2016 Essay Competition - View all entries
"No, Dad, that's your dream". This adage, chock-full of teenage angst, has wormed its way into many a coming-of-age drama, especially when the young protagonist is faced with a choice regarding what in the film universe is called their "future". In the real world, we call this a job.
No, this overused phrase doesn't reflect my exact career-choosing experience. My parent's are incredibly supportive of all my endeavors, my siblings are a pint-sized cheering squad, and my jovial friends keep me focused, sane, and not-too-serious. No, my post-high school conflict was more of a societal issue.
I was born and raised as an Orthodox religious Jew. I grew up in a close-knit religious community, went to an all-girls high school, and studied abroad for a year in Israel. When it comes to finding a suitable job (notice I say "job", not "career", but more on that later), most religious girls usually go into the field of education, as the value of giving over of knowledge, tradition, and wisdom to future generations is deeply steeped in Jewish culture.
I too thought I'd become a "Morah", (or "teacher" in Hebrew). The passion I could bring to the classroom, the innovation I'd imbue into every carefully planned lesson, the lifelong connections I'd forge with my impressionable pupils! I was already practicing my disciplinary eye-squint. So when did this idealistic dreamer do a 180 and dive head-first into the hard-nosed, technological, gritty, and profit-focused world of Digital Marketing?
The day I did a simple Google search: "What career is right for me?". It was summertime. I was worn out from a hard day's work shuffling young campers from activity to activity. I was slowly, unwittingly, and irrevocably coming to the realization that working with children wasn't as inspiring as I'd imagined.
That one search led to hours online taking (and retaking) quizzes, reading scores of pages of material, researching the top-paying jobs, fastest-growing industries, and fields with the highest employee satisfaction rate...It became a frenzied obsession: the more information I foraged through, the more I realized: I had the freedom to make my own choice.
This was MY career, MY life, and MY decision. Why hand over the most precious gift in my possession, my own happiness, to a job that would leave me feeling frustrated, unfulfilled, and simply unhappy to wake up at 7 AM for?
So what to do? I devised a strategy to determine what careers would keep that leaping flame of passion I'd discovered alive and crackling. I knew I wanted to commit to a field that kept evolving, developing, and pushing me to stay on top of my game. A field that would challenge me, but not overtake my personal life. A job that got me out of the house and into a discussion with a mind that I could sharpen mine against.
Then, in a providential moment of nostalgia, I happened upon my 3rd grade yearbook. Next to a dimpled photo of me, aged 9, it read in clumsy script: "When I grow up, I want to be an author". Rowling, Tolkien, and Snicket had been my best friends throughout grade school. While girls dreamed of being doctors, lawyers, and of course, "morah"s, I fantasized about scrawling my hasty signature in the well-worn copies of my best-seller at a book signing in a warm, espresso-scented Barnes and Noble. I also dreamed (like every 12 year old) of being an actress, and in high school had a stint as a wannabe event planner. What was the common thread between these three ideals? If I could find the connection between these seemingly unrelated passions, perhaps I could find the key and open the door to my future satisfaction and self-realization!
And then I found the connection: Creation. Telling a story. Taking an abstract idea and concretizing it. Author's build worlds. Actors bring a fantasy to life with words. And party-planners take a color scheme, personality, or vision and wrap it up into a fondant-covered, hydrangea-filled, champagne-flavored extravaganza.
Which brings us to marketing. The business world is far more creative than skeptics (read: therapists) think. What drew me to the marketing field specifically was the fusion of consumer psychology, graphic/digital creativity, and the solid, concrete, profitable margins that resulted from your work. The proof of the impact of your passionate creativity and effort can be measured in dollars and cents, not just in a subjective