What Do You Want To Do When You Graduate?

Before arriving at Kellogg last year, we were all required to take a few personality tests. One was the CareerLeader test, which made to help us assess what careers we wanted to go into. Another was the  Meyers Briggs test which gave us our personality types. Whether accurate or not, these tests helped us to not only learn about ourselves but also to think more about the things we were most interested in pursuing. To help us to answer that one question that today lingers in everyone’s mind. “What do you want to do when you graduate?”

A few weeks into the semester, just about everyone I’ve talked to was undergoing this process of self-examination.  They were examining the full spectrum of careers at their fingertips. Having discussions about industries like consulting and finance. Asking themselves if they wanted to recruit a second time. And trying to get competitive information on what classmates are doing. And this isn’t just people with jobs that weren’t considered good enough. These are also people with jobs that everyone wanted.

For example, just last night I had dinner with one of my best friends, Chris. Chris spent the summer at McKinsey and Company, which is one of the most sought after employers here on campus. And even though he enjoyed his experience, he’s undergoing the same reflection process. This was something we talked about for nearly an hour.

Similarly, I spoke with one of my JD-MBA classmates last week and asked him about his experience in the investment banking industry. He worked at one of the biggest banks in New York City and was something he had his eyes on from the first day he stepped on Kellogg’s campus.  “I don’t know what I want to do, but I know that I don’t want to do that” was his first response. He said the hours were bad, the work was not what he wanted to do, and the job didn’t seem to get better even at the highest levels.

Having spoken with a lot people this year and last year, I know that these experiences are certainly not unique.  Because at some point at the beginning of the second year, everyone starts asking themselves what they want to do. And not just upon graduation but also over the long run.  And just as we start thinking about all these things, we start getting emails and calls from recruiters.

In some cases people feel the pressure to conform. They decide to give consulting another shot and to aim for strategy and private equity jobs. Jobs that not only pay well but also have high prestige and are admired by their classmates.

On the other hand, students like the classmates I mentioned above are doing just the opposite. They learned firsthand that the grass was greener from the other side and that the career was not for them. So they decided they wouldn’t be swayed but the allure of the company on campus and the masses of students pursued them year after year.

The point is that business school (and law school), we all undergo reflection toward the end of our terms. We reflect on the things that are most important to us and think about how that fits in with our proposed career paths. Then we see what the pay and career potential looks like and are forced to make decisions about what we want to do. And for most of us, these decisions seem gigantic. Like they’ll have a huge impact on the rest of our careers.

Big impact or not, we’ll all be spending a lot of time thinking about them over the next couple of weeks. Law students will wonder if they’re choosing the right firms. MBAs about whether they are pursuing money and prestige over their passions. And JD-MBAs a combination of both.

In sum, we’ll all be asking ourselves, “What do I want to do when I graduate?”

Stay tuned to hear more about what me and some of my classmates decide.

Saturday, September 10th, 2011 Careers

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.

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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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