In between my bachelor’s and master’s, I worked as an administrative assistant at a hedge fund just because I needed a job to get me through my gap year. And let me tell you, I had it made at that job. Hedge funds are among the most successful businesses in the United States, and I worked at one of the best in the country. I had the best healthcare I will probably ever have (in the US, anyway), the salary was fantastic, and the other perks were amazing. And the job itself was comfortable and easy.
But one year ago, I left that position to pursue an MA in English, an arguably unpredictable path, and I have questioned this decision ever since.
That job at the hedge fun gave me the kind of stability I have always craved: Financial stability, work-life balance, a dependable 9 to 5 Monday thru Friday work schedule, and a 401K. However, I was bored, unstimulated, and lacked passion. Incredible benefits could not make up for job satisfaction. So, I left – which was my plan all along. So why did I feel so uneasy about it?
My career goals and general intellectual interests have always been centered on the social sciences and humanities. Immigration rhetoric, narratives of people-of-color, feminist theory – I thrive on this kind of research and writing. Within these academic fields, career paths are boundless and varied, which has both advantages and disadvantages. The social sciences and humanities don’t exactly train people for any specific job in the way majors like accounting, nursing, and education do. Rather, these fields, which include anthropology, history, and philosophy, prepare you for a vast array of jobs – anything from politics and business to journalism and public relations. And this is what makes career prospects in the humanities a bit unstable.
A registered nurse may get their first job at a hospital right out of school, but an English may have a do a bit of career hopping to get to their desired position.
I’ve worked in university student life, event planning, and now content development and editing – which is where I want to end up full-time, but I had to build up to it outside of school.
All of this is can be so tricky. There is a massive amount of competition in fields related to the humanities, plus we aren’t trained for any specific occupation. You may have heard about all the hate the humanities get for this reason. Our fields are considered “easy” and “useless,” and we, as students, are considered “incompetent.” Our studies are considered a “hobby.” We need job experience outside of school before making a real career, which frankly, makes sense, and I don’t have a problem with it. But the job market is getting tougher, and with the US at peak capitalism, most employers expect too much and compensate too little.
We currently live in a society where a career in your chosen field of study isn’t guaranteed. And that is terrifying. Those who hold PhD’s work odd jobs to make ends meet while waiting to find a stable position at a university or other chosen place of work. People like me, with dreams of writing, end up in administrative jobs, a career I never considered.
I always thought one should be passionate about their job. Is that not an irrevocable truth? Perhaps not. And if that is not, is that such a terrible thing? I’m trying to convince myself it’s not.
Because just in case.
I often feel like I have to choose between job satisfaction and job security. Happiness vs. stability.
I think about beyond my graduate degree. What’s next for me? Currently as a graduate student, I’m a part-time editor for a small literary journal, a part-time writer for an awesome media platform, and I continue to add to my ever-growing resume with these smaller roles that I hope to use to get to a bigger and better place.
Where will I end up?
Truth be told, I think about settling all the time. Staying at that hedge fund would have guaranteed me a security I may not have for years. I am a little haunted by whether I made a mistake leaving a good, comfortable job for something that makes me happy. Because maybe I don’t have to find happiness in a job.
If I have to choose between settling and forever pursuing with no sense of stability or security, would settling be so bad? Could I eventually find happiness and satisfaction in that stability and security?
You tell me.