Clearly, the community in general is not my ally in pursuing a less coherent career goal because people expect you to do something when graduating. Even as a master’s student I felt that answering the question: What do you do? with the answer I’m studying is not good enough for some. Of course there’s a set model which says that once you graduate, the normal thing to do is have a job. Even as a student you are in search of a job, preparing the field for later. That’s why there is so much focus on practical internships and extra-curricular activities. Because just going to school is far from being a good enough answer even in your twenties. You have to have a plan, to say the least. A very common question nowadays in Romania, with the spread of mass university education, is: “what do you come out to be out of university?”
I was studying social sciences - which has ambiguous correspondent in the labor market - so I was a little worried before graduating. Having to explain people what my job is was hard enough, but explaining how come I don’t have a job or work for free in research grants, internships, NGOs, student associations is even harder.
I had it in my mind very clear that I have to invest in whatever I want to get and I knew that I wasn’t a slacker. What I noticed was that my friends who had the most resources and came from wealthy families still haven’t taken jobs or haven’t invested in anything, not in themselves. And my other friends who are basically poor and couldn’t afford to graduate from university were the ones who did get jobs and still work hard, even if it’s temporary jobs and they could do much better if given the opportunity. So in the end it comes down to what you want to do, and how you make use of your resources: your allies are your resources.
So I had just graduated last July and I was having a beer with my dad. We were talking about me going away for an unpaid traineeship at the Council of Europe, having raised money to go and still needing his support to be able to make it. And when I told him that I am kinda scared about the reactions at this coming from relatives, friends of friends and society at large he said: “You have a lifetime of jobs ahead, still have plenty of time. You know what’s best for you, do your thing and don’t let others talk you out of it”. And he mumbled something about life being interesting particularly now when traveling and experiencing stuff.
So my parents are major allies for giving me all the freedom in the world to make my own choices, move around, travel back and forth. Both them and my life partner, for their moral stances and financial support as well, are my major allies. And they also become part of my goals: to make something I am proud of because I know in turn they will be proud. And my rewards to my parents so far have moved from being a good kid, having good grades, being mature about my entourage even when it was pulling me down, having scholarships, choosing well my partner in life to finally getting paid for my work and having a great first job – a so called consultant for the Council of Europe (it’s basically being part of a team working for the Edgeryders project). At the same time, I am now sitting at a seminar and wearing a badge saying “freelancer”, a term I wouldn’t know if it’s looked down upon or not. But it does imply some insecurity.
Which is what brings me to my next potential allies. More recently, I notice that professional networks matter greatly in terms of opportunities. My networks so far are mainly rooted in university, and I find that investment as a student had paid off. But I’m curious about how to continue to nurture those relationships not being a student anymore and physically absent.
What does it mean building networks? Do you build long term networks or rather it’s a chain of reactions – if 1 person in your 5-members-network is reliable, he will put you in contact with other 5, and taking it from there would mean perpetuating your belonging to several mixed networks, but not so much reinforcing the older ones? What is the best strategy?