When I graduated from the University of Washington, I immediately started my dream career.
Was it a position of prestige and wealth, you ask? Am I rolling in Franklins? Am I some rockstar, mogul, or entrepreneur? Have I launched my humanities degree into some lucrative business venture or position of power?
Nope, none of that—after I graduated, I cobbled together several freelance jobs, contract positions, volunteer work, and internships. And now, a year later, I am about to move to Morocco to work as a youth development specialist through the Peace Corps.
For me, a dream career means constant adventure, innovation, and education. I can’t stand staid days of formula and routine. I’m a perpetual student, which doesn’t just mean I’m still considering that PhD path—it means that I actively seek out new ideas and information.
This past year, my first year of Real Adulthood, I have learned so much about myself. I feel secure in my present and excited for my future—and I truly believe that I feel this way because of my patchwork quilt of a career choice.
Everything I’ve been doing has given me insight into my future. I have been working as a tutor and teacher’s assistant, which has solidified my resolve to always work in the education sector. I’ve connected with so many inspiring students—our world’s future leaders and thinkers. I have been volunteering with organizations like the International Rescue Committee and Neighborhood House, which have connected me with grassroots community efforts in my city. I interned with Seattle Arts & Lectures, which meant I got to support amazing programming and work with brilliant local writers. I wrote poems and news stories, which found homes at various wonderful publications. I’m literally doing everything I’ve ever dreamed of in a career: teaching, learning, reading, writing, getting published, and collaborating with smart and caring colleagues.
I specifically want to talk about one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had: this gig right here, writing for eNotes.com as an Editorial Intern. It blows my mind whenever I think about the fact that I actually get paid to annotate Shakespeare plays, examine classic novels, and edit resources for research. When I was a young bookworm, this was what I imagined when I considered the maxim of “following your passion,” but I never expected this dream to come true. I’m living an English major’s fantasy!
Through eNotes, not only do I get to interact everyday with literary greats like Zora Neale Hurston, Harper Lee, Amy Tan, Ray Bradbury, and Chinua Achebe—but also with a community of educators and students from all around the world.
Obviously, the same career path doesn’t work for everyone. Not everyone is like me—a person who gets excited about analyzing gender roles in Macbeth or linking Transcendentalist theories with Romantic poetry (AKA a complete nerd). But even if you don’t idolize John Berryman or Maya Angelou, the lessons I’ve learned from my work experiences can also apply to you.
This is what working at eNotes has taught me about “dream jobs”:
- Value yourself and make sure others value you. At the beginning of the year, I had a contract position that I disliked. Although I loved the work itself, my supervisors at that company did not respect me. They manipulated my dedication and consistently shortchanged me. It took me a while to realize that my work was worth a lot more than they thought it was. The people at eNotes, however, are the coolest. This blog post is an indication of how great I think they are! They only asked me to write a post about my post-graduate job-finding experiences, but it’s somehow turned into an eNotes-love-apalooza… Even though everyone else here has a lot more knowledge than me, they always value my input—and that means the world. Plus, in this post-grad world of exploitation via unpaid internships, eNotes actually pays interns! That sort of economic leveling makes all the difference.
- Go for what makes you feel useful and competent. In other words, utilize your strengths. The advice I used to give was “pursue your passions,” but young people would always respond that they didn’t know what they were passionate about. I realized that there’s no need to pressure yourself into that kind of powerful declaration before you’re ready! Instead, focus on doing what you’re pretty good at. At eNotes, the times I felt most fulfilled were the times I took initiative in something small like suggesting a new way to tell students about our Homework Help pages or writing a particularly solid Text Insight. Your contributions don’t always have to be monumental—it’s little building blocks that keep companies and organizations going!
- Do work that you believe in. Most of the stuff I did at eNotes kept me intellectually stimulated, but gonna be honest—all jobs will have moments of drudgery. However, if the ultimate goal of what you’re doing matters to you, it’s much easier to get through these moments! So even when my eyeballs were about to fall out from scrolling endlessly down Excel spreadsheets and Google docs, I persevered because of my loyalty to the company. The conversations at eNotes are all about helping students and enhancing the education experience. eNotes makes learning easier without resorting to plagiarism or other shortcuts. It’s a company that is inherently ethical and compassionate, not just because it’s a good business practice! This is kind of cheesy, but it’s true that loving the mission of your workplace makes everything more productive and fun.
Whatever your dream job is—even if you’re not sure what it is—these things are really important. I’m applying these eNotes-curated lessons to the next phase of my personal dream career. During the next two years, I will do my very best to remember to value myself and ensure that others value my work, use my strengths to create useful projects, and sustain work that I wholeheartedly believe in. In Morocco, I will be teaching English, facilitating youth skill development projects, organizing girls’ groups, and other grand adventures. I’ll do my best to keep the eNotes community updated!