Secrets of job hunting

I always ask my students, most of whom are from younger generations, to never ask me anything about job hunting. Well, my social status as a TOEFL instructor means that I can help solve most questions about TOEFL, but does not mean that I can answer all the questions from my students, especially when I have virtually no background experience similar to theirs. One that falls into this category is a job-hunting process, or to be more precise, “Which job should I take, a well-known large corporation that my parents know, but I am not attracted to at all, or a venture business that my parents won’t appreciate, but keeps attracting me?”

It looks like a TOEFL writing prompt, but to tell the truth, it’s far from it. The difference? The former does not affect anyone or anything but your score, while the latter, or this particular question that I am asked here, directly affects the rest of the questioner’s life. You know what I do then? I always do my best to avoid giving any suggestion (now this is also different from TOEFL, which requires a definite answer). I will fill the designated time slot by sharing my backgrounds, nodding to the student’s parents, nodding to the student him/herself, repeating the question, until finally time is up and I say, “Oh, gotta run now. I have a class in five minutes.”

OK, just in case you are interested in my backgrounds, I can share with you a part of what I went through.

I graduated from university with a degree in law, then got a job with a construction business. This is a decision that I successfully arrived at after all the listening to other people involved. I was not opinionated or anything, so I wanted to keep everyone happy. My professor actually offered me an opportunity to get a job at a (prestigious) bank, but I refused (which made him supermad), knowing that I would end up quitting the job because that was not anything that I had in mind. My parents, neither of whom had even gone to high school, insisted that I work at the local municipal office.  According to them, being a government employee was the key to a  peaceful, stable life. Again, I rejected it. I knew that (no offense!) I would either die out of boredom or die out of frustration. So the construction business seemed to me like a happy medium. It was stable, or even prosperous (consider I was in the midst of the bubble economy). It seemed to me like I would get some free time to brush up whatever I wanted to. It also seemed to me that I would be able to save some money for the day I would be ready for the next step.

I thought this way and decided to get a job in this industry just around this time of my senior year, and got a job next week. (See? That’s what happened in the bubble economy. University students chose where to work; companies would almost always accept them.) In retrospect, at that time, I was ignorant in two ways. I had thought that the company would fully consider my future perspectives and assign this promising newly employed to the department where I’d thought I should belong. Secondly, I didn’t have a clear future goal myself except for studying abroad. Neither took place. Then I quit the job.

I know people give advice most of the time based on their own experience. This is so true with me when I am asked about job-hunting.  I tend to reply with two assumptions: my students are not in the bubble economy anymore, so any job can be so hard to come by; my students, still in their early 20’s, have not yet discovered a hidden treasure in themselves. If you think this way, it is very likely that your brain will stop functioning, because the clever side of your brain (?) realizes that what advice you give them will turn out in vain. Either you will be regarded as anachronistic, or they will discover something so new that your advice will never apply.

If I had asked my professor what kind of jobs I should get in those days, I would not have received a good answer. I could not verbalize what my future should be like. Why? I didn’t know that there was a test called TOEFL then. I knew it only after I quit the construction business. Time will tell, but it takes too long. It took me another 9 years to finally realize that I wanted to teach TOEFL.

I am not in a position to convey any wisdom of job hunting.





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