First jobs: bubble-busters or full-time fulfillment?

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July 7, 2003 // UPDATED 10:57 am - April 30, 2007
By: Elana Centor
Elana Centor

This week marks an anniversary of sorts -- 30 years ago I started my first full-time professional job as a news researcher at WWBT-TV in Richmond, Va.

Four weeks later, staring at the newsroom clock, I had an epiphany -- I could be looking up at that same clock or one just like it for decades to come. It was a profound moment of imprisonment.

No more going to The Commons at two in the afternoon to drink six cups of coffee with a side of Virginia Slims and listening to "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" waft from the juke box. No more opting to avoid a class simply because I didn't like the professor. No more summer vacations, winter vacations, or for that matter spring vacations. TV news was a career where people didn't even get holidays off. I shuddered.

To commemorate this anniversary I decided to see how others remember, or look forward, to their leap into the full-time world.

An engineer, Colleen remembers her first job as pure liberation. "In college, I was in class all day long and then as soon as dinner was over I was studying until midnight. College was very stressful, very hard. Having a job that ended at 5 p.m. seemed like a piece of cake," Colleen said.

Bridget, a 30-something ex-teacher, also skipped the whole employment remorse drama. "I knew I was going to be a teacher," she said. "We have great vacations. I knew I wanted a family and planned to take a break from working so I never thought about the next 50 years. Plus, I never thought teaching would be my only career. I always assumed I would have several jobs... Right now I'm on my fourth."

But I'm not the only one to experience employee's remorse following four years of post-secondary matriculation. Dr. Glenn Hirsch, assistant director of the University of Minnesota Counseling and Consulting Services, said he too had a similar moment when he finally got out of graduate school.

"I thought 'Oh my gosh, now I'm going to have to be doing this all the time, five days a week.' It was a real struggle at first," Hirsch said.

This struggle, according to Hirsch, is based on several factors: "the lack of time flexibility, the fact that you're specifically working for a boss, the fact that you have to be on time and the fact that there are real (and terminal) consequences for 'cutting' work."

Hirsch stressed that just as many students are thrilled to leave college and get on with life: "They don't have homework and they're getting paid to do something they enjoy, rather than having the privilege of paying to work hard."

How are this year's recent grads faring? The majority of the ones I know are delaying their job search, choosing instead to spend a month or so on "the continent." Work is something they'll worry about manana.

Trisha is the single exception. Maybe it's because she got the travel bug out of her system by spending her junior year in Europe. Now she's looking for work. She's had some good interviews, but so far, no offers. As to her circle of friends, only two have landed jobs. "They have managed to negotiate a start date of September or early fall," she said.

Ah, they're pushing it off. I can understand that. Although, 30 years after that epiphany, I realize I've reverted to a collegial work environment. By freelancing and living boss-free I can enjoy the most precious college benefit: flexibility. This time around, though, I've dropped the Virginia Slims.

If you have a good workplace dilemma or just a good story to tell, please contact Elana Centor at ecentor@mn.rr.com.

You can remain confidential, as can your company.