My Career Is Not Cool

Is earning a living and enjoying what you do all day mutually exclusive?
Publish date:
August 12, 2013
career, grown up jobs, office culture, life as a cubicle drone

My career is not cool.

I am embarrassed to tell people what I do, because it is mundane, based in a Mon-Fri office setting, and straight up is just a way to make money (for myself and a -– gasp –- corporation). There is no intrinsic or creative value to what I do, and it has begun to wear on me.

When I graduated college 10 years ago with an oh-so-generic Bachelor’s in Psychology from an East Coast Jesuit college that was more akin to a country club for over-privileged, under-intellectualized kids than an actual university, I had no plans for my future.

Literally, zero.

I had spent the summer before my senior year in a San Diego beach town called Pacific Beach, which was also full of over-privileged, under-intellectualized kids who also happened to have killer abs and great tans. After the best 3 months of my life, I was hooked on the California lifestyle and determined to get back out to the West Coast ASAP. I accomplished this lofty goal within 3 weeks of graduation, and have been a California girl ever since, perhaps to the detriment of any significant professional or creative development.

Once I was settled in California, it hit me that I would have to get a job. Fine, I thought, no problem. I asked around and eventually after a failed drug test for a Marketing/Publishing firm, was able to get hired for the “Management Training” aka Slave Labor program at a to-remain-unnamed rental car conglomerate. I spent exactly 11 months working thankless 10 to 12 hour days, renting cars to pissed-off people who had been in car accidents, and cleaning sticky vehicles while wearing my best $80 Target business suit.

Again without giving any further thought to professional development or long term goals, I quit this job and put my resume online.

Within 2 weeks I was hired as a “Recruiter” at a healthcare agency, and began an illustrious new career despite many doubting questions from my friends and family. “What exactly will you be doing?” “Are you sure it’s not a scam? It sounds like a scam …”

Six months later, the commission checks started rolling in, and I realized I was on track to make over $100k. I was 24 at the time. Take that, Career Planners! I was killing it.

I made friends at the company, worked long busy hours on the brink of mania, and went from a shy girl from a middle class family to a Mercedes-driving, Bloomingdales-shopping SoCal career woman. I spent money like water, clubbed until 6 AM and regularly treated friends and family to trips, meals and other treats. I started dating the cutest, tallest guy in the office who also happened to be my employee (truly a brilliant career move), thus embarking on a tumultuous four-year relationship that served as yet another distraction from my professional or creative progress.

Eventually I moved on to another Recruiting company, where my ex-boyfriend did not work, and continued to find financial success but little personal satisfaction. I lived in wait for my commission checks, spent them as fast I could and then spent the subsequent 3 months in a frenzied state waiting for the next one to come and cursing anyone who did not cooperate with my “goals.”

When people ask me what I do, sometimes I give an honest explanation which results in a blank stare as well as mild discomfort as they begin to lose interest and fall asleep from boredom mid-explanation. If I am feeling a little perverse, I say I am a Head Hunter which sometimes gets a fun double-take response. If someone really presses me, I explain that I also like to write, paint, cook, travel and do yoga, but in order to make a good living (and support all aforementioned activities) I need to work at what many would consider a mundane job.

I have begun to make my peace with this as of late, after many outings with friends who can barely scrape up $3.50 for a PBR let alone $12 for a craft cocktail with ginger beer, and awkward encounters at birthday outings where everyone is scrambling around the check and trying to pay as little as possible without looking like a jerk.

I have some close family members who are talented artists, and showcase their work at nationally renowned, incredibly hip music festivals yet have had their home foreclosed on in the past few months. I had always been very jealous of their sureness that they are on the right career path and their ability to turn artistic expression into a workable living, until I found out about the foreclosure.

Now I just feel bummed. Is earning a living and enjoying what you do all day mutually exclusive?

So, telling people I am a Healthcare Recruiter (Insurance Broker, Mortgage Specialist, etc.) may not be cool. It will never be trendy, or inspire TV shows or photo shoots. It will however allow me live in a beachfront apartment, to take myself out for a $12 craft cocktail without obligation to anyone else, and not be a jerk when the bill comes in a big group.

It will allow me to travel to Thailand for a volunteer trip, or anywhere else I want really, and to have the peace of mind that comes with being 30 and having a year’s salary sitting in the bank in case of emergencies. It may even allow me to quit my job and start a whole new career someday, perhaps one that I will actually be proud of.