Job related skills and valuable lessons can come from internships, jobs, and college activities. However, as most social entrepreneurs know and some college students forget, sometimes the most valuable lessons and important benefits are not measured in financial or career-related terms.
Up in the Air
Over the weekend, I had an opportunity to watch George Clooney’s movie “Up in the Air.” What struck me most was that the seemingly fictional and well-rehearsed scenes were eerily reminiscent of past conversations with friends and family members. “Make no mistake,” Clooney said in a scene: “your relationships are the heaviest components of your life…[and] the slower we move, the faster we die.”
Within Clooney’s call for emptying your heavy “backpack” lies an urgent call for self-reflection. As students looking to make our way in and mark on the world, we may fall into a narrowly self-imposed path filled with rigid protocol and an overbearing results-driven market mentality. Too often, we hear voices calling for us to intern, gain more job-related experiences, and gain more leadership posts. Too often, we learn to adopt a mental model of trade-offs between a career and personal life, believing that it is acceptable to prioritize one over the other. And too often, we succumb to the demands of everyday life and forget to open ourselves up to moments that will shake our core, incite our passions, revolutionize our outlook, and illuminate our mind.
Your Own Voice
As a college senior in the midst of the job search process, I’ve heard these loud and clear voices over the past couple of months. I’ve heard the ominous, one-sentence question: “What are you doing next year?,” along with constant reminders to continue crafting cover letters and update my resume templates. But, behind these very important voices and reminders, I heard the most important voice: my own.
This was the voice reminding me that I should get dinner with a friend that I haven’t seen for a while- not because I want to network with them, but because I care about them. It reminded me that the most memorable moments from my activities in high school were working with the courageous people that I met while being part of them. And most importantly, it reiterated within me a need to progress forward, but with a steady balanced outlook, especially in times of uncertainty.
Fill Your Backpack
By the same token, I will not urge you to check your RSS feeds to see whether there were any job opportunities posted over Christmas break. This week, I will not remind you to send a thank you note to your internship coordinator. And until the New Year, I will not instill with you a fear that slowing down over break will eliminate your future prospects. Instead, I urge you to start a conversation with yourself and seek out moments that will transform you in unconventional ways. Volunteer. Travel. Talk to a stranger. Have a snowball fight with childhood friends. Sit and read a book that you’ve been meaning to read, but found no time for in the midst of academic deadlines.
Those experiences might not get you a job or internship, but they may change your outlook. Within each of us lies an infinite possibility for growth, evolution, and transformation that should be savored and appreciated. Ignore George Clooney’s advice. Fill your backpack with substantial experiences and meaningful people. Pack lightly, but substantially…because the better the balance, the more meaningful the journey.