It’s about time to turn your tassel and with it be thrust into a world filled with taxes, confusion, revolt, unemployment, manipulation and protest whether you like it or not. I know I’m not the wise old owl looking back on decades of adulthood, but you don’t have to be 70 to figure out some rules to live by.
A job is a job, support yourself.
When working summers for a lawyer at the United States Patent and Trademark Office across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., I saw people who made copies. They stood at one of 20 Zerox machines in a hot, inky room and duplicated legal documents.
All. Day. Long. But they were happy, and friendly. Some were over-qualified, many just needed a job but just about all of them said hello the few times I was in there to copy a 1,000 page patent file myself. I vowed never to settle for a job like that, but never refuse it if that’s what I needed.
Don’t be normal. Stand out in a good way, even if it scares you.
One of those college summers in D.C., I also interned at the local affiliate of NBC Sports. I charted baseball games, and held the microphone to get sound bites at Redskins training camp. But I made no contacts. I went to work, did my job and went home. There’s not one person I could call at NBC as a reference.
What a waste. I knew I didn’t want to go into TV, but to come out of that experience without a person that could write me a recommendation is embarrassing. I had the fortitude to try something terrifically intimidating, and I ended up being a faceless intern that can’t even list that summer on a resume.
At some point you might have to be something of an intern and do work for little or no pay. Prove you are serious. While others are whining or too scared to apply, do the work, make contacts and start your ascent.
One hundred years ago, lots of people wanted to read but couldn’t. Today lots of people can read but choose not to. That makes no sense.
Use your own brain.
Few things are more shallow than shameless Internet or Facebook politics. It doesn’t matter what your views are, as long as they are your own, and based on thought, not propaganda. Can what you stand for be reduced to a photo-shopped cartoon? Could a caricature with an eight-word bubble-cloud, or 12-second sound bite encapsulate you?
Do your own research, use your own brain. My high school English teacher called it the Crap Detector.
Work, don’t want.
Want and work are hardly related. You can want something really, really, really, really, really bad, but if you keep adding reallys without adding work, it won’t matter.
Plan an escape.
John Gierach wrote, “The solution to any problem — work, love, money, whatever — is to go fishing, and the worse the problem, the longer the trip should be.”
You’re 18. If you hit the average, you have close to 60 more years on earth. Have a life, not just a job. That doesn’t give you the right to be an idiot though. People get fired for what they post, tweet and how they act on the weekends. Find something fun that provides some zest.
And of course, don’t eat farmed salmon.
To contact Jeff Lund, email firstname.lastname@example.org.