Nice Work If You Can Get It

Posted: June 11, 2014 in Uncategorized
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By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

Any job very well done that has been carried out by a person who is fully dedicated is always a source of inspiration. ~Carlos Ghosn

Tis the season for job hunting for graduating seniors looking to find a position in their field of study and while hopes are high, opportunities are rare and salaries low.

Recently, one of my students said she was desperate for a job. I recommended that she apply at Target, a good company with regular vacancies and the potential for advancement. I won’t detail her response, but she was not pleased with my suggestion.

One of the many difficulties encountered after graduation is the harsh terrain of the employment landscape. There is an enormous gap between student expectations and job opportunities. I have had, over the years, many interactions with students who are frustrated because they cannot find a good, high-paying job. To which I reply, who can?


A former student contacted me to ask for encouragement as he’d been out of college for over a year, with still no hope of landing his “dream job”. My advice: wake up. Among the things that I don’t believe in are the Tooth Fairy, soul mates, and a dream job.

I do believe in good, meaningful work, and that is something that can (and should) be done at every level. I’ve had difficult jobs that involved unpleasant tasks, but they were still good jobs.

Here are the jobs I found in the months after graduating from college in four efficient years:

  • Cashier at a grocery store
  • Hostess at a restaurant

I hurried back to graduate school.

Here are the jobs I found after graduating with my first Master’s degree:

  • Adjunct English instructor—hooray! This job does not pay the bills.
  • Waitress at a restaurant

Graduate school, one more time!

Here are the jobs I worked after graduating with my second Master’s degree:

  • Adjunct English instructor—hooray! Still did not pay all my bills.
  • Academic Librarian—hooray! Alas, it was only part-time
  • Bartender, which with the other two part-time jobs added up to enough.

The list did not end there. With a college degree (or three) in hand, I worked as a temporary office assistant. When I first moved to Chicago, I served for a caterer, worked beer tents at festivals, and even did “coat check” a time or two. I’ve also provided ACT tutoring for high school students. Quite often, we all must take what is available until a better opportunity arises. After all, student loans don’t pay themselves; yes, like so many Americans, I am still in the process of paying off my student loan debt.


What makes a job good arises primarily from attitude and intention. I distinctly remember a young man grabbing a broom at a small mom-and-pop convenient store, owned and operated at the time by practicing Buddhists. He turned to the owner and said, “I will now go outside and practice the Zen art of sweeping the parking lot.” His boss nodded in approval. How invaluable to learn early on that sweeping the parking lot is a necessary task and can be done beautifully.

I’m certainly not the first person to promote hard work. Oftentimes, students allow themselves to be misled. Too often students believe that completing college signals the end of the struggle; ultimately, we all come to know that the struggle is never-ending. They dream of illustrious careers, only to discover the reality: a life filled with work, work that we are all incredibly fortunate to have.


Doing a job well will result in a good job, all that remains is to get to work.

  1. Nancy Sullivan says:

    well said, and it can’t be said enough….what shocking numbers in that graph

  2. […] thing. Many people do not take kindly to it, not even the term itself. I have never felt this way. I’ve always liked to work in the abstract and often truly delighted in work in the particular. Work yields meaningful […]

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