I embarked on my job search with a light heart right after my graduation from college at the end of May. Surely, I thought, after I’d won several hefty cash-prize-wrapped writing awards, gained great praise from all of my professors, worked in our PR office to write articles marketing the college to perspective students, and spent hours entertaining alumni, someone might want to hire me in the real world. Right?

. . . Right?

Well, if someone wanted me, he or she didn’t bother to speak up.  After I spent several weeks filling out more applications than I care to mention, my inbox and cell phone message receptacles remained empty.  They stayed so, disappointingly, well into my second month of my job search for an entry-level position in publishing or journalism.

In my distress, I turned to my friend, Charlotte (Brontë), for advice.  Specifically, I turned to a gift she’d given me, the novel Jane Eyre.

Ah, Jane. I feel ya, girl.

Like me, Jane only has her education, her high aptitude and quick mind, and some experience as student teacher to land her first comfortable situation working as a governess/au pair (which I did during college).   Her first venture into the real world as a penniless woman occurs some two-thirds of the way through the novel, right after Jane discovers that Rochester is a syphilitic-wife-stashing scoundrel and runs away with nothing more than the paltry contents of her reticule in hand.  She winds up in the care of a clergyman, one Mr. Rivers, who reluctantly offers her the equivalency of a McDonald’s job to help her earn her bed and board.

Jane accepts this position “‘with all [her] heart’”—happy to have any honest work to do.  Rivers seems surprised at her alacrity.

“‘But you comprehend me?’” he verifies. “‘It is a village school [you will be teaching]; your scholars will be only poor girls—cottager’s children—at the best, farmers’ daughters. Knitting, sewing, reading, writing, ciphering, will be all you will have to teach.  What will you do with your accomplishments?  What with the largest portion of your mind—sentiments—tastes?’”

Without a hint of regret, Jane replies, ‘“Save them till they are wanted. They will keep.’”1

There is wisdom in this choice, I think.  I’m taking heart from this because, on June 30th,  I had a breakthrough of sorts.

I’d ordered a salad in a restaurant and asked for extra ranch dressing, regardless of the calories.   I made the waitress chuckle when I announced I was being “bad.”  That self-same waitress also overheard my despair over the job market as I chatted with my mother, so she offered to vouch for me as a waitress at the restaurant.  Her name was Donna, and she decidedly liked me.

“If that (meaning the superfluity of salad dressing) is the only ‘bad’ thing you do, honey,  I like you already,” Donna proclaimed, throwing in many other fondly delivered observations that I was “a lot like [her] daughter.”

And I thought about it, about both the job offer and what she’d said about me.  The worst thing I’ve done so far? Probably the night of my twenty-first birthday, with a grand total of four drinks spread over five and a half hours.  Never to be repeated again.

But then I thought back to the Jane-Eyrian question:  Does one simply leave to rot one’s expensive college education for a menial job with a paycheck during a bad economy?

I decided that my answer to that question was, “yes.”

After all, my brain, so long as I stay away from illegal drugs, will still be there for me—in all its shining semi-brilliance—whenever I need it to perform high-level tasks in my ideal career setting.  Whenever that happens.

I was in a peaceful state of resolve when I handed the job application into Donna and her manager, Julie.  Apparently, the server situation at the restaurant isn’t too dire, since they haven’t called me back, but I think I learned a lesson simply by embracing the opening.

I learned that, just because I was a great student in school, it doesn’t mean I necessarily deserve a great job.  It also doesn’t mean I can’t greatly perform the daily tasks of an unglamorous job out in the real-world market.

I think this realization is called “humility. ” Acting on it might be called “character.”  The wise old waitress named Donna recognized that I was ready to try a taste of both.

Another thought for today, provided by Boundless Webzine’s John Thomas’ timely article, “Pursue Career or Care for Dad” (a timely piece for me, anyway, since I’m caring for my mom and buried my dad this winter), offers this:

 “I’m only making the point that nothing is more miserable than having an exciting job that is out of the will of God, and nothing is more satisfying than following God somewhere on a path we might not have chosen, and discovering He had purpose in it. If we follow God we never, never need to worry about being fulfilled in what we’re doing.”

The rest of Thomas’ article is here: http://www.boundless.org/2005/answers/a0002067.cfm

Other reference:

1. Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. 1847.  New York: Norton Critical Edition, 2001.  p.303.