When I was 12 years old, I decided that I wanted to go to college and major in “business.”
How did my 12 year old self make that decision?
I selected “business” as my chosen work path because nothing else seemed to quite feel right. Doctor? I don’t think so. Teacher? Maybe. Lawyer? Nah.
However, the most persuasive influence on my decision came through media images. I was convinced that I wanted to become a business woman, move to New York City, and climb the corporate ladder after seeing movies like The Secret of My Success, Big Business, and 9 to 5. All of these movies portrayed a glamorous life and the allure of potential “success.”
New York City and Big Business became synonymous with being successful in my mind. I also know that growing up in a smaller Ohio town made New York City seem particularly compelling and extraordinary.
After accomplishing my goal of attending college and majoring in business, I found my self bored and not challenged enough by my classes. I located a university course catalog and thumbed through each page diligently looking for other courses to take.
I discovered a section for “Information and Decision Systems (IDS)” that stood out to me. I visited the program department where this major was administered, spoke with the program directors, was welcomed and encouraged to add a double major, and started my first classes in IDS the next semester.
During my junior year, I attended job fairs on campus, interviewed through the university’s career center, and was offered a summer internship as a business systems analyst in Washington, DC. As a college senior, I followed a similar process of attending job fairs and interviewing on campus.
I was offered and accepted a systems analyst position with a management consulting firm in Washington, DC, by the fall of my senior year. This consulting firm flew me to New York City to interview and lavished me and the other prospective employees with gifts and expensive dinners. I was sold…literally and figuratively! I chose Washington, DC, which was also a bigger city and seemed more relaxed, as my home base. I figured that that I would travel to NYC on business or drive there to visit friends as often as I wanted.
Up until that point, I had realized every one of my education and career dreams and objectives with ease. I always had an idea of what I wanted. I put my mind and effort to the task and received exactly what I planned. Nevertheless, I had an unexpected feeling of doubt and apprehension about work after my undergraduate studies.
I went to share my concerns with the program director of my business major. She told me not to worry about these concerns, because I could always “just get another job.” I trusted her advice and finished out my senior year. Later, I realized that at that age, “you don’t know what you don’t know” and her advice was easily offered and yet not simple to carry out.
On my first day as a new professional, I arrived at the office located in downtown Washington, DC. I rode the elevator to the 2nd floor of the office building, walked into the firm’s polished and posh foyer, and experienced an intuitive knowing that something was “wrong.” At that time, I could not name what I sensed. Nothing had happened to me. Yet, I know now that I felt trapped and confused. Some type of shadow had been cast on my life and the vision for my future became very murky.
I have spent the past 10 years trying to make sense of my experience of my first official day as a new professional and the subsequent years of discontent and the developing personal and spiritual crisis that followed. Pema Chodron’s words eloquently describe my experience during the early years of my professional career in the following clip: