Another common misconception about the twenties is that it’s the last chance for freedom before real life begins. Dr. Meg Jay shares one of her client’s worries about letting go of her freedom too soon…
“I encouraged Helen to get some capital. I suggested she start by finding work that could go on a resume.
‘This is my chance to have fun,’ she resisted. ‘To be free before real life sets in.’
‘How is this fun? You’re seeing me because you are miserable.’
‘But I’m free!’
‘How are you free? You have free time during the day when most everyone you know is working. You’re living on the edge of poverty. You can’t do anything with that time.’
Helen looked skeptical, as though I were trying to talk her out of her yoga mat and shove a briefcase into her hand. She said, ‘You’re probably one of those people who went straight from college to graduate school.’
‘I’m not. In fact, I probably went to a better graduate school because of what I did in between.”
Helen’s brow furrowed.
I thought for a moment and said, ‘Do you want to know what I did after college?’
‘Yeah, I do,’ she challenged.
Helen was ready to listen.”
After college Dr. Meg Jay got a job with Outward Bound as a grunt in logistics, driving a van through the Blue Ridge Mountains. When an opening for an instructor position came up, she quickly seized the opportunity. She traveled through North Carolina, Maine, Colorado, Boston and more. She led trips for a wide variety of groups, from war vets to CEO’s to school groups. Jay recalls that when she started with Outward Bound she thought she would only be with them for a couple of years. Before she knew it 4 years had flown by. Jay comments on a visit back to her college town…
“Once, on a break between courses, I visited my old college town and saw an undergraduate mentor. I still remember her saying, ‘What about graduate school?’ That was my own dose of reality. I did want to go to graduate school and was growing tired of Outward Bound life. My mentor said if I wanted to go, I needed to do it. ‘What are you waiting for?’ she asked. It seemed I was waiting for someone to tell me to get going. So I did.”
Jay went straight to preparing herself for grad school. She made all the preparations for her portfolio and the interviewing process. She quickly realized that no one wanted to talk about her portfolio pieces or discuss scholarly articles and researches with her. After seeing her resume every interviewer wanted to talk about her Outward Bound experience.
Jay had a piece of capital that was different from other graduate school applicants. It made her memorable. So memorable that she was known as the Outward Bound girl until she got her doctorate from Berkeley.
From Dr. Meg Jay’s experience we learn that not only is it OK to take some time before entering a career or graduate school, but gathering unique experience can be very valuable. Unique experiences set us apart from a crowded applicant pool. It can give the interviewer or employer a visual to remember us by.
It is also important to notice that once Jay’s undergraduate mentor reminder her about her original desire to go to graduate school she took action right away. If Jay had put off preparations for graduate school she may have spent too much time at Outward Bound. Even though Outward Bound gave her some capital, too much time there may have set her back.
Now that we have understand what identity capital is and have the great example of Erik Erikson and Dr. Meg Jay to follow, we can discuss some of the practical advice Jay gives while we wrap up the chapter on identity capital in The Defining Decade.
- The Defining Decade: Identity Capital Part 1 (asktheyoungprofessional.wordpress.com)
- The Defining Decade: Identity Capital Part 2 (asktheyoungprofessional.wordpress.com)