Go Your Own Way

The recession is a great time to follow your dreams, but you should follow your instincts

By Nina Elias

Illustration by Chelsea Fierst

You’ve heard it all before.

“And what’s your major?”

“I’m a journalism major. Magazine journalism, actually.”

Snicker, snicker, throat clearing.

“Oh, um, wow. That’s, uh, great. This is a pretty rough time for newspapers and stuff. Good luck with that.”

I don’t care if you’re studying sociology or saxophone, it’s both the best and worst time to be in college. It’s the best because we’re delaying our entry into the job market as long as possible, but it’s the worst because our impending ejection from the wealthy hands of a massive educational institution hangs like a cloud of icy shit over us.

So what to do with a $200,000 education (which is mostly loans), a raging recession, and a degree in a field that’s virtually jobless?

Follow your dreams!

At least that’s what the people at Readers Digest, Psychology Today, and countless self-help books tell us. Recent graduates are advised to throw out their five-year plans and pursue their true passions — mostly business ventures — regardless of degrees. Apparently it’s perfect timing, but it sounds more to me like a sugar coat on, “You’re not going to make any money anyway, so why not be poor and happy?”

Sure, try your hand at making sushi. Go ahead and audition for that nudist performance troupe. Finally patent that eco-friendly toothpick. But beware: no good will come of these ventures. Dropping everything you’ve ever worked for to become a cupcake artisan isn’t going to make our country’s situation any better.

Experts like Edward D. Hess, professor of business administration at the University of Virginia, believe “down time” is great incentive to start a business, but it won’t be an easy ride. It takes commitment and worthwhile, marketable ideas.

Hess is probably right, but you need money to make money. Thousands of people with “good ideas” will jump into entrepreneurship without any training. Cold turkey CEOs make beelines to the bank and demand loans to start their “dream businesses.” No more working for the man, right? Wrong. The “man” quickly becomes the IRS. And when your business tanks, add that eco-friendly toothpick loan onto your student loans.

If you’re in an industry sucking a big one, don’t miss out on an opportunity for true innovation. The most obvious solution to your industry’s recession woes may be right at your fingertips. So stick to your guns, be creative, and remember: you’ll make more money starting a movement than creating that eco-friendly toothpick. Trust me.

illustration by Chelsea Fierst