A Millennial's Take on Decision Making: Digressions of a College Senior

The following is a guest post from Stephanie, a Marketing Associate at Argopoint, a management consulting firm in Boston. Argopoint LLC was founded in 2005 with the goal of improving corporate legal department performance at leading Fortune 500 companies through innovative management consulting strategies. During senior year of high school I took “Senior Humanities," a double-period class that discussed everything from philosophy to religion to history and government. On the last day of class, as seniors rejoiced at the definitive end of our academic careers (we didn’t care to face the reality that the next 4-10 years of our lives would still be spent in the constructs of academia), our teachers instructed us to go around the room, naming our final college choices and what we intended to do there.

Deutsch: College of William and Mary in Willia...

“The College of William and Mary with a chemistry major, minor in economics and pre-med concentration,” I said.

That's where I stood in June of 2010. I had already changed my college choice twice; first it was Johns Hopkins (where I revoked my Early Decision application a day after the deadline) and then UCLA (whose deposit letter got torn up seconds before it got in the hands of my postman).

I chose the College of William and Mary on a whim. I had forgotten that I had applied, and it was the last decision letter to come in the mail. I opened up the large white envelope, read over the glossy materials and thought, “it’d be nice to go here.” I made the decision right then and there, standing in my kitchen, with hardly any uncertainty. For someone as detail-oriented and obsessed with the college process as I was, my decision to go to the College of William and Mary involved surprisingly little consideration.

Despite my inability to pick a college, a decision that I had convinced my young self would determine the course of the rest of my life, I was firmly committed to the idea of becoming a doctor - a surgeon, to be specific. I had always done well in my high school science courses, enjoyed the idea of helping people, and thought I was up for a lifestyle that required working 80 or more hours per week. It seemed like the obvious career choice for someone who was ambitious and wanted to contribute something of substance to the world.

Boston College

Fast forward three years, and I am now a rising senior at Boston College, a student in the Carroll School of Management, with a double major in Economics and Art History and a pre-law concentration. Past freshman chemistry, you won’t find a single science class on my transcript. In three years, I have changed nearly everything that I was previously so sure about:  I transferred to another university, entered a completely different field, abandoned my career path, and embraced subjects I had never once considered. I look back at my high school self and ask, what was I thinking?

Here's what I've learned about myself in college:

  1. I hate science.
  2. I need a minimum of 10 hours of sleep per night to function.
  3. I'm no southerner.

Fortunately, college is the time to make these mistakes. Transferring schools is not the end of the world, especially if you’re lucky enough to figure it out early, like I did. Switching majors is also relatively inconsequential; fill out some paperwork, send an email to your academic advisor, and voila! The course of your college career is transformed in a heartbeat with surprisingly little pain.

Alas, senior year is on the horizon. At some point (May 14th, 2014, to be precise), all of this confusion and indecision must come to an end. Most of the poor decisions made in college are inconsequential. You can fix almost anything with an email, and in more serious situations, a cordial visit to someone’s office. The “real world," from my limited perspectives, seems much different.

Upon entering the “real world," decisions become infinitely more consequential. Switching career paths, say, from art curation to law to management consulting carries incredible weight, especially when simply “going back to school” isn’t possible in the face of thousands in already accrued student loans.  Once I’m officially disowned from my parents (financially, obviously), my ability to make mistakes disintegrates.  This is perhaps the scariest point of realization for any college senior.Screen shot 2013-01-31 at 6.47.42 AM

The title of this blog is “Career Avoidance 101." I have spent my entire college career doing exactly that:  attempting to avoid all serious interaction with the real world. As a rising college senior, I can’t afford to keep avoiding it any more (literally and figuratively speaking). May 14, 2014 is coming, and it’s coming fast.

Fortunately/unfortunately, I’ve had a number of varying tastes of what real life will be like, in the form of internships. I worked as an intern at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and am currently working at a management consulting firm. The two experiences couldn’t be less similar – the catch? I enjoy both equally, for vastly different reasons. Each career path comes with its own unique set of challenges, and has extremely different consequences with regards to their impact on my personal life.

900 words and one year later, I have come to realize that I am no closer to providing any kind of conclusion for this post; I am only reiterating what has been demonstrated time and time again on this blog. Picking a career is like picking a college, with vastly more at stake. You have to keep searching, trying, shifting, and adapting in the vain hope that eventually, you’ll get it right.

Note from Rebecca:  Thank you Stephanie! You will figure out it. Bit by bit, and year by year. And don't worry, you can still change course. I sure have!

I couldn't have dreamed up a more fitting final post for Career Avoidance 101. I picked the name "Career Avoidance" six months ago, in tribute to my Bates students who, like Stephanie, want to do anything but think about their careers. My original plan for the blog was to take a tongue-in-cheek approach that would provide solid life-building advice in the guise of being anti-career. It turns out I don't do tongue-in-cheek well. It also turns out that, as Stephanie said, we can't afford to avoid career forever. Which, of course, is what this blog has actually been about all along.

In the interest of making that point clear to the rest of the world, it's time for a name change. So starting on Monday you'll find me over at WorkingSelf.com. The site will contain all of the posts and info from CA101 - plus a lot more.

Be sure to stop by next week to sign up for our brand new email newsletter, which will automatically enter you in our first-ever giveaway! (Not to mention that it'll provide me with a much-appreciated dose of moral support.)

Lots of firsts ahead! Thank you all for giving me the guts to tackle this new challenge. Let's stop avoiding and start working. Happily.

Destination #3 (real destination #1): The College of William and Mary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Current residence = Boston College. Up next = ??? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)