A common facet of the Georgetown experience is pervasive preprofessionalism. All of us have come across that girl who has known she wants to work at the U.S. Department of State since her 13th birthday or that guy who will not settle for less than becoming the next Wolf of Wall Street. Perhaps you are that person yourself; I know I came to Georgetown expecting to land a job at an investment bank, do my time as an analyst and then move to private equity. This is the part where you expect me to tell you I have changed — I have not. Actually, my only change was switching over from banking to consulting. Come August, I will be working at an innovation consulting firm in Manhattan.
With the realization that I have “successfully” made it through the GU career funnel, I have begun to realize how homogenous we students are in terms of our aspirations. I have been wondering what it is that funnels so many Hoyas into careers like banking, consulting, lobbying and the other usual suspects. At first, it seemed to be prestige. We all chose Georgetown over other schools for a reason. It initially appeared to me that the reason was our name recognition within the careers students generally choose.
However, I realized I was wrong, because the most prestigious, renowned people in our society are not lawyers and investors, but creators, the people who write books and produce films and build apps. It has dawned on me that most of us do not crave prestige but security. The classic Georgetown careers ensure that. We do not want to risk becoming starving artists. With considerable salaries, hefty bonuses and generous benefits packages, many Georgetown students seek to protect themselves from having to worry about the basics in life.
Even the nursing and pre-med students who want to help people are driven in part by this sense of security. No one would become a nurse or doctor and put up with unbelievable amounts of grueling study just to make 40,000 dollars a year. The people who dedicate themselves to doing good in the world want to know they will be taken care of in return for their self-sacrifice.
Security is certainly not too much to ask for. Abraham Maslow, a renowned psychologist, put forth a hierarchy of human needs — progressive motives that drive behavior. He claimed that, after obtaining sufficient food, water and shelter, human beings seek security. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that so many Georgetown students look for jobs that provide financial security; after all, that is something we need.
It is incredibly difficult to override that overwhelming desire for security. Perhaps that is why we overwhelmingly pick service jobs. In that sort of workplace setting, we only allow others to judge us, and thereby reward us, on our intellectual prowess. Salary is validation for all the work we have put into our human capital. By pursuing white-collar careers, we fall back on something we have been praised for our entire lives: our brains. However, security is not free. The exchange is that the sorts of jobs we pick divorce us from our creativity.
Very rarely do you hear about a lobbyist or lawyer discussing his latest poem or invention. In part, that is because service jobs make it very hard to actualize those kinds of desires or dreams. Since multitasking is pretty much impossible for human beings, it is hard to focus on anything but the job you are doing. And when the job you are doing takes up 70 or more hours a week, not only do you not have time left over but you also stop identifying with aspects of yourself outside the context of the job.
That is why it is so hard for us, pre-professional Georgetown students, to create. We identify with the stereotypes of certain jobs from day one, before we even have those jobs. That prevents us from pursuing our zanier ideas. Most people have marvelous thoughts on which they never act in favor of stable and secure careers.
This seriousness is a phenomenon that does not always occur at other top-tier schools. Students at Stanford, Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are renowned for their entrepreneurial thinking. So many of the things we use daily — Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram — were invented by students from those schools. Veronica Roth began the hit series “Divergent” while studying at Northwestern and F. Scott Fitzgerald penned “This Side of Paradise” at Princeton. We are too serious for our own good, especially when people at peer institutions can both get stable, secure jobs and hone their “wilder” interests.
Everyone will always want security, but college is the best time to let yourself be vulnerable. Someone else is taking care of your utility bills. You don’t have a real world reputation yet; the world will forget if your first effort fails. You do not have a job to lose. Write that book, act in that movie, start that company. Do not be afraid of creating something even though you’ll be vulnerable. You can stand up and defend yourself, but the things you put in the world must speak for themselves. You need to be willing to let the public turn your work into a trash can fire.
If now is not the time, when will it be? Every “grown-up” I have spoken to regrets not doing something he gave up on when he was younger. College is an essentially risk-free laboratory to try whatever insane, inane thing you want. The only barrier is the fear of your own vulnerability.
Do not trade a crazy dream for security in college; with modern medicine, you have 60 years as a working adult to do that. Right now, do the thing you will tell stories about for those 60 years.
Rahul Desai is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. Unpopular Opinion appears every other Tuesday.
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