(spoiler alert: I really, honestly have no idea)
Whether it’s nosey relatives, worried teachers, or curious classmates, this is a question that I’m asked at least twice a week, and this is a conservative estimate.
In many programs, it seems like there’s a binary. If you ask someone in a science program, the expected answer is medicine or research; if you’re in the arts and humanities, the expected answer is teaching or law school; and if you’re in a business program like me, many people assume your end goal is consulting or finance.
At the same time, especially as students, we’re often sold the idea that our careers should be our ultimate source of fulfillment, and somehow be something the one thing you’re fully and deeply passionate about. However, a conversation I had a few weeks ago has made rethink my answer to that question completely.
I was sitting with a group of friends and we were talking about our respective programs and what we wanted to do with our degrees. All of our answers were quite cookie cutter, until someone said that despite being an accounting major, her ultimate goal in life was to be a good mom. She spoke about how many of the decisions she planned on making would lead her towards her end goal, like choosing opportunities that wouldn’t take away time from what she really valued and financial stability. We then realized that we all had more nuanced answers than the jobs we wanted to land right out of undergrad.
One wanted to merge her passion for photography with business, another one wanted to be an activist, and another one ultimately just wanted to help giver her parents an amazing retirement in return for the amazing childhood they gave her.
All of our second answers were much more honest and whole than simply business, science, or teaching. Most adults I know have worked in two, three, or even more different industries. I think this is because no one’s truly passionate about making discounted cash flows, researching cells, or making lessons plans out of textbooks. People are passionate about building more resilient economies, making people healthy again and educating others. What’s amazing about this is how fluid these definitions are. You can fulfill those goals through many different careers, and some may even find them outside of their careers. This also takes a lot of the stress out of deciding what you want to do right out of undergrad!
As for me? I’ve been interested in everything from urban planning, to medicine, to art in the past few years – and the only common thread that has held that all together is that I genuinely want to help people in some way or another. So while that answer may be vague, cheesy, and a bit overly idealistic, it’s the most honest answer I have right now.
Fun fact: When I told my high school business teacher that I planned on studying business in university, she looked shocked and concerned.