20something profile: Marissa
This post was written by Marissa, who is working on building a product distribution business in rural Haiti:
At 18 years old, if you asked me about my life plan, I’d straighten my back, I’d grow the already present smile, and I’d inform you, “I’m going to save the world as an international lawyer working at the international criminal court…or something like that.”
After a somewhat dramatic epiphany that law school was not for me, I set to finding a new way to honor the root of my desires: solving problems on an international scale. It wasn’t pretty, and each step hasn’t flowed perfectly to the next, but my career thus far is a patchwork of some very cool experiences.
Approaching college graduation, a festering fear of failure dampened whatever celebratory feelings might have arisen. I was graduating in 2009 from a liberal arts school with an international relations degree in the pit of the recession. Panic at seeing my dream of international impact disintegrate with every sent job application pushed me to make a choice: pursue the dream no matter what, or financial stability.
I’m a dreamer, so I chose to use my first “real world” job, scanning college applications for my alma mater, as a landing pad before grad school. Though not glamorous, it provided me the money I needed to apply to programs in international development, references, and somewhere to serve as an extra pair of hands during the frantic college acceptance season.
Next, a much needed change of environment led me to Pittsburgh, where I learned the ways of international development practitioners. Analysis reports, mapping, and mock USAID proposals gave us all tastes of what we could expect once we made it to the “field.” But once again, the economy was still struggling to recover, so I took a job at one of the only internationally focused nonprofits in town. It was a godsend, but the longer I stayed, the more I realized how I was not a good fit for the job or the company.
Depleted from trying to make things work, I jumped into the unknown and moved in with my uncle and grandmother in Haiti to look for more field related work. After a month, the jump paid off in the form of a short term logistics and procurement coordinator position with my dream NGO, Technoserve. Four months later, I became frustrated with my very administrative job tasks, decided to call the experiment a failure, and head home.
But life would present an opportunity I couldn’t refuse: build a last mile distribution business in four months for the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership. At its end, the sense of accomplishment I felt has been unmatched. As I head home for a much needed break, I realize I may have finally embraced what this job market requires: flexibility and compromise.
Although I can point to the ways that I’ve grown from my professional experiences and been exposed to things that I’d never have the chance to otherwise, I will admit that it was painful, a hefty price to pay for following your dreams. I have never had a job where everything I could want was present, but those jobs put me in the right place at the right time, which is so much more important than the bullet points on a job description.
What has been the key for me to surviving in this job market is to identify the purpose of each job and hold onto that for dear life. That purpose is what kept me sane when I was stuffing envelopes or frantically managing several phone lines. Gripping that purpose helped me be okay with taking a job that gave me the experience I needed, but maybe not the money I deserved. It has been a tough road, as I know it has been for many others. Here’s to hoping that things continue to get better.