Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Jim, probably more than anyone else, is aware of my floundering when it comes to finding and landing a job. Last night he told me to make a three-circle Venn diagram. One circle was labeled "Passions," one circle was "Talents and Strengths," and the last one was "Economic Engine." Fill them in, and what winds up in the middle is what you should focus on.

For the life of me I can't get it to show up in the blog post, so you'll just have to make one for yourself. It's pretty simple, straightforward. Right?

Not so much. I'm aware of my strengths. I can write - no, really, I can write at a much higher level than what y'all see here on this blog. For instance, I would never use "y'all." I can write for a variety of audiences. I can listen, I can ask questions. I can do research, I can enter data and do some analysis. I'm good with linking abstract concepts to the way they're lived on the ground. And I can decorate a cake like nobody's business.

Passions I'm a bit foggier on. I've thought about it since Jim gave me the idea and they fall under the vague label of "helping people." I want to work with - work for - people
who get lost in the healthcare system or can't get it at all, people who don't know about or don't understand ways to improve their health; people who need clean water, who don't have access to education; people who are in dire straits simply because they lack the same opportunities I've been lucky enough to have. I love doing research, whether it's digging up policy documents, getting data, or talking to people. I want to take that research and use it to foster real change. I love cheese and wine, too, and Jim, but I think we're going a bit more career-oriented here.

It's broad as hell, I know. But look at my scattershot work history: almost three years in a deli-bakery, two years of data-entry-and-analysis research, two awful months at a call center, a summer research internship, and now this interesting but frustrating Healthy Schools project. I've done some big projects along the way, too: sophomore year I assisted with beginning research on a biocultural community; last year I conducted a ponderous content analysis of doctor interviews and set up a roundtable on Kenyan election violence; this year is my lovely thesis on abstinence-only education and my work with a nonprofit (more about that later). All of which leaves me with a variety of skills, but no singular leading drive. Rather, I have a history of stumbling upon a project and throwing myself headfirst into it (and not always wisely). Give me a problem, dammit, and I'll figure out as much about it as I can.

As for the "economic engine," I've been looking mostly in the non-profit sector, though there's a consulting firm in Alexandria where I'd love to work. Thing is, most organizations are already stretched thin, and they usually ask for a higher degree than a B.A. I'm looking into a one-year paralegal program - I don't know if I'd be any good, but the pay is decent. There's a three-month internship program that might help me get myself in gear, make connections.

And the kicker? The venn diagram is called your "hedgehog." There's a parable explaining it, but hey, anything to do with hedgehogs is good with me.

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