Lost & Afriad

written anonymously for The Niche Movement blog

I’ve always struggled with “what I want to be when I grow up.”  While working in Admissions, I could always joke with the undecided students that I still don’t know what I want to be.  I fell into higher education, specifically Admissions, and now I can’t get out.  A few months ago, my office, a flagship state university, was hiring a Director of Admissions.  Several of the candidates had similar experiences that I have, and one even had the same number of years I have in Admissions.  It never crossed my mind that I was qualified to be a Director of Admissions.  This “pseudo” epiphany made me realize that I am qualified to do a lot of things, but I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

My mother always said to do what makes you happy and not for the money.  While my mother is right, as she usually is, how are we to find what makes us happy?  I was an English major in college.  My major didn’t put me on a path to instant career, like accounting or education, unless you count becoming a barista.  My senior year of college, I went down many ideas for the right career path for me, but in the end I settled for a job in Admissions.  It was a lot of work, a lot of travel, a lot of stress, and a lot of late nights.  It was a great learning experience about dealing with stress, difficult co-workers, and handling neurotic bosses.  Years later, and a few position changes, I’m still in Admissions, and, honestly, it doesn’t make me happy.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy aspects of my job.  But there are days those aspects of my job that I enjoy, are hard to find.  We must realize that we will never love our job every minute of every day, but we must find a job that the love for outweighs the negatives.  Life isn’t perfect, so we must realize that our jobs are not going to be perfect every day.  But right now, the love of my job is gone, the aspects I enjoy are far outweighed by the negatives.  

My husband, who will not be named in this post, suggested picking up and moving to a new town/state, but I’m dragging my feet.  I don’t deal well with spontaneous change, or change in general.  It took me almost six months to change my name after we got married.  I just don’t do well with change, but I digress.  I told my husband that I would start looking for a job after I complete the “Strengths Finder” assessment.  As stated by Tom Rath in his book, Strengths Finder 2.0,”the key is for you to be aware of your potential and your limitations” (Rath 24).  Why should I start a job search until I know where my potential lies?  “When we’re able to put most of our energy into developing our natural talents, extraordinary room for growth exists” (Rath 9). My job search should align with my natural talents.  

It all sounds great, right?  So why have I had this book for over 2 months and still not take the assessment.  Why have I been unhappy in my job for 6 months and still have not taken the assessment?  Why am I spending my evening writing about how unhappy I am, instead of taking the assessment?   I can sum it up in one word.  Fear!  I am afraid that after all the self-help books, articles, assessments, I will find out that I am suited for a career in Admissions.  

There has to be more for me than a job “selling” people on a school.  Yes, it is an important decision that will impact the rest of their life, but when you are constantly pressured about the bottom number, you are no longer helping students find their right fit, but pushing students to buy in on a dream that may not become a reality.  You know when you go to a store and there is that clerk that won’t leave you alone the moment you walk into the store, so you end up walking out and not purchasing anything.  I’m that clerk, except I’m pushing you to make the biggest decision of your life, but not giving you the time to explore, look around, and decide for yourself.  I’m good at sales, don’t get me wrong.  I worked at bridal shop for a few months, and within my first two weeks I was in the top three for sales.  I stayed in the top five for my three months there, so I can sell you the product.  But just because I can sell the product, doesn’t mean I want to sell the product.  

So here I am, feeling lost and afraid.  I don’t know what I want to do, I look at job postings and think "I can do that", but I’m reminded by Mr. Rath in Strengths Finder 2.0, “You cannot be anything you want to be---but you can be a lot more of who you already are” (Rath 9).  We must find ourselves.  We must work in aligning our strengths and natural talents to find jobs that make us excited to get up and go to work.