. As I reflect on my first job after college, I am reminded about how it informed my career path.
When I received my degree in Computer Science from Penn, my first job was in information technology consulting. I never expected to come back to Penn to work, or to be a career advisor. As time went by, I noticed a growing restlessness about my sense of purpose as it related to my career. My church and community involvement was certainly a catalyst for my eventual transition to the non-profit sector as I had felt increasingly more fulfilled in my roles outside of work. In spite of this, I have no regrets about my first job because I discovered a lot about what I want and don’t want in a career. I liked certain elements of consulting. I enjoyed helping clients in ways that required intellectual curiosity and allowed exposure to a variety of areas. Consulting also challenged me to learn and adapt quickly and project more confidence about my abilities. My colleagues were smart, friendly and motivated, but it was hard to forge strong collegial relationships given the need for consultants to move from client to client. In retrospect, I realize that having a sense of community at work was and still is important to me. When I found out about a Career Counselor position at Career Services twelve years ago, I was drawn to the opportunity to continue my advisory work in an environment that is more compatible with my work values.
All of this is not to say that one can only find meaning and purpose in a particular field or sector. My point is that your first job will not define your entire career, but it can potentially be a springboard for cultivating self-discovery that will help you to progress in your development. As you enter the next phase of your life in the world of work, make sure to take the time to reflect on lessons learned on the journey