My wife gives a dollar to every homeless person she sees. I buy coffee for every college graduate I know. Usually I break down and buy breakfast, too.
I'm not sure either my wife or I is doing much good.
The other day I met with a young communication graduate just entering the workforce—or hoping to. As background for our talk, I assigned her this Huffington Post essay I wrote about my first boss, Larry Ragan—and his painfully comical series of early jobs, including one at the company that sold false teeth by mail.
I had a rough career start of my own—and I think everyone does. How could you not, leaving your heady senior year and coasting through a summer honeymoon and entering the fall, into a work world you need but that seems oblivious to you, if not slightly contemptuous?
Here's the pep talk I give: I understand exactly how scary and weird a time this is. The weirdness won't last forever, and the fear will become manageable and if you're determined to find meaning in your work, you will. And if you find meaning, you'll find joy. But it might take awhile.
When I have said that in as many ways as I know how, I tell them I have a conference call in a half hour and I have to go—oh, what these kids would do to have a conference call!—and it's been nice meeting them and to let me know if I can help them along the way, and in any case, to be sure to let me know where they land.
And, walking home, I secretly hope that, if I really need a gig someday when I've become too old and strange to be hired by anyone else, they'll be in a position to hire me, and they'll remember how, when they were looking for their first job, I was the only one who really understood.