COLUMN: Students’ first jobs don’t have to be the perfect fit

It’s not uncommon for a college senior to be asked, “What are you doing after graduation?” But the answer isn’t always clear — especially for liberal arts majors. There are so many options: Go to graduate school, get an entry-level job, go to Europe to “find yourself” — the list goes on and on.

Like a lot of my eager classmates, I hope to get a job. Yet even once that decision is made, there are still post-college first-job pressures. I, for one, am panicking just thinking about it.

Fortunately, though, there’s good news: We crazy millennials are disregarding job longevity entirely, instead engaging in the human resources nightmare of job hopping.

According to Forbes magazine, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that U.S. workers have been with their current employer for an average of 4.6 years, but that among young employees tenure drops to only 2.3 years. More so, a survey by Future Workplace showed that 91 percent of millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years.

Not getting a dream job out of college isn’t the end of the world, because according to Forbes, millennials will have 15-20 jobs in the course of their lives. Therefore, that first job may not be as important as it seems. The question, “What are you doing after graduation?” suddenly feels far less significant.

Similarly, throughout all my internships, I’m not sure I’ve found exactly what I want to do; however, with each opportunity, I narrow down the search — moving closer and closer to discovering what it is I want as a career. Forbes points to research by Harvard happiness guru Daniel Gilbert that proves humans are terrible at predicting what will make us happy. Therefore, the only way to find out the right move is through trial and error. Even if that first job out of college isn’t a so-called “dream job,” it could be an important stepping stone to figure out real post-graduate goals.

In fact, when NPR asked economists what they would say if they were giving a commencement address, economics professor Justin Wolfers told students to job hop.

“Approach your career ambitions the same way you approached your romantic ambitions at college. Sure, you’re looking for ‘The One,’ but the only way to find that is by going on a lot of dates. And you should think about your first job as a good first date,” Wolfers told NPR. “Try it out. If you like it, stick around for another year. But if not, ask another employer out. And keep playing the field until you’ve found the job you want to stay with.”

More so, Wolfers said that economic research shows that most large pay gains do not come from promotions, but rather from “moving to a job that’s a better fit, with a different employer.” Likewise, Wolfers claimed that romantic success usually does not come from improving a broken relationship, but rather, from moving on and finding a better match.

Similar to how dating is not as clear as it once was, “The One” may not be instantly recognizable.

The significance of job hopping exposes millennials’ uncertainty in the future. Many credit this generation’s use of technology and desire for instant gratification. In fact, in the Forbes article “The Pros and Cons of Job Hopping,” legal consultant David Parnell claimed that while it once was the norm for an employee to stay with an employer for 30 years and then “grab your pension and ride off quietly into the sunset,” Gen X-ers — and eventually Gen Y-ers — are much more driven by instant gratification, which causes them to move more rapidly through jobs.

However, I would disagree that it is the “self-oriented nature” of young workers that causes them to switch jobs; rather, it’s the immense opportunities available. While the question that drives me crazy now is, “What are you doing after graduation?” it’s easy to forget that the question that used to drive me crazy was, “What are you majoring in?”

According to The New York Times, colleges and universities reported nearly 1,500 academic programs just in 2010. There are endless opportunities available in both jobs and fields of study now that never existed in the past — in part, due to technological innovation. While previously there may have only been jobs in public relations, there are now many positions within that field, including social media specialists.

Technological advances have opened the job markets — and university majors — with more fields than ever before, dizzying graduating students with an overdose of opportunities. The pressure is on, like never before, to find a specialized job that both permits success and fulfills happiness.

The good news is, however, that the first post-grad job doesn’t have to provide all the answers to fulfillment. Rather, it’s trial and error. While job hopping may make work more difficult for Human Resources, it allows college graduates to find their true calling — even if it’s 15 jobs later.

Mollie Berg is a senior majoring in communication. Her column, “All in a Day’s Work,” runs every other Wednesday.