Vote for the Best of STL!

Money can’t buy everything

| Forum Editor

Earlier this week, I was talking to a friend about the future. (It’s senior year, and this is therefore a frequent topic of conversation.) He was lamenting the lack of conviction that many of our senior classmates have regarding future job prospects. “Why do so many people only want a job that pays well?” he asked. I’ve been thinking since then about how to answer that question.

The next few years are a mystery for most of us. Some of us are fortunate enough to have already been accepted to graduate schools or received job offers for after graduation.

But the majority is still figuring it all out. Piles of applications, saved tabs on our browsers, lists of potential options—and still, these only get us so far.

At this point, I’ll admit to being a bit jealous of my friends who stuck with the pre-med track. The benefit of medical school—once you get in—is that, barring any crisis of conscience, you will be a doctor. Sure, there’s a lot of work in there, but you’re on the path to a job, and one that has the potential to be a lifelong vocation. Those of us interested in so-called “transitional programs,” or even entry-level jobs, aren’t afforded that kind of security.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the conversation that occurs with family and friends. “Do what you love,” they tell you, “and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about that.” As you decide to follow that advice, the tone changes: “Well, hold on a second. Don’t you think you should have a secure, well-paying job before you go off thinking about being an ascetic [or any host of other idealistic options you ‘love’]?” Then again, you could be fortunate enough to love that business job or that consulting opportunity or be incredibly passionate about your future medical career. Props to you for having your life more together than I feel like I do.

It’s not my place to criticize why people want to take jobs. A lot of my friends have accepted consulting jobs acknowledging that they are only stepping stones, terrific opportunities out of college. They plan to return to graduate school or law school or to go into public service.

But my mind’s still stuck on my friend’s question. In a lot of cases, it still feels like the money’s the main drive. Why? Sure, there is a sense of urgency to having a good job and a job that pays well, but how authentic is that feeling?

I don’t want to be the kind of columnist who calls for service when I hardly know what I’m going to do, but I can only hope that we aren’t only thinking of the monetary stability that we’ll get from our first jobs. Our happiness is important, too—so is our impact on our communities, but there’s enough in that for another column on its own. If we’re getting bogged down applying for jobs at companies whose purposes we’re barely aware of, just for financial gain, we might want to reevaluate.

A job search based around money is not an entirely bad thing. Really. If there are other things that draw you to a job—legitimate interest, skill building for the future, impact on the community, etc.—then the money makes it an even better option. But if the money’s all we’re out for, it just makes me wonder what that says about our priorities.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening at Washington University and beyond.

Subscribe