Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What I Wanted To Be When I Grew Up

By Pilar Oberwetter

Today’s job market is tough, especially for recent graduates. However, in the flurry of press that has accompanied the graduation season, I have observed a disquieting number of articles, opinions, and commentary that point to ‘creative’ options for recent graduates still seeking next steps-- which include the Peace Corps, Teach for America or AmeriCorps among others. Oftentimes these published pieces of advice explain that such service-oriented programs are very helpful if you ‘are still trying to figure out what you want to do’. However, as someone who, when I was 22, made a very conscious and deliberate decision to do Peace Corps precisely because it was what I wanted to do, I object to this portrayal of service.

Service programs, and in fact the nonprofit sector as a whole, have cultivated a misleadingly soft and somewhat amorphous image by allowing mainstream media to use them as examples of a default career or a benevolent path when for many in the sector, it is precisely the opposite.

Quite frankly, if nonprofit or service-oriented work is not your original passion, you will not last very long. Admittedly, the three programs mentioned above, as well as many like them, are designed to guide their participants into a career of service, but that should not be interpreted as helping their participants find their dream job. Instead, for many of us, the programs helped us pursue the dream or the vision that we already held.

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