I want a job/community I love - but I have trouble staying passionate.
October 17, 2013 8:22 PM   Subscribe

I graduated from college a year ago without a community I was passionate about, and without many friends. In the last year I coached a high school debate team, and I've been working as a math tutor for the current semester. Thing is, I never really enjoyed para-education, and would rather take a job in something I can make a happy, extensive career out of. But therein lies the rub: I'm decent at a lot of different things - but I'm not excellent or all-encompassingly passionate about any of them.

I've done lots of things in the last year - theater, recorded a CD, designed three board games, and programmed a web game (which is the current project, and I'm having a lot of fun doing it, but I'm not good enough at programming to get a job in it.)

I couldn't take a job in theater or music - there are people far more passionate about those fields than I am and far more skilled in them, and I certainly don't have the grit for rehearsals.

I would be absolutely surprised if I got a job designing board games - I could definitely see myself spending hours on those each day, but the reality is that there aren't all that many professional game designers.

And I'd love to take a job programming, but I'm worried I'd burn out in that and get frustrated easily - not to mention that I've spent less than two months working with the language I'm learning and couldn't find a job in the field on that level of experience.

In an absolutely related issue: I've made a few more friends since college - but not many, and I've only found them by sheer chance, at small events or social gatherings I stumbled upon. I want to find a community of people to be part of, but it's hard - I feel uncomfortable at meetups since everyone else already knows each other and a social order is already established; large performances don't work because people go in groups; and communities of people in a field don't work because I'm not fully embedded within those fields. (I met my closest friend at a Eurovision party, but that's not going to happen again for months...)

I feel like I'm having trouble finding a community because there aren't any that really closely connect to where I am in life - and that place is best described as a big question mark.

So the question: I want to find a job and a community that feel right for me given where I am in life. How do I do this?

(The more I write about this question, the more I realize this is a convoluted way of saying "I don't enjoy where I am in life, but I'm not sure how to change that." Any help in that area in general would be amazing!)
posted by LSK to Human Relations (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Disengage your job from your community. You can find a community and a job and they don't have to be the same thing. I do theater in my "off hours," which takes a lot of time and energy, and the job I have is something I do very well, for some pretty good money, but I can leave it behind when I leave the office. I find that balance can work very well.
posted by xingcat at 8:25 PM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


I want to find a job and a community that feel right for me given where I am in life. How do I do this?

You keep trying. Let's be honest here: you are super young, and you graduated like ten seconds ago. You have plenty of time to keep trying out stuff and see what works. I would give you a word of warning that workplaces in my experience differ far more than jobs. In that, an excellent workplace is excellent no matter what role on the team you play, whereas if you are a happy pharmacist, you can be unhappy if your pharmacy sucks.

I'm decent at a lot of different things - but I'm not excellent or all-encompassingly passionate about any of them.

This is exactly how the vast majority of people feel about their jobs. This is one of the reasons they pay you in glorious, glorious money that you can then spend on things that make you happy. It's okay.

I think, when we graduate, we have a tendency to look at people vocationally - or reduced to vocations - and also assume that once someone has "found" a job, a career etc, that the journey ends there. They figured out what they liked and that's all they'll be doing now.

In my experience, people are definitely much more than their jobs (so much more), and career development is far more arbitrary than that - you might not fall into a career, but you take these half-fall shuffles that over time build up, and then you turn around, and looking back the common threads are clear. Also, careers are accretive; they build up over time, rather than leaping fully formed from ones mind.

Also, many many people, at most ages, don't feel they have their career path etc 100% nailed down. Honestly, you never know where your next job might take you. This is true times a billion when you are in your twenties.

I would say take your foot of the gas a bit. Continue experimenting with what you like doing, and see how it progresses. One thing you've totally failed to mention is what you actually graduated in.

I will say that workplaces like communities are not an unalloyed good, imho. If you wish to join one, however, you need to look for places that: a) have a specialised skillset so everyone has a common background, b) produce long hours so you are spending tonnes of time together, and c) are somewhat isolated in one way or another. Fields like this can include medicine, teaching, the mining sector, start-ups and some agencies of various types, and consultants.

But it sounds, like, you're looking for something a bit more ethereal than that as a job. If you want an artsy job, dude, be aware that the pay is almost always shit and this will matter more and more as you get older, and that you will be surrounded by hordes of slavering passion-heads that care more than you, will work harder than you, and are sometimes goshdarnit better than you. Succeeding in an artsy or "boutique" field is definitely better done with a clear cut plan. Given you are still figuring yourself out, I would say you may not be ready for it yet.

I wonder from your question if you are extrapolating what your work was like on these... extracurricular projects to a job. Because depending on who you worked with doing them, they may not have been very much like a job or the professional sector doing them at all. Most jobs are not like university projects. They are work, often hard, sometimes unpleasant. Sometimes the coolest ones can be the most unpleasant! (which is why people do them for fun outside their real jobs).

