Following up on an old post, “Why Young People Hate Their Jobs”, the recruiting firm Experience Inc. recently published a study which reported that 70% of college grads leave their first job within two years. The Experience survey, however, also reported that young people aren’t leaving their jobs because they’re unhappy, but simply because they’re not in the career they “expected” to be in.
So, we’re happy… but we still want to quit our jobs.
It sounds like an illogical argument, but it makes sense. People like to say that your career finds you; that deep down, you know what you’re meant to do. Warren Buffett knew he was meant to invest. Bill Gates knew he had a budding idea in Microsoft. JK Rowling knew she could bring to life a character named Harry Potter. But not all of us are Buffetts, Gates, and Rowlings–we may not all be confident that we can revolutionize PCs or make billions in the stock market. We may have to find our own career, and deep down, it may not come to us naturally. What if Buffett had chosen to become a professor instead? What if Gates settled for doing IT support? What if Rowling had stayed at her job at Amnesty International? None of us want to shortchange ourselves by settling for a job that doesn’t meet our high expectations… even if we are happy.
So, yes, I am happy with my current job. But I’ve been thinking about what I want to do, and I’m not convinced that I’m going to stay in my current role after two years. One plan I have is to go to business school and develop a start-up. Another plan is to work within the public sector, focusing on education. A third plan is to quit my job, live on the beach, get a Costco membership (those free food samples serving as my daily meal), and become a writer. Three rather different paths… and for me, each one is intriguing in its own way.
I suppose the downfall is that we have all these grandiose plans and ambitious visions, but at what point do we give up and settle down? It may be wrong to discourage dream-chasing, but sometimes you have to tell those poor kids on American Idol that, no, they can’t sing. Ambition is tricky–it can help us do great things, or it can unwittingly remove us from positions where we could excel, in pursuit of positions in which we cannot. As much as I’d like to think I could pull an Orwell and write great prose amongst the lowlifes in Paris, I don’t think I’m ready yet to trade in my corporate job for a cardboard house and a pen.
Still… chances that I’ll accomplish either plan #1 or 2? I think 70% is fair.