Think about what captivates your mind and heart to work in a setting and build a career that is inspired by your passion and principles. 

By Amy Finnegan and Christopher Michaelson SEPTEMBER 6, 2020 — 2:49PM

Q: As a recent college graduate, I am having a hard time finding a job that makes ends meet that also feels essential in these troubling times. What advice do you have?

A: First, know that your first job out of college won’t define you. As you gain experience and expertise, your ideal job — and the steps to get there — may become clearer. That advice, hopefully, motivates you to do something rather than nothing while reducing pressure on you to find the perfect position right away.

You can learn important insights from work that is not your greatest fulfillment or serving the most essential needs of society. Surround yourselves with those who inspire you and challenge you, with those who hold similar convictions. This could be roommates, life partners, faith groups, writing groups or even occasional informational interviews with mentors.

Certainly, making ends meet for survival is essential — especially in turbulent times of pandemic and uprising such as this, but ultimately, you will be sustained by what motivates you.

If you are asking about what feels essential in these troubling times, you are conscious that the social status quo is producing great harm and you seek to be part of changing it. Follow that inclination to build the world you wish to live in. Seek jobs that bring you meaning.

If the opportunity available to you will pay the bills but doesn’t feel essential, try it out if it won’t compromise your ideals. Maybe you will figure out how to make your work essential — or how the experience can help you advance toward work that matters. Or, if the opportunity available to you feels essential but won’t pay the bills, consider moonlighting on the side until your essential work can support your lifestyle.

Just as you are what you eat, you can become where you work. Think about what captivates your mind and heart to work in a setting and build a career that is inspired by your passion and principles. Finally, be kind and gentle with yourself.

Amy Finnegan is an associate professor in the justice and society studies department at the University of St. Thomas. Christopher Michaelson is the Opus professor of principled leadership and academic director of the Melrose and the Toro Company Center for Principled Leadership in the Opus College of Business.

This article originally appeared in the Star Tribune. Used by kind permission of the Star Tribune.