On Vulnerability, Plans, and the Crooked Path

I’ve been having a lot of conflicting feelings lately, and they all stem from my own sense of vulnerability.

I’m gonna rewind here a bit. Since I started college in 2008, I’ve tried very hard to do the ‘right’ thing. I graduated in 4 years, knew I was destined for something other than advertising, found my calling in academic advising, went straight on to grad school and finished my master’s in a year and some change. I did everything pretty formulaically. The next step in the equation for me was getting a job in higher education. This is where things start to sort of veer off track and life takes the wheel. I’ve been applying to jobs that I don’t have enough experience for to even be considered for an interview. I’ve been networking my arse off and the general consensus is that yes, I need experience on top of my degree. Meanwhile, I need to be a current student at a brick and mortar campus in Pittsburgh to get an internship, and volunteering isn’t something most offices will allow you to do as you can’t just ‘work’ for free. And FERPA etc.

That brings me to where I am now. For the past five years I’ve been able to pride myself on my plans going as, um, planned. And now?  I am extremely vulnerable. I have a master’s degree and I’m working retail for minimum wage. WOW this was so not a part of my plan. I guess you could call me a control freak of sorts, and not being able to control this part of my life plans is making me a bit crazy. I’m stuck in the experience cycle.

It’s obviously not something exclusive to me or my situation but it’s hard not to take personally. Some days I feel like giving up on pursuing advising and channeling my energy elsewhere. Other days, I feel grateful to have a job, no matter what kind it is, and I construct unconventional dream plans to worm my way into an advising job somehow. Sometimes I feel alone. And then there are days like today where people I’ve only met through Twitter shine through the clouds like sunshine I haven’t seen in months. And even though I’m no closer to a job, knowing I’m not alone helps immensely. Being vulnerable doesn’t have to be something I bear privately. I can be openly vulnerable. It’s pretty frightening, but it’s so much easier than internally feeling embarrassed that I didn’t immediately get a job out of grad school that uses my degree.

We’re all on a path, and for most people my age, that path is crooked. There are more unemployed and underemployed people than there are job openings, we all have a good chunk of debt from our education, and it’s a buyer’s market, to put it in real estate terms. Employers can afford to be ultra choosy with job candidates because there are so. Damn. Many of us.

I’m completely unsure as to where my professional life is headed at this point. I’m vulnerable and my pride has suffered quite a bit as a result. There. I said it. And I put it on the internet so there’s no taking it back now.

Here’s to the crooked path, vulnerability, and the willingness to accept the unpredictability of my life going forward.

Thanks for reading :)

2 thoughts on “On Vulnerability, Plans, and the Crooked Path

  1. MK says:

    Love this post – I just started blogging again after a looooong hiatus and I plan on sharing this with my readers since it echos so loudly with me.

    Who is to say what the right path is to take? I’m a “backwards” res life pro, meaning that I started working in res life, then decided to get my Masters in higher ed, so now I’m juggling both (among other things I am currently juggling). It’s scary – I have so many questions and as I get ready to look for a new job in a big city, I find myself feeling really… well, naked (!) because the market is scary, the path is crooked, and close colleagues have questions that I’m not sure how to answer that leave me feeling like I’m unsure of myself or my career choice (even though, like you, I am SO passionate about working with college students).

    You said something in a Tweet that I really loved: “I know it’s counterproductive to pretend you don’t feel what you feel, so I’m giving putting it out there a try”. That vulnerability, as scary as I just made it sound, has given me so much freedom and happiness. Once I finally started admitting my fears to my colleagues and coworkers, the more driven I became to succeed and the less scared I became. This is large in part to the support and the understanding I received.

    From one vulnerable student affairs chick to another: I support you from afar! Keep on being honest with yourself and with others about where you’re at – it’s scary, but it’s worth it!

    Great post!


    • Jessica Philo says:

      Thank you so much Mary Kate! I love love love that posting about my vulnerability has encouraged others to share their feelings of vulnerability as well. It can be so easy to act like everything is fine and will go fine, while internally you’re really feeling like everything is up in the air and you have no idea where anything will land. Please feel free to share with your readers and I look forward to reading your posts post blogging hiatus! Us SA ladies have to stick together!


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