This week’s posts are from an interview I did with Rick Browne, the Director of Xavier University’s Career Center. The interview will be posted in three parts: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Rick Browne Interview: Part Three

Browne says he sees students struggle with insecurities that impact their career choices all the time, especially when he was at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he was the Assistant Director for Career Exploration and Testing at the Student Counseling Service. “Alums would come in and say, ‘I hate my life. You’ve got to help me.’ Most of them were in very well paid jobs that didn’t fit them at all. These were folks who were 24 years old, made 97K last year, and knew they were going to make even more next year. And they’d readily say that they would take ¼ of their salary if they could find happiness in their work and life.  People think there are easy fixes in life. If I just made enough money, I’d be happy.  But it’s never that easy. It’s hard. What you choose to do with your life will dictate a lot of things about your life in ways that are hard to control.  While no one is satisfied with their life all the time, those who find ways to connect their life with their truth are satisfied more of the time.”

Often, he sees kids trying to make up for what their parents haven’t done, selecting lives that meet parent’s unmet needs. “It’s so hard to go through, day after day, with all the messages we get from others in our life and all the baggage we carry. It’s hard to ascertain, ‘which voice is my voice and what do I want in a career?’ I can’t help but empathize. We live in a world where people want you to put on the happy face and act like everything is great with the life you are supposed to want. It may be easier, but people do that to the detriment of their own well-being. I tell students all the time when it comes to careers, you’re picking a life, not a job. It takes an everyday courage to pick wisely, to be yourself and exist against the grain of what others say you should want.”

“Much of the career advice out there is soulless,” Browne says. “I don’t always think that traditional career advice serves people in a comprehensive way, it tends to focus on only parts of the individual.” He advises students not to “simply think about their interests, or if they think they will like a particular job or not.”  He encourages students to ask, “How will I look doing that job?  Is there a narrative I can tell myself about how the job will fit my true self and my goals in life, and does the narrative feel genuine?  If not, there is a problem.”

“Happiness is not linear. You don’t work towards it; it is around you and accessible all the time. It’s like swatting a gnat. You may often swing and miss, but if you’re persistent sometimes you make contact.” A job isn’t necessarily going to make us happy, Browne explains, but if we are lucky we will find a job that, “despite it being difficult, at the end of the day it creates meaning for us, a meaning we care about.”