As The Atlantic’s Don Peck wrote last year, citing a litany of research from Yale University’s Lisa Kahn, college graduates who enter the labor force during a recession make significantly less money—in their first year and over the course of their careers—than grads who walk into an economic boom. Workers stuck in the unemployment line for an extended period risk watching their skills atrophy and face increasing difficulty finding new jobs. That’s particularly true, though, for people waiting and waiting and waiting to land their first job. — The Glum and The Restless
Sit down, let’s have real talk.
Two facts: Your salary typically tops out around age 40 and new graduates that start out in a down economy rarely close the pay gap between themselves and their peers who came out of college in a boom.
Here’s the truth:
- You have NO idea what the hell you want to do with your life. You might THINK you do, but I’d wage the percentage of college graduates that do is 2-5%. Even if you do know what you want to do, you don’t have the rocks to go for it, not yet.
- You can say money doesn’t matter until you’re blue in the face, but nobody believes you. Again, if it REALLY doesn’t matter you’re in a tiny percentile. OR you come from a really privileged background.
- All your future raises are based on your 1st starting salary. Virtually every single company you interview with after your first gig are going to ask, “What is your current salary?” Often times you can re-frame this question face-to-face, but not on HR’s paperwork.
Look, I get it. It’s “cool” to say you chased after your dream instead of selling your soul to corporate America. I got news for you… that line is as played out as saying you don’t have cable because there’s nothing good on television.
Here’s a secret. You can build your passions into virtually any job you take. Most jobs are relatively malleable after you settle in, and you can intertwine the things that give you energy into your daily tasks.
Maybe you take the high paying gig, and maybe the corporate world kicks you in the nuts. Provided you can endure for 1-2 years you’ll learn a lot and you can move on to somewhere else and write a significantly higher number in that little HR box. That number usually ensures you get at least that with the next company, whilst your peer who THOUGHT he was working on his dream job realized that his boss was crazy and living on 30K in NYC is damn near impossible. Now he’s moving on, and he’s writing that number in a box.
Five years from now you’ve both strategically orchestrated a job that’s a good fit, but he’s making significantly less than you because he chased unfounded dreams while you took the money and ran.
To reiterate, the assumption here is that you’re like 95-97% of people. There are exceptions to every rule: People who genuinely know exactly what they want to do without question, people who don’t get much utility out of money, and the savvy negotiators that can transform 30K into 60K.
Chances are you’re not that unique, snowflake. After you actually do work in the real world you’ll have a much better idea about the tasks and types of people that give you energy everyday. And you can shape your career accordingly knowing you have a head start on your peers — a gap they won’t close.
What say you grasshopper? Have you chased your dream job and regretted it? Did you take the corporate money and run? Did you follow your heart and couldn’t be happier?