The San Jose Mercury delivered a triple shot of optimism to go with the morning latte on Saturday morning. The Page One feature, the seventh installment of a 12-part “Life in a Year” series, was all about that first paycheck. The subtext? Making choices work.
The story had me at Studs Terkel. But more about that below.
Early on, reporter Bruce Newman reminds us how rare it is for our first job — “the thing that provides us a living if not a life” — to be our last. No small consolation for those worried about choosing wrong at the gate. But better yet, he defines work via one of Studs Terkel’s greatest oral histories:
In “Working,” the oral history ode to the way we toil by the late Studs Terkel, The Job is described as the start of a search “for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash … in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”
Combine those two thoughts — career choice as trajectory rather than destination plus Terkel’s reminder that any job can have meaning as well as dignity — add the way three newly employed twenty-somethings made their choices, and you’ve got some serious reassurance to spread on your morning bagel. Newman goes on:
Menial or magnificent, the first job — harder than ever to come by now — sets the tone for all the jobs to follow. It’s the first time we feel the weight of serious money in our pockets, and serious responsibilities on our shoulders.
And that, these twenty-somethings seem to show, is a good thing. The story profiles three young adults who seized their options: Gabino Lopez, Jr., son of a farmworker and first in his family to attend college, who a month after graduation started work as a financial analyst at Chevron, where he relishes everything from his paycheck in the high-fives to, yes, even life in a cubicle; Jose Luna III, following his dream — and his father’s footsteps — in becoming a firefighter; and Samantha Go, a poster child for the idea that career is a serial endeavor.
Go blitzed college, graduating from Santa Clara University with a degree in marketing two quarters early to beat the job-search rush. She figured out early what she didn’t want to do via a soul-less internship in a cubicle at a file-management company. That motivated her to find her niche — and apparently, her bliss — as an event planner at Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health at Stanford.
“I didn’t want to be one of those people who’s always changing jobs, or hates their job, so whatever job I got out of college was going to be it for a while,” she said. “But I really didn’t like my desk job at all. If I had to do that every day for the rest of my life, I don’t know what I would have done.”
She now gets paid to taste wine, sample food, and go to parties. She also looks forward to five weeks of vacation.
The moral of the story? First, there’s hope out there, even in this economy. But more importantly, the point is that having choices can help you find your passion. It just depends on how you make those choices work for you.