“What’s a real job anyway?” my friend said to me, after I told her about some of my possible post-college plans, a vast majority of them involving the so-called “real job.”

It was a fair enough question. I’d never given much thought to what it was exactly that I wanted to do after Keene State turned me around, kicked me on the butt, and tossed me out on my own. I know which areas I am particularly interested in being involved (journalism and public policy mostly), but I can’t exactly imagine a specific job to which I’m aspiring.

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I guess when I say that perhaps after graduation I’ll set out looking for a “real job,” what that really means is I’m looking for some sort of job where I work 9-5 behind a desk, make a reasonable salary, and wear a tie to work on a daily basis.

I suppose I’m stuck in some 1950s American dream fantasy where I go to this job five days a week, my fictional wife stays home with my fictional children, and eventually I retire and live relatively comfortably for the rest of my days. Sounds like a dream doesn’t it?

Perhaps it was economically driven, or inspired by the 1999 film “Office Space,” there isn’t much left out there for that real job I envision. I’m sure there are still jobs out there that will not only pay my bills, but also give me the joy of sitting behind a desk for days on end; but for both employers and their prospective employees, it’s not a selling point.

No jobs offer the notion of sitting behind a desk at a computer all day as an appealing job trait. Everyone hates the idea of a “desk job” but most people have that in their head as a “real job.”

Interestingly enough, many companies where the majority of the work is computer driven often sell their offices as someplace cool and hip, where you wear jeans and t-shirts and hang out while you work. The Google, Twitter, and Facebook offices are prime examples of this.

As much as the stereotypical office job constitutes a real job, people don’t actually really wants to sit behind a desk all day in the same office for the rest of their lives. To continue with my “Office Space” metaphor, no one really dreams of sitting down and typing out TPS reports or memos all day long, where they have to deal with cases of the “Mondays” and incompetent management.

Despite the fear and loathing of the “Office Space” job, whenever people seem to talk about getting a “real job” that’s exactly what they mean. They want out of a “real job” exactly what I want. 9-5 hours, weekends off, where you dress relatively nicely – all in all, they want security and stability out of their “real job.”

While this idea of a “real job” continues to be lost in a dated, idealistic view, it does not hurt to consider a more progressive and modern approach to job hunting following graduation.

Perhaps with the exchange of a little job security you can have more opportunities with a company just starting out. Or perhaps if you could take a lower salary, you could do good work with a small non-profit. While the idea of sitting behind the desk at an office of a well-established company may be more secure, finance-friendly and ultimately fulfill the ideas of a “real job” perhaps as a generation it’s time we started to look elsewhere.


Chelsea Mellin can be contacted at cmellin@keene-equinox.com


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