The Secret to Finding Your Life’s Work


I supervised quite a few student workers during my years as the interlibrary loan specialist at a college library. Some of them were fantastic. Some were in it only for the paycheck and had no sense of pride at all in their work. Others coasted through their shifts, doing the job but their minds and hearts were elsewhere. No matter what their attitudes toward work were, inevitably their Senior year arrived and the panic would start to set in. That was when we’d have “the talk.”

Most of my students were finishing up four years of college (very EXPENSIVE college, I might add) and they didn’t have a clue as to what they wanted to do when they graduated. They were finding the thought of heading out into the “real world” pretty terrifying. So what was their solution? I’d say 8 out of 10 of them would say that they were thinking of continuing on to graduate school. GRAD SCHOOL! Oh boy, another 2-3 years of postponing the inevitable and more debt to incur. I saw this happen again and again. And here is what I’d tell them.

Think of times when you’ve been busy doing something and you’ve looked up at the clock and were astonished to see that hours have passed but it’s seemed like only minutes to you. You were having such a good time and so engrossed in what you were doing that you completely lost track of time. Now, if you can isolate what you were doing and come up with a job that incorporates those skills or activities, THAT is the type of work you should go into. For me, it was doing research needed to link up people with the books or articles that they wanted. I’d start work around 7:30 in the morning and look up at the clock to discover that it was 2 p.m. and I had no idea of the passing of time. My mind was so engrossed in what I was doing that the hours flew by.

Don’t go to grad school right out of college. It shouldn’t be used as an avoidance tactic to “buy you time.” In my opinion, you should go to grad school after you’ve been working in your field for awhile. Then you will have a firm foundation of on-the-job experience to bring to the classroom which will make your graduate classes much more meaningful. Let’s not forget another big perk. Many companies will pay part or all of your tuition for advanced degrees if you are working in the company and the degree will enhance your value to the company. That’s how my daughter paid for her Master’s degree.

If I had a chance to talk to my students early on in their college years, I’d suggest that they try to hook up with an internship program where they could spend college time working in a field they were considering and it would apply towards their college credits. Such a plan had two distinct advantages. One, you would find out if that type of work was really what you wanted to do and two, you would make valuable contacts for future employment opportunities when you graduated. We had strongly recommended that to our daughter and she interned part-time for a biochemical company during college and before she had even graduated, she was hired by them.


I thought of all this when I was at the scrapbooking retreat this past weekend. I’d be working away and then glance up at the clock and be amazed to discover that HOURS had passed. It reminded me how pleasant it is to be doing something you love surrounded by people you enjoy. May all of you soon to be entering the workforce be so blessed.


One Response

  1. Oh Dee, how I miss working for you at the library! I think that had to be one of my favorite jobs. BTW, it looks like you had a fun scrapbooking weekend. I am just trying to get through this weekend of stomach flu. The last kid seems to have it so hopefully it will all be over by tomorrow.

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