A certain Samuel with historically-revered literary inclinations famously advised, “Write what you know.” As two recent graduates who have followed less-than-standard career paths, we take it upon ourselves to counsel you in the next 800 words about “eyeing the mold warily.”

“The best opportunities I encountered in life, I created for myself,” a wise man once confessed.  This man, who may or may not be of direct paternal relation, intended this statement not in contrast to Obama’s infamous “You didn’t build that,” but rather in support of reaching outside the box.  This pappy had in mind his application to complete the early years of his career across the globe in fair New Zealand.

This advice may take other forms, one of which it did, one day, as Pappy described a young man with whom he had become familiar.  This Ivy League all-star tortured himself with expectations of worldly renown, and, in Pappy’s words, confused “being great with being good.”  Problems of eternal proportion arise when one conflates prosperity with virtue.

This is all to say, your career is in part what you make of it, and your success will be determined with great fickleness by the world if you don’t actively take the reins.  As a Teach For American, for example, I (Katie) was supported/beleaguered by no fewer than five competing rubrics, each of which claimed to evaluate my success in a particular domain.  No matter that x domain frequently conflicted with y, which was weighted equally with x.  These rubrics in actuality provided an incredible tool for self-assessment, but taken further than that, they could have led to personal delirium.  Thank God I had a transcendent rubric in the form of revelation to reference in cases of contradiction.  Even more so than as an undergraduate, your integrity and joy may hinge upon your ability to prioritize the various rubrics superiors dangle above you as assessments of your worth.

We will now shift gears to examine in greater depth the structural implications of eyeing the mold warily.

Attending a university like Notre Dame naturally propels one in the direction of a “career.”  These take different shapes and forms from United States Congressman to electrochemicalflourescentmagnetism engineer to human rights advocate.  It is the rare, brave individual that pauses to ask, “Why must I fit neatly into this career package?”

Neither of us is entirely settled in a position or has twenty years of wisdom to put forth.  A sound piece of advice offered as we considered our first job opportunities out of Notre Dame, however, was, “Don’t work in something you know you will dislike for reasons of prestige.”

There are so many more opportunities available than might appear at first job hunt.  Currently working in recruiting, I (Michael) see many students whose backgrounds naturally align with the jobs they are seeking.  While they attempt to explicate their interest in the positions, I can tell that their spiels are not always genuine.  They have fallen into the trap of thinking that with x major I must seek y job.  This is bologna, and not the delicious kind.  Would it be harder to seek something with which your grades or your major are not naturally aligned?  Absolutely, but we have all spoken with older versions of ourselves and heard stories of, “If only I had pursued Shetland pony breeding…”

From Catholic Social Teaching we learn that work is meant to serve man, and not man to serve work.  Work is good insofar as it allows man to contribute to the good of others, develop discipline, and support himself, but there are definitely circumstances in which these goods becomes secondary to motives of profit or distorted under the guise of “client needs.”  Last I checked, the client was flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone.

Let us speak about some of the opportunities that you may not initially consider.  There are temp agencies continually seeking to fill contracted positions in addition to the full time staff required.  Consider that you might like to work in a position, but not year round.  You could work for a contracted duration of time and then spend the remainder of your year pursuing a passion that lies outside the scope of your day job.

To demonstrate that our money is where our speculations are, we confide the following: One of the authoring parties, who shall remain nameless, is considering pursuing temp work alongside a quarter-quarter century dream of refereeing at the professional level.

In censorious conclusion, from the young to the younger, don’t let secular rubrics crowd out what your mamma and your Jesus taught you, and don’t pursue a career because you’ve come to resemble that mold.  Mold is gross, and it causes diseases.  Wouldn’t you rather build your future on a real rock?


Michael Jackson, humor columnist emeritus, and Katie Petrik, humor column editor emeritus, can be reached regarding post-graduate predicaments at mjackso42@gmail.com.