When I decided to go to graduate school, it was because I wanted to change my career. I wasn't unhappy in the career I had per se, but I was far from passionate about it. Over the six years I practiced as an engineer, I slowly developed this urge to find a career in something I was absolutely giddy about.
I realize that is not the norm.
How many people LOVE their jobs? They pay people to do them, usually because they wouldn't be doing it for free. I could easily go about my life, doing what I was doing, never changing the course much, and be okay, I'm sure. I don't think I would have been unhappy or terribly regretful. But part of me just itches to do something else. It's an itch I have been fortunate enough to have been able to scratch for the past couple years. (Thanks Andrew! Love you!)
And so for the past couple weeks, I've been doing a lot of thinking. I've been going through the rigor of interviews. I've been coordinating conferences for organizations. I've been somewhat frantic at the idea of needing to find a job, THE job, anything that will mean I'm gainfully employed and graduate school wasn't a complete waste of time and energy. Don't even talk to me about the financial investment [shudder]. Because frankly, a lot of my fellow classmates are joining the feeding frenzy right now. There is a palpable sense of panic. Will the economy turn around enough that companies will be hiring in time for graduation? It's hard not to feel uneasy in that environment, and wonder, "Should I be worried too?" People are "changing majors" like they change their panties, jumping into whatever seems to be lucrative and viable du jour. It's the Frenzy for Six Figs.
I haven't worried as much as many of them have, or at least not in the same way. My worry has stemmed from the idea that I haven't been really sure about the direction I want to go in, and I was hoping I would have had some kind of divine intervention, lightening bolts striking me directly in the head from God, revelation by now. The icky question always is: "So...What do you want to do when you get out of school?" It's a very fair question. I feel like I need to have a cocked and ready retort for that one, that sounds intelligent, progressive, and personal. I've spent a lot of time torn on how to respond. I usually exhale deeply, and give some kind of quip. Do I do something that I'm marketable in, based on my engineering/quant background, that doesn't really get me fired up? The idea of sitting behind financial models in Excel for the next several years induces vomit.
Or do I go for door number two? Door number two is scary and different and completely out of my comfort zone. It requires changes of epic [to me] proportions. It affects my entire family. There is no stability in door number two, and it could easily be a total failure. Can I handle that? Do people respect door number two? Does it even matter if they do or don't? Can I hack it? I'm swimming in questions, and teeter between self-doubt and complete exhilaration. I don't know where door number two leads, or if long term it'll even be the plan. However, I think I owe it to myself, especially to that version of myself from two years ago that went to school with loads of hope, to give it a shot. Because from my viewpoint, this whole experience is a waste if I don't even try.
So I have my work cut out for me now. Changing the way I have presented myself to potential employers, my classmates, and my career counselors is going to be a minor revolution. Frankly, I don't think many of them will be surprised. Maybe I wasn't as good at appearing to fit into the mold as I like to think. Too bad it took me this long to get my head straight. Or maybe I'm just glad this wasn't next year, or worse, 5 years from now.
Regardless, I know I have learned so much already, and I think the lessons that are to come will only make my life richer (<--- Andrew is hoping I mean monetarily there.) Now it's time to see what I'm really made of, when the work is all mine to do, and there is no shortcut. So in the immortal words of the world's best/worst movie: Bring it.