Following the heart to a 'real job'

September 17, 2008
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Just what is a 'real job?'

Most college students define the term in light of Adam Smith’s capitalism — high pay, having an office and so on, says Purdue University communications professor Robin Patric Clair.

Clair, who recently wrote a book called “Why Work: The Perceptions of a ‘Real Job,’” says the view usually is shaped by parents.

“Parents want to know, what will you do with that degree?” Clair says. “It’s critical that we take a more critical look.”

Students not only impose a mainstream view of work on themselves, but they also tend to judge others by the same criteria, often without thinking, Clair says.

One student dumped a partner when the student realized the partner preferred skilled labor to a profession. Clair recalls another fearing she would be ridiculed if she admitted to wanting to stay at home and raise children.

Clair believes students should follow their hearts as much as possible, and sometimes that leads to service, such as the Peace Corps.

She admits to there being practical limitations to her advice. A big one is paying off student loans. Some students, and many parents, prefer a boring job that pays well to one that stirs the soul but leaves them perilously close to poverty.

What do you think? What should students weigh when choosing work?

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