What do I want to be when I grow up? Good question. It’s a question I’ve struggled with since I was a mere toddler. I’ve gone from wanting to be a writer, to a teacher, to Madonna, to a psychologist, to a brand manager, and back to being a writer. But what I’ve always believed is that once I figured out the magic answer to that problem, I’d be able to go out and get what I wanted.
It never dawned on me that my chosen field wouldn’t be hiring.
I don’t need to point out that the economy is in a miserable state. The statistics in the daily papers capture that over and over again. More friends of mine are unemployed than employed. Every week, it seems, someone else is getting laid off. Loyal employees are getting locked out of their computers by the time their bosses can say, “severance package.” And super-qualified, Phi Beta Kappa Harvard grads can’t find jobs.
Now what? Everyone always tells me how lucky I am to be in business school in this horrendous economy. I’d like to think I saw this “recession” coming a mile away and consequently slithered into an MBA program before it could directly affect me. Of course! But being in business school during a time like this is pretty scary. Our cover letters and resumes are due in two weeks for summer internships. CareerLink has a grand total of 35 jobs posted for all of New York. How are we supposed to get wonderful, challenging, well-paying internships when our peers out in the real world have trouble getting interviews?
I fear these challenging times are making some of us too exclusive in our HBS world. “We’ll be okay,” we think. “These conditions certainly won’t affect us!” Sometimes, we intentionally distance ourselves from non-HBS’ers. I’ve seen peers visibly lose interest in someone when learning that he or she is a partner, not a student.
But are we really any better off than anyone else? Since when does what we look like on paper matter more than what we are like in person? I, for one, will not lose hope. I’ll relish this quarter-life crisis as an exercise in self-awareness. I’ll stay awake at night, wondering what exactly I want to do with my life, how I’ll contribute to the well-being of society while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. I’ll explore my preferred fields of interest, and set up meetings with the coveted alumni network.
And I’ll keep my fingers crossed that by the time we emerge from school, all will be right with the world. But I’m not that na‹ve. Nor am I that egocentric. These times are affecting everyone. I think we, as future business leaders, can learn from the current situation. We can witness the effects of layoffs. We can feel the rapid decline in self-esteem of our unemployed counter-parts. And we can sense the frustration of the fruitless job search.
Perhaps when we go back out in the world, we can be that much more sensitive to the surrounding environment. So, what do I want to be when I grow up? At this point, I just want to be employed.