Honestly, you sound pretty okay for a recent graduate. If your degree isn't guiding to at least trying a subset of jobs, maybe think about how you can developing the tutoring into something you like more, and cultivate the community for a sports group or something. You don't have to be in love with Ultimate Frisbee or whatever; sometimes the best part of loving something is the loving, not the something if you know what I mean.

Best of luck,
posted by smoke at 8:41 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would say take your foot of the gas a bit. Continue experimenting with what you like doing, and see how it progresses. One thing you've totally failed to mention is what you actually graduated in.

I graduated in economics with minors in psychology and sociology and an intent to do research. I haven't been able to find work in that field, and I've just about given up looking after over a year. I spent a large part of last year trying to find employment as a research assistant, only to get repeatedly told (by way of form letters) that the company/university wasn't interested in interviewing me.

But it sounds, like, you're looking for something a bit more ethereal than that as a job. If you want an artsy job, dude, be aware that the pay is almost always shit and this will matter more and more as you get older, and that you will be surrounded by hordes of slavering passion-heads that care more than you, will work harder than you, and are sometimes goshdarnit better than you. Succeeding in an artsy or "boutique" field is definitely better done with a clear cut plan. Given you are still figuring yourself out, I would say you may not be ready for it yet.

I definitely agree. I don't think I would get a lot out of doing something artsy - I'd rather do something concrete but with some creativity/thinking involved. I suppose I'd like to have a job that's engaging, interesting, and actively challenging without requiring total passion for the field. But I can't imagine what those jobs are, and I certainly can't imagine how I'd go about getting them.
posted by LSK at 8:56 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


The idea that you should find a career that is your One True Passion, and nothing else is worth pursuing, is a myth. As is the notion that you shouldn't take a career in something that isn't your One True Passion, because there are other people out there who are Truly Passionate about it, and you would be, like, depriving them or whatever.

I started college as a film major and ended up transferring/changing majors because I felt the way you feel about most of the things you do. I wasn't Passionate Enough. It wasn't my Thing. I was surrounded by people who were More Passionate and who would obviously be the ones to get the jobs rather than me.

Then I graduated from college and basically stumbled into a job in film. I love movies and TV, and outside of work I write screenplays and produce a web series. I'm pretty passionate about it, but it doesn't define me as a person. And in terms of the work -- the stuff that pays the bills -- a lot of people who are Passionate About Film take these types of jobs and burn out quickly when it's not what they thought it would be. I'm a paper pusher. I do all the little things that nobody thinks of when they think of making a movie or a TV show. It's not in any way creative or glamorous. You don't have to be Passionate About Film to do it.

There are also a shit ton of jobs on the periphery of the industry, which are even less glamorous and important than mine. I recently had an interview to be the office manager at a company that licenses amateur youtube videos. Snoresville. Anyone could do that job. Nobody's One True Passion is to order office supplies for some people who troll youtube all day for footage of people peeling out on skateboards.

I'm not telling you to go into film, per se. But this idea that the jobs out there in theatre or music or games or programming are for Other More Passionate People is silly. Somewhere out there is a career you'll like well enough, that is about something that interests you, and that is probably boring to talk about at parties, but which you will enjoy enough so that every day isn't a miserable grind. Go do that.
posted by Sara C. at 10:03 PM on October 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


Jobs are hard. Friends are hard. Everything is hard. I'm 29, and I spent a lot of my 20s in a state of constant dread. Thanks to a stroke of luck, I'm still alive, but there was a point when I could have easily died.

What I mean to say is that I really, really sympathize.
posted by Nomyte at 10:36 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Figure out what job you'd be good at, then apply for it and get it and do it. Work for money, play for fun.

99% of us aren't passionate about our jobs. There are days when we're downright enthused, but passionate...nah.

I like my work fine. What I like more is that I have money enough to do what I AM passionate about in my off time.

They call work, work for a reason. Even Cowboy Firemen Astronauts get down about having to put out another Space Barn Fire. My mom used to tell me, "the problem with work is that it's daily."

You have a degree in Econ. Great, the government is open, apply for a job with them. Look at that list! Doesn't that warm your heart? Perhaps you can translate your Econ into a finance job, or get into a management training program with a brokerage or a bank. See if one of the big six accounting firms can use someone with your background.

Intelligent people find satisfaction in learning new stuff, solving problems and having lunch with their pals. They have families and relationships that give their life meaning. Their work provides money so that they can live a life that has meaning. Jobs don't give life meaning.

So go get a good paying job. Enjoy your hobbies.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:45 AM on October 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I feel for you. The thing is, I think having a job that you can make a happy, extensive career out of is the exception, not the rule. It's more important to be adaptable.

One of the things I do at my job is write. One of the things I did at my last job was write. I imagine that one of the things I'll do at my next job is write. The things I wrote at this job don't look a lot like the things I wrote at my last job but that just proves that I can write about a lot of different things. I can list the different kinds of things that I have experience writing about or I can identify what they have in common - I've written about a lot of complicated issues and subjects for a lay audience. So while it would be nice if my career path was linear, this works for me because when I am no longer interested in something, I look for something else and no one says, whoa, you're totally switching gears here because I can prove that I've done it before.

