The danger of stagnation

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“As soon as you find a job, look for your next job.”

Gail Collins, author and New York Times op-ed columnist, offered this piece of unusual advice Thursday. Although she was hosting a talk and question-and-answer session with a lecture hall of prospective journalists, she meant the advice to apply generally. Students in all fields of study should be forward-thinking about the direction of their desired careers in order to avoid job stagnation. UT students should not only invest in their educations but also continuously make the most of available resources and portray themselves as inventive and marketable to survive in the modern economy.

It’s a difficult piece of advice to embrace, especially in a time when students entering the work force are constantly reminded of the disastrous nature of the economy.

Collins recognizes that students are generally relieved and satisfied that “someone is paying [them] to do something” but warns of the dangers of remaining a stagnant employee in a position that offers little room for advancement. Because of the increasingly competitive job market, students may be unwilling to sacrifice the sense of security they feel in their current position. But she argued that risks need to be taken in order to sustain a career, especially to advance in one.

The argument isn’t that students should avoid entry-level jobs and expect to immediately start a stable career upon graduation. A career is progressively built from a series of essential beginner jobs. However, to climb the job ladder, new employees must maintain an innovative and adaptable mindset. Many young people are stuck with the negative attitude that their college degree will be worthless by the time they graduate. With this kind of attitude toward the value of their educations, their prophecies become self-fulfilled. Perhaps we should not be questioning what education provides for us but how we can take the active lead and apply our education to the practical world.

Collin’s own past offers an example of how the combination of persistence and innovation worked together to propel her forward in the job market. While she holds a traditional bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in government, the biggest accomplishment on her resume is her founding of the Connecticut State News Bureau, a news service providing coverage of the Connecticut State Capital and Connecticut politics.

She described the hectic beginnings of this project, working from 8 a.m. till midnight with her friend and partner Trish Hall, producing an average of 30 stories a day for eight years. When she sold the company in 1977, she continued to jump around in the field, taking multiple freelance jobs until she ultimately landed at The New York Times.

The moral of the story is that Collins never stayed in one place for too long. She moved forward, developing connections and experience along the way. Most importantly, she had an idea and she ran with it, creating a pioneering service that gave her a credible and recognizable reputation in her field.

With the ever-evolving expansion of knowledge in the 21st century, students possess the opportunity to advance their own novel ideas. But recent graduates must look beyond the negative status quo of the economy and be willing to take professional gambles, embrace innovation and pursue their aspirations to the fullest.

-Manescu is an international relations and journalism freshman.