Dispensing “career” advice with minimal maniacal laughter

Last week, a senior at Oregon State University interviewed me about my “career” as a conservationist. I use quotation marks in this context because “doing” so makes “everything” I “write” look “smarter.” Not that I need to tell you that. Look, I’ve only been a professional conservationist for five months. This hardly qualifies me to dispense career advice to impressionable youths.

The interview was an assignment for a class entitled “Leadership Development.” Or, alternatively, “Sorry There Aren’t Any Jobs, Kids, But Thanks Anyway for All That Tuition, Bestoflucksosorryyouprobablyshouldhavemajoredinengineeringlikeyourbrother.” It’s an upper division course.

She began by asking, “What inspired you to work in the environmental field and what was your path to your current job?” You know, a simple icebreaker to build rapport and ease into the interrogation.

I told her I spent my teens frolicking with wolves and dung beetles and this inspired me to become an environmental attorney. After practicing law for a couple of years, I moved to Portland and — Wham! Blam! Pow! — landed a job as a wildlife advocate for an environmental nonprofit.

This is, of course, a highly edited version of events. The truth is, after my 100% free-range, grass-fed adolescence, I made a fifteen-year detour to Cubicle City. A true chronicle of my professional life looks like this:

  1. Audubon Society intern — I’m a young Rachel Carson!
  2. Wildlife park keeper assistant — I’m a young Jane Goodall!
  3. University administrative assistant — Oops! Yuck. Just kidding! Still young!
  4. FBI intern — I’m a young Clarice Starling!
  5. Public relations account coordinator — I have a boyfriend!
  6. Caramel corn vendor — I’m single!
  7. Waitress — Oh God, why did I major in Political Science?
  8. University administrative assistant — Back here again, huh? My youthful vigor and lack of arthritis make sending emails all day a breeze!
  9. Retail clerk — It’s just for the clothing discount! Hey, is that Mary Kay Letourneau browsing the Christmas ornaments? She’s so pretty in person!
  10. Strip club service professional — I’m just moonlighting, guys! I’m so edgy and fun and not panicking or wondering if this might tank my future mayoral campaign! Whoops, got married!
  11. Law firm receptionist — My bad. That was definitely panic. Now I’m going to law school! I have socially acceptable ambitions! But first, I’m going to serve these lawyers coffee for a year.
  12. Law student and serial intern — I’m surrounded by assholes! I’m divorced! I’m a young Erin Brockovich!
  13. Dog walker — People will pay me to walk dogs on the beach? Professional life appears to have peaked!
  14. Lawyer — I’m in debt! Still technically in my twenties! Oh wait, nope. Thirty.
  15. University administrative manager — Must. Stifle. Maniacal. Laughter. My years of experience and crushed spirit make sending emails all day a breeze!
  16. Unemployed — I’m a troll person!
  17. Wildlife advocate — I’m a young, er…John Muir? Yes! If we use 70-year-old John Muir as a reference point.

Liberal Arts majors, be inspired.

Looking back on our conversation, I wonder if I did her a disservice by giving her the sanitized version of my career path. Maybe it would have been good for her to hear that things don’t always turn out the way you plan, but you can still claw your way back if you’re willing to work hard and perhaps live in abject poverty. You get used to off-brand tampons after a while.

In case you’re wondering, I also dropped some legitimate career advice. Insightful gems like: Get an internship and be super good at networking. She’s going to have a real edge.

54 thoughts on “Dispensing “career” advice with minimal maniacal laughter

  1. Oh sweet Jesus. My favorite yet. When you get famous, I want credit for the blogging idea. And being your muse. And your other half. Thanks.

    Enviado mi iPhone

    El Nov 18, 2013, a las 5:48 PM, “Qphase2″ escribió:


  2. Sometimes we take the long way to get to where we need to be. You’d likely be a different person if you’d been doing the same thing all this time, and not nearly so funny.

  3. Loved This! And this: “Sorry There Aren’t Any Jobs, Kids, But Thanks Anyway for All That Tuition, Bestoflucksosorryyouprobablyshouldhavemajoredinengineeringlikeyourbrother.” That’s such a sad truth, but this was just whip smart and super funny. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Angela! It’s crazy, I do some contract work at a university, and I have to refrain myself from shaking each and every student until they agree to major in something, anything, in the sciences. It’s like, look at me, children! Let this be a lesson to you!

  4. quinn, i had to come back here one more time, because I really wanted to mention how much I loved the brilliance in the line “Yes! If we use 70 year old John Muir as a reference point” I have a creepy, posthumous crush on that guy.

    1. Ha! Thank you! And you are not alone — I also have a crush on Mr. Muir. But for some reason, he only exists to me as an old man. I cannot picture him as a 30-something.

  5. My god, I hate those interviews. Or when people ask you to help send their resume out to your networks to help them find a job. Yeah. Find ME a job.
    This was funny. So, so funny.

    1. Thanks, Kylie! I hate them, too. But I confess, I feel like I’m obligated to do it. I had so many “informational interviews” with folks after I moved to town. It’s so awkward and weird, but I still really appreciate that they were willing to talk to me. Now I feel like I should return the favor — even if it means glossing over some of the less glamorous stuff on my resume. :)

      1. You know, I actually think you were right in your post about sharing the difficulties. Not in a downer-kind of way, but in a “this is what’s realistic in this economy and don’t be so hard on yourself if you don’t land your dream job right away” kind of way. I think that could actually be very comforting and help prepare those youngsters for what it’s really like out there.

      2. I wish someone had done that for me. I have definitely beat myself up for not landing the “right” job. A little reality would have been helpful — and I should pass that message on!

  6. Wow, you and I have remarkably similar career histories…of course, mine is sprinkled with liberal doses of “unemployment” and “rehab.” Gotta love the detours…

    1. Thanks, Cindy! I actually read your post before I saw this comment. As I was reading, I was thinking, yes, all of this is so true! :) We do have similar trajectories. I’m still trying to figure out what’s next.

  7. Oh goodness.
    Congratulations on finally finding a career you might desire to stay in for a while ^_^
    Me? I’m still wandering somewhere between off-brand tampons and wondering Why, God, did I choose to major in English instead of something practical????

      1. YES! There will always be demand for locksmithery! I’m also concerned that cobblers are a dying breed, and sometimes feel as though I missed my calling.

  8. So good. Definitely don’t miss the L school phase where we were surrounded by assholes.

    Wait, I live in DC where every day is National Asshole Day.


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