Also, while having a community sounds great, again, I don't think this is the experience most people have. I've frequently thought of hanging out with the Unitarian Universalists because maybe we'd get along and then I'd have a community but I already have enough friends to keep me busy so why bother?

I had a birthday party about five months ago. It was funny for me because looking around at the people who were there, I thought, what a random group, I can't think of any other reason that these people would all be in the same room. There were lawyers, entrepreneurs, political types, screenwriters, authors, ultimate frisbee players, students. I don't mean to imply that this was a bohemian festival but it was really nice.

Life after college is stressful. It's hard to meet people and make friends. But for what it's worth, I'm about nine years removed from undergrad and in a good place, despite not having a community or clearly delineated career path. I met one of my best friends on a metro platform. Every time people ask us how we met, we argue about whose turn it is to tell the story. One of my other good friends is someone with whom I had to share office space at a job.

I don't have any great advice to offer besides keep trying and keep an open heart. When I met my future best friend on a metro platform, part of me was like, I don't know if this is a good idea. But we went out the next night and had a great time and that was nine years ago.

Be patient and see what comes your way.
posted by kat518 at 7:17 AM on October 18, 2013


I feel uncomfortable at meetups since everyone else already knows each other and a social order is already established; large performances don't work because people go in groups; and communities of people in a field don't work because I'm not fully embedded within those fields.

A community is not going to spring up around you. The only way to be part of a community is to integrate yourself with it, which, for you, means going above and beyond your comfort level. I mean, easier said than done, of course, but you are not going to walk into a convention hall one day to a sudden silence where everyone turns to you and welcomes you with open arms. That's just not how it works.

Maybe you'll get a job and the people your coworkers will be your road to a bunch of people you want to hang out with. Maybe you'll find a bunch of people you like hanging out with and they'll find you a job. Lots of maybes.

And here's the thing about meetups full of Regulars and with an established social order: unless they're particularly cliquey, they'd probably be delighted to have some new blood who is interested in the thing they are interested in.

I suppose I'd like to have a job that's engaging, interesting, and actively challenging without requiring total passion for the field. But I can't imagine what those jobs are, and I certainly can't imagine how I'd go about getting them.

There are so few jobs that require "total passion" that you can practically count them on one hand. Fewer still where management doesn't use the "total passion" thing to exploit the hell out of the people who signed up for it. Most jobs require little more than your serious commitment, which is a whole lot easier to provide than your everburning desire. Think of the billions of people out there at work; how many do you think are utterly fulfilled by their jobs? Not too many, I assure you.

For most of us, fulfillment is cobbled together here and there. From good times with friends and family, from certain aspects of work and hobbies, from taking time out to relax. There are people so driven that One Thing defines them and their entire life revolves around it. If that's really, genuinely what you want, you have a lot of work to do. You're fresh out of college, which means, more or less, that you've got a lot of dues to pay before you get to be fulfilled.
posted by griphus at 8:44 AM on October 18, 2013


Also, I'm slightly tuned into the board game community. For all I know you are ten times as much so pardon if I am telling you something you already know, but crowdfunding has really, really changed things. There are quite few professional board game designers who get up in the morning and Design Board Games until quittin' time, but Kickstarter et. al. have taken a very large load off aspiring designers by making funding easier to get than ever. You'll still have to have a full-time job to pay the bills, but a well-run crowdfunding campaign could get you the scratch you need to really make a go of creating a board game people want to buy.
posted by griphus at 8:48 AM on October 18, 2013


also, you may NEVER find a community. I'm not saying you'll be lonely, but some people fall into "communities" and some people just have friends. I just have friends, none of them know each other, there's no big groups or events to hang out at. I just connect with people and then make an effort to see them. lots of friends, but zero communities. a "community" is much more effortless than having friends, sort of like having a "group of friends" in highschool or something, but I know pretty few post-college people who aren't into something very specific who have a real community. especially if you didn't attend secondary education and such in the city you live.

as for being passionate about your job.. I think this is something we all burst out of post secondary feeling "I want, no NEED a career where I am inspired and fulfilled!" and the caveat is that even if you get one, it becomes your job, and it's not nearly as glamorous as you think. I have a GREAT job. I make pretty good money doing something I like and once was very passionate about. I get to be creative and I get to make tons of decisions and control the outcomes and make customers very happy. My job is the IDEAL job for someone in my field. it's perfect.

and at 4:45, I can't WAIT to leave.

you spend so much of your early life focusing on "what are you going to be when you grow up" that once you grow up, and are something, it's a bit of a weird situation to be in when you realize that your job might not make your life complete and define you, and that you feel much more fulfilled while meeting up with friends, trying new beers, eating food, playing with your dog and cats, watching star trek with your boyfriend, then you do at work, even at your dream job.

good luck. paying the bills and having some money left over to do and buy things you want to do and buy is very great, so don't worry too much about getting your entire life contained in your career or current job.
posted by euphoria066 at 9:24 AM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


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