Dear recent graduates and aspiring young professionals,
You remember the days and nights of studying. You remember the times you took tests unprepared. But I tell you that these trials were nothing compared to the stresses, strains, and agonies of beginning a career or searching for work in your field. Many people move to Washington with dreams of climbing the political ladder to the top, almost like the characters in the TV series House of Cards (without all the unethical behavior, of course). But the reality is that a steady climb up the ladder in Washington isn’t as simple as it seems.
I can be one of many experts in your career field of choice that will tell you time and again about the importance of networking, targeting resumes, and researching positions in organizations. While all of this is necessary for searching for work here (or anywhere for that matter), there is one thing that happens to get lost in the shuffle, one thing that is as vital as searching for work. It is this: relax and take a break.
Why would I write this, you ask? I have lived here almost 7 years, and I can tell you that this city is a place that can hurt you: mentally, physically, financially, and emotionally. Time in Washington can certainly enhance a career, but it can also stress you out in many ways.
I remember the long hours working as an intern.
I remember the long hours working in an entry-level job. I remember the hours of networking, and even the long hours of working in a second job.
I can tell you that I quickly wore myself out.
Remember, Washington is more than just a city of office buildings and presentations at prestigious think-tanks- It is a city of parks, museums, historic sites, music, and festivities. Take advantage of these in your free hours. Go for a run in Rock Creek Park, a boat-ride on the Potomac, a bike ride along the George Washington Parkway to Mount Vernon. In short, taking care of the body and spirit is essential to navigating the day-to-day affairs of work and searching for work. Doing these things can also provide you with a perspective about this place that you wouldn’t have had before. It also makes it easy to bring up topics to converse about in a networking situation, and you never know where those conversations may lead.
Why do I title this as out of the box advice? My answer is simple. Mens sana in corpore sano (A Sound Mind in a Sound Body). No one will look after your physical health for you here. No one will care about your mental health (and I say again your spiritual health). You must take care of you. The other day I went on a long bike ride from my place in Silver Spring, Maryland to Bethesda, Maryland, via the Rock Creek Park Trail. It was a sunny day filled full of blue sky, white clouds, budding trees, and fresh air. It was 10-mile round trip, and I came back refreshed, ready to plan for the week. Whether you are in a new job search or will begin one soon, don’t forget to take care of yourself. It can mean the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful life here.
Take this out of the box advice and flourish!
Serge Thomas is a nonprofit and political professional living in Silver Spring, MD. He worked on the Mitt Romney 2012 Presidential Campaign and on state legislative races in two states at the grassroots level.