Grind, Burn, Pivot, Give: How Young Professionals Talk About Vocation


Craig Mattson has interviewed many young professionals about their work experiences and their lives following graduation. This is the first in a series about what he has learned and how it might inform our work with young adults about vocation.


Professors should pay more attention to two vocation stories that circulate in the first decade after college.

The first is the Grind Story. Sometimes this sounds like a saga of sailing far oceans and seeing strange creatures. But the plotline usually caps off with, “I’ve been working like 70-hour weeks, and it’s super hard, but I’m gonna get there.” Sometimes, this story sounds cheerfully heroic, like the guy I talked to who’d started an organization called Grind Greatly. Sometimes, though, the voices sound pretty grim.

The second narrative is the Burn Story. This dystopian tale about torching capitalism has three essential plot points: (1) Burn (2) Everything (3) Down. I don’t hear this story very often, honestly. Let’s just say that it doesn’t fit the aesthetics of a LinkedIn post. Still, some early-career professionals have so much to do and so little power to do it with that they wish they could tell the Burn Story.

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