Millennials have been criticized to no limit for the "type" of generation we are: selfish, tech-obsessed, money hoarding, etc.
But by and large, after graduation, I have found our generation to be a passionate one, wanting to not just have any job, but have the job. The one that they want to wake up to every morning and go back to the next day. The one that will make them feel they are doing their little part to change their world for the better. Here are the five best ways to pursue that passion and not bankrupt yourself (monetarily or emotionally) doing it.
1. Understand it won't happen right away.
It seems our generation is all about doing exactly what we think we want as quickly as possible. Visit Europe, run for office, Rosetta Stone some Arabic and go abroad for a year, get married, be famous. I blame this largely on the culture of comparison that Facebook proliferates among us. Rare is a post made when someone is announcing they have not achieved a goal, made a milestone, or done something awesome. Statistically this means we're seeing our cohort on a daily basis in our news feeds doing awesome things we haven't done yet, pressuring us to be better faster.
In efforts to achieve our goals, we're pressured into a rat race of success. As Rian says from Truth and Cake, "we live in a noisy, crowded, over-saturated world with way more options than our parents and their parents ever had. We are told that we can be anything and do anything. We can start a revolution through a YouTube video or a blog post." It's tough to push back against this hyper comparative, internet-paced world but essential in maintaining balance and sanity if you've got big passion-inspired goals to attain.
2. It's only sometimes worth the exploitation, and that's a hard line to see.
To be an unpaid intern or not, that seems to be the question. Unpaid internships (and even very minimally paid ones) have gotten some spotlight recently with the intern suit against pop-news company Gawker and publisher Nick Denton. And while it is true that the experience of an internship (especially when it leads to a job) can be payment enough, no one should be exploited for their work.
In a classic race to the bottom, millennials (and I can't blame them) are a generation that will accept doing as much work for as little pay. And with all of us scrambling around trying to find an unpaid internship that isn't highly competitive and we have a chance at getting we run the risk of devaluing the work we do. In working towards a passion inspired job it is sometimes true that if you do what you love the money will follow, but bankrupting yourself in the process won't do anyone any good.
3. The trolls will find you.
If you're trying to make the world a better place, you're going to run up against people who thing your version of "a better place" is wrong, stupid, and/or a waste of your time. They will tell you that we're doomed to be like this, that it's no use fighting against human nature (my two least favorite words as they imply aspects of humanity are unchangeable and not capable of criticism), or that you in fact are the terrible one for a litany of reasons. Do not give in.
I'm not saying "don't read the comments". Living in a "don't read the comments" world will keep you from bettering your own work and goals. But take it all with a grain of salt. If you're pursuing a passionate career, you're most likely already stretched pretty thin. Internalizing and berating yourself with troll talk is going to wear you down until you think your job dreams and goals really just might be fighting a losing battle.
4. Stand up.
Take a hint from Senator Wendy Davis, stand up for what you believe in. It's easy to lose hope while attempting to merge passionate goals and the bottom line of your bank account. But you might find that if you stand up and take an initiative by pursuing the passionate work life (be it in the field you're interested in or not) you will get farther than the defeatist in the cubicle to your left.
Stand up, Lean In, break that ceiling. But do whatever you have to to push forward. You got into this for a reason, you have a passion you know you want to live 24/7, harness the energy of it and make it happen. Everyone will have off-days and days when it seems like selling out for a higher paycheck would be so worth it but no one is going to change the world for you. Keep fighting.
5. If all else fails, doing what you love outside of the 9 to 5 is nothing new but you have to commit to it.
I can work a sort of crappy job and still have time to do all the things I'd actually love to be doing/getting paid for. This was a lie I told myself over and over near the time of graduation. The minute you step into a job with a strict schedule that you attend the majority of your days you will wonder at where your time has gone. As I sit here typing this, it is 1 a.m. I have yet to structure my after-work activities well enough to find time for the things I love like writing and activism.
It is going to take work to make your non-work time impactful. If you're not lucky enough to be able to find that passionate job, you're going to have to find outlets outside of the office. Be prepared to have to structure it harshly, something millennials maybe aren't so used to. I struggle everyday to fit my passion into my new work life. It will not come easy to work out ways to more effectivley utilize your off time but it is so much more rewarding than giving in and denying yourself of the very things you love to do.