Dear E. Jean: My twin sister’s in med school (which she’s planned to do since third grade); her boyfriend is prepping to be an astronaut—for real!—and my best friend is the perfect picture of the happy second-grade teacher. Me? I’m closing in on Year One in my first “real” job after graduating with a liberal arts degree, and I’m sick of answering phones, organizing papers, and going nowhere. I am 24, live in D.C., and know exactly what I want when it comes to clothes, shoes, and decorating my apartment. But when it comes to my career? I wallow. I’m smart, super outgoing (I’ll try anything twice), and a hard worker. How do I find direction? I don’t even know where to start. —Anywhere but Here
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Any, my scrumptious half-wit: Are you kidding? The well-bred young lady always insists on “answering phones.” This gives you a chance to chat up callers, hear industry rumors, toot your own horn, take credit for your coworkers’ projects, and so forth. When you’re not on the phone, embrace the Wallow: What stinks about your company? Why isn’t it hot? Think of three clever ideas to make it more of a go-go proposition, ideas that will increase the bottom line. Set an appointment with your CEO, present the ideas, and volunteer to get the best off the ground. If this doesn’t make you excited about your job—and, frankly, just having a job in today’s economy should make you pretty excited—set up informational interviews in other industries; go to free stuff (conferences, expos, gatherings where you’ll meet people who might jump-start your brain); return to your college and take a career assessment test (low cost for alums); or see a private career counselor (choose one at ncda.org). If all else fails, get your own reality show! Everybody else does.
This letter is from the E. Jean archive.