When I was all of 6 years old, I used to say with the utmost conviction, “When I grow up I am going to be the President!” I felt limitless possibilities existed and if I did your homework and got straight As, I could be anything or anyone that I wanted to be. The magic of childhood; one outfit change could turn you into a doctor, a painter, a fashion designer, a musician, an artist, a clown, a chef, and what have you!
As I grew older, people started asking me what I “really” wanted to be. This confused me a little. I thought I said I wanted to be the President. Parents, teachers, relatives and even strangers some times, crushed my fanciful childhood ambitions forcing me to choose something more ‘realistic’. I was asked to ‘grow up’ and decide my career path.
When I came to business school thinking that I knew exactly what I wanted to do, the array of options here throw me off completely. I was an electronics and telecomm engineer, worked in project management consulting with a bank, taught English and Math to third graders, started a mentorship non-profit, worked as a part-time fashion model, a social columnist and a cartoonist; in short I was the most confused person around. I needed to figure out what I really wanted to do!
When you come to business school they tell you that you can be anything you want to be. You can be a consultant, an investment banker, a marketing manager, a General Manager, an entrepreneur, or even an inventor at the iLab. If that wasn’t enough, you could be all these things in all these functions like strategy, information technology, corporate finance, organizational design, M&A. The side effect being that you end up signing up and paying dues for the consulting club, the technology club, the general management club, the emerging markets club, the net impact club, the women in business club and many more that aren’t even sure you even recall now. Suddenly you feel like too much choice has turned into a bane and you wish you could have your second year coach simply tell you what you should become! Alas, if only it were that simple.
Before you know it, you are in the middle of recruiting week when your calendar is flooding with invites, you are running out of post-it notes, you have worn business formals and heels way too many times during the week. You wonder how you can be at two briefings at once and you start eliminating companies based on your gut feeling. You start losing track of who you spoke to, what you spoke about and which company they were from. You are dangerously stacking up on the ‘thank you’ and follow up emails you need to send. You are eating way too much great free food piling on the pounds. You don’t even want to think about the bunch load of new cases they kept in your mailbox. The online modules you need to complete for courses you have even started. You wonder if this was really a week off? Or was it just a teaser for all the crazy weeks of classes, recruiting and socializing to come?
I often admire people who think they know exactly what they want to be when they come to business school. But for all those who are still looking for their passion, switching careers, exploring opportunities, pushing themselves out of their comfort zone, attending every single conference, briefing, networking event and lunch in the hope of the epiphany moment; I would say just ‘trust the process’. The Career Development Centre, the second years, the alumni, the recruiters and the professors ask us to do just this.
I for one have now put in all my faith in ‘the process.” With the solace that at the end of it, when I grow up, even if I don’t become the president, at least I know that I am a little closer on the path to becoming one. Of course, I also bought a whole new set of post-it notes.