By guest blogger Chuah Kee Man
Lecturer from the Centre for Language Studies, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS).
It is not uncommon for graduates to be rather indecisive in choosing their career paths. Up until that proud moment of going on stage to receive the graduation scroll or even months after that, many would still be struggling to find an answer to perhaps one of the simplest questions: “What’s next?”
As an educator, I personally have dealt with many occasions where my students tried to push that question to me, hoping that I would be the one to pave the way for them. I realised they were rather lost in their post-graduation journey. Uncertainty tends to breed low self-esteem and they would choose to just go with the flow, especially following their parents’ requests.
Despite being insecure or indecisive, many would still choose to pursue what they call “dream jobs”. They would tell you how much they want a job that fits not only their qualifications but also their passion. However, often the ultimate goal is still aiming for the pay cheque at the end of every month. For fresh graduates, who would not want a job with a salary of more than RM5000 a month even if the job may not fit their passion? There are also those who would rather earn less as long as they are happy with the job. But the truth is, sometimes, a dream can end up being a nightmare, causing unnecessary stress.
So, what constitutes a dream job then? Is it following your passion or targeting that ultimate number for your desired monthly pay?
To me, it is important to strike the balance between passion and pay. We should realise that most passions don’t pay the bills. Marc Andreessen, a venture capitalist, once stated that following your passion is “dangerous and destructive career advice”. Seeking passion is like setting an unrealistic goal and many tend to feel unhappy when that cannot be fulfilled. In fact, what you like to do may not provide good economic returns.
Of course, there are cases where one is still able to chase his or her passion while ensuring sufficient, if not higher, monthly pay. But in order to do so, it is not as easy as many think. The key to achieving that is to keep seeking until you have found one, setting achievable goals or milestones in the career path. Many graduates these day have a mindset of trying to settle for a job once and for all, when in fact the world is rapidly changing and there is no guarantee of what will happen in the future. They should, however, keep aiming to improve from time to time and realise that it’s okay to quit or move on when the time is right.
Steve Jobs, in his commencement speech to the Stanford graduating class in 2005, mentioned that “the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” The keyword here is “don’t settle” if you have not found a job that you can be passionate about.
I strongly advise fresh graduates to use their first job as a stepping stone to find their dream job. Don’t worry if it might take longer than usual. The goal has to be set as early as possible and work towards it. Take the chance to get to know more people, sharpen your skills, and widen your perspectives. Avoid dwelling on how bad your job is when you are doing nothing to improve the situation. If you can’t do what you love, you might want to love what you do.
Most importantly, don’t just dream, do it!