Surayya Walters | Read this before accepting your return offer
I never planned on becoming a management consultant or investment banker. When I applied to Wharton, I knew exactly who I wanted to be: an entrepreneur. I’ve always been the girl with 10 business plans in a notebook. My years at Wharton made my entrepreneurial ambitions more of a side project than a true career path. I’ve been told to do the ‘sure thing’ and put my entrepreneurial dreams on the back burner more times than I remember.
I was bold about my aversion to four-year plans, but when my first year arrived I wondered if I was progressing professionally enough. My professional excursions – teaching in a summer business program, working as a project manager for a small nonprofit in Brooklyn – didn’t seem impressive to most. Would I become the only “unsuccessful” Wharton graduate? So when the opportunity arose, I did like everyone else: I got a cushy internship in management consulting.
When I accepted my internship I thought maybe I would return to this company and be the person who can brag about an offer of return on LinkedIn. Today, I am wriggling with the idea of trading my ambitions for money. My internship drained my energy. Excel sheets, poll coding, and PowerPoint presentations didn’t appeal to my creative and adventurous nature. I knew I was not giving everything and I lacked passion. At the end of my internship, I made a bold decision: I told the company I didn’t want to come back. I left the money and the status on the table. I just wasn’t keen on the job. I could no longer lie to them or to myself.
I rejected the opportunity to continue working in consulting. I’m a Wharton senior out of work, and I’m doing fine. I sleep seven hours a day and have peace. I want us to change our perception of professional development at Wharton and Penn. Success for me has never been to be rich or to work for a blue chip company. Students need time to make informed decisions about their future. Between the lack of targeted professional preparation, the pressure to conform to the expectations of our school or our major and the pursuit of wealth, some seniors have deviated from honoring our basic desires. I would like all of the senior Penns who are considering returning to that hated job to read this and think about it.
I have always wondered why there is a lack of investment in helping undergraduates find useful professions. MBA students have career coaches, why not undergraduates? To be Generation Z is to seek meaningful careers, at higher rates than previous generations. While older generations of students may only want a profitable career, times are changing rapidly, with students also caring about the social and environmental impact. Your first choice of career should be a natural extension of your goal or your curiosity. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that someone goes into counseling to “find out what they want to do”. The problem is, why would you have to graduate from an Ivy League school with an endowment of $ 20.5 billion, only to have no idea which career path interests you most?
Then there is the huge problem of wanting to be like those around us, also known as the principle of conformity. College is a very short four year period of your life. The average life expectancy in the United States is 78.7 years. The college represents 5% of the average lifespan. Hopefully, it’s not too depressing to think about it, but it does raise a few questions. If you don’t like consulting or banking: are you going to let Penn (5% of your life) force you to sign up for years of miserable work? Penn will have a very small (albeit impactful) role in the biggest project of my life. I won’t let Penn or Wharton make me feel guilty by making me feel like I “wasted my studies” by refusing my offer to return.
Don’t let your studies or major limit your options after graduation. If anything, we should see our Ivy League education as a huge asset, allowing us to have a safety net in case our last career excursion doesn’t work out. The Washington Post reported that only 27% of college graduates have careers that align with their major. Forbes also published an article titled “Six Reasons Why Your College Major Doesn’t Matter,” explaining that 93% of employers actually believe that strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills are more important than your field of study. . Since depression after college is quite common, there is even more reason to pursue what really interests you.
Some feel pressured to refuse the allure of an interesting and exciting career because of the money. Money can be a big factor in business decision making, but it shouldn’t be the only one. In fact, there is no guarantee that a better paying job will improve job satisfaction or even emotional well-being. In 2010, economist Daniel Kahneman discovered that gains in emotional well-being level off after earning $ 75,000. The fact that entrepreneurs can work for months or years in a business that is not profitable shows that there are other reasons why we choose to work. To be successful in the long run, we need to tap into higher ideals to work and build a career, especially as we move from college to full adulthood.
It’s time to tell the truth about the growing impacts of choosing a job you don’t like. Before you accept your return offer, read this and think about your life. Who do you really want to become? What do you want to be Listen to yourself and choose accordingly. The pandemic has underscored why we should not waste time on a path that is not ours. In the words of famous poet Mary Oliver, it’s time to think about what you really and truly want to do with “your only wild and precious life.” The senior year is a good time to start.
SURAYYA WALTERS is a senior from Wharton studying management and marketing in New Rochelle, NY Her email address is [email protected].