On the first day of SMAD 101 (Media Arts & Design), our professor opened class with this one piece of advice, “Own your career, not your job”. It wasn’t until now, nearly three years later, that I’ve fully comprehended the meaning of those words, and realized how important this philosophy is, especially for someone in a creative field.
“Own your career, not your job”, doesn’t mean that the job does’t matter. It just means that a job is more than just it’s monetary value.
As a recent college grad, just entering the job market, it’s so easy to think, “What position will offer me the most money”, when I should be thinking, “What opportunity is going to be most beneficial to my career in the long run?”.
Right now I’m about to finish an unpaid internship in Chile, and I’m sure my friends and family think that I’m just stalling, or taking a mini vacation before entering the, “real world”, but the truth is, I’ve learned more from this experience than the last 3 years of college combined.
In such a small office, I’ve been forced to take on many more responsibilities, than I would have as an intern in a large company, where I might just be bringing people coffee. I’ve actually gotten experience working with real clients, and solving real-world crises. I’ve been forced out of my comfort zone, in the best possible way, and as a result, I’ve learned a tremendous amount in a relatively short amount of time.
I made no money on this deal, and in fact, spent a great deal of money to come here. In addition to not getting paid, I am the only graphic designer in an office where about four different organizations’ directors are all giving me assignments. Each of them, wants his or her project to be my top priority. On top of that, I’m also working with a language barrier which just makes everything ten times more complicated.
I can’t express what an amazing learning experience this has been!
I took about four years of French throughout my high school and college career, but in just two months I’ve learned more Spanish than I ever knew of French. Why? Because I HAVE to learn. It’s essential to my survival here.
The same is true with my graphic design, problem solving, organizational and time management skills. In college I was working for a grade, but now I’m working for my reputation. I’m working to prove myself, and if the work is subpar, the entire company is affected. That added pressure, means that my brain is racing to learn as much as possible. It’s completely different from learning at a leisurely classroom pace.
It’s really no different than learning a foreign language. When you’re forced to use what you’re learning daily, and the stakes are higher, you’re brain goes into survival mode! It suddenly has the super-human capabilities of a mother on an adrenaline kick, who can inexplicably lift a car to save her child.
The point I’m trying to make is, the job choices we make now are crucial, but what we should be looking for isn’t a high salary or good benefits, and we certainly shouldn’t be looking for something that’s comfortable.
The best jobs are the ones that we can learn the most from.
Jobs are necessary part of life, and the immediate pay-off is great, but always remember, that your career is your long term investment. It’s worth investing in.