On Dream Jobs, Obstacles, and Privilege

I cannot say right now that I know what my dream job is. When I was a child, I would tell people that my dream was to become a lawyer. In many ways that dream was determined by what my limited experience as a 7-year old deemed as the best job to have—a job that involved reading, could potentially earn me a lot of money, and make my family proud. I have always been an analytical (ahem, argumentative) person and my parents would tell me time and time again that law was the best career suited for my talents. While attending protest events with my father in the early 90’s I saw that the lawyers were usually the most revered people in the room.

As time progressed, I realized that my interest was not to work in law per se, but to engage in careers that focused on improving society. This interest, combined with my international travel experiences, namely spending a large amount of my childhood in my parents’ native country of Guyana, has led me to a career in international development. While I am still new to the industry, I feel as though I am on the right path.

I’ve experienced many obstacles throughout my journey—mainly indirect race and class discrimination. I believe that one obstacle that I and many others face is correctly identifying and navigating social cues to facilitate entry or progression in a career. Sometimes phrased as “institutional culture”, these social norms/cues are cloaked in privilege, be it race, class, or generational.

We like to teach young kids that they can achieve anything through hard work, effort and persistence. While hard work, effort, and persistence do play a role, it would be extremely naïve to ignore the ways privilege impacts individual journeys. A large reason for where I am today is shaped by privilege: as a youth I attended a rigorous academic program that led to attending one of the top private schools, and later, universities in the United States, allowing me to learn the social cues I mention above.

I believe that a lot more can be done to improve inequality around the world, to reduce poverty and improve access to quality education and jobs. No matter where my journey takes me I will continue to work in the advocacy of the less fortunate – using the gifts, talents, and opportunities given to me to help others.

tnorton Durham County, North Carolina, United States of America