Driving a tractor is not a typical skill someone talks about in a job interview. Writing, editing, researching — these are the usual types of things someone with a liberal arts degree talks about when discussing one’s skillset. Tractor driving? Not so much. But it’s certainly an experience one shouldn’t overlook. Just because it doesn’t seem relevant doesn’t mean there isn’t something there worth holding onto in later days.
Like many of my friends and former classmates, I didn’t have a real solid plan when I graduated. I’ve been a member of the working world in my first job out of college for almost two years. Thinking about my next step, I feel like I’m finding myself in the same place: completely uncertain. Do I go to grad school? If so, what the heck do I study? Do I search for the next job that’s the logical next step up the ladder? Do go back home to my parents’ farm, spend a few months back on a tractor harvesting corn, and clear my head? Like I said, I’m completely uncertain.
Thought that feeling would go away after college? I’m here to break it to you. It doesn’t.
Finding my path in the real world thus far has been very different from in college and much harder than I ever imagined. It’s not as simple as making a list and checking them off with perfect, little checkboxes next to each and every item. Looking back now, I took it for granted how easy it was to connect with my peers in clubs and causes we felt so passionately about. In the real world, there are so many ways to spend and fill my time that choosing the right opportunities is more than half the battle. Join that new kickboxing class, attend a writer’s workshop this weekend which requires a 10-page manuscript, audition for two upcoming community theater shows, attend the seminar on the business administration Master’s program, or all of the above? For all I know, I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and hate all of these ideas, and I’ll be back to square one.
The truth? I feel like there is so much I could be doing, but with no real direction, I feel like I can’t fully do anything! So the struggle of uncertainty continues on a daily basis.
Maybe you’re one who has it all figured out. You know where you’re going, what your next step is, and even what Master’s you’re going to earn (and you’re going to do it starting next fall). To those people, I say congratulations, and I must admit I’m a bit jealous. But we all have our own path, and if mine is uncertainty for the time being, so be it.
I might not have gotten my dream job right out of college. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a few lessons for me to learn and take away from my current position, stick’em in my pocket and save them for the day I do figure out my next step.
1.) I have to keep an open mind. I never know which aspects of a project may spark new passions and interests, or lead to making great new friends.
2.) Learn as much as I can in my current position. Every experience is valuable, even if it doesn’t seem relevant to my life right now.
3.) I have to constantly look for ways to use this experience to eventually to attain my dream job. Regardless of how unrelated my current position might be, there are probably aspects of it, such as organization or teamwork, that will make me a stronger candidate for a job I really want somewhere down the line.
From this experience (and the countless experiences I’ve already had), I can say this: No matter how imperfect this first job might seem, things will get better. This uncertainty, it’s merely a temporary phase I’m in. If I stay focused on the big picture — what I eventually want to be doing — the short-term stuff won’t pull me down. I’ll figure out my next step, just like you will.
Even if it is driving a tractor during fall harvest into the sunset.