The New York Times recently published an article, Big Paycheck or Service? Students are Put to Test, about graduates who go into school with high ideals for changing the world, but come out working for big business. (Hat tip to Echoing Green for the link).
According to the article, Harvard professor, Howard Gardner, is teaching “reflection” seminars at Harvard, Amherst and Colby, "which he hopes will push undergraduates to think more deeply about the connection between their educations and aspirations."
Aimée Baker of The Refutation Process writes in her post, Public Service and the Graduate, that the expense of college, and the debt it creates, is what causes students to choose careers that pay big bucks. Only when the prices change will students' choices change.
Nathaniel of do good well thinks that a lot of what influences students' career choices has to do with what "seems possible," and that nonprofits need to do more to make students aware of what opportunities are available to them. His "question of the week" is, Do colleges and society need to incentivize public service and nonprofit work after college?
I'm wondering, is there is a medium ground between the big paycheck and service?
Whenever people make choices about the work they do, there are three variables that they balance: time, money and passion. At different times in our lives, putting more energy into one of these variables than the others may be our priority, but emphasizing one at the complete expense of the others usually doesn't bring happiness.
Seems to me that students need to be taught how to prioritize and balance time, money and passion. Students who are planning on entering high paying careers need to learn how to make their businesses sustainable, and how to give back to their community through philanthropy or volunteerism. Students who are attracted to lower paying careers in service need to learn the importance of taking care of themselves (including financially), as well as others.
In some ways, it isn't what work you do that matters, it's how you do it. If you work for a company whose values you don't agree with to pay the bills, do you try to set up a company fundraiser, buy organic and fair trade goods, or volunteer for a nonprofit on the weekend? If you work for a low paying nonprofit, do you make sure to not overwork, ask for a raise when appropriate, and have a long-term plan for how you're going to save for the future?
Finally, whether you work for the big paycheck or for service, are you kind to other people? What you do definitely impacts the world, but who you are while you are doing it does too.
Flickr photo credit: . . . Middle . . . uploaded by mistress_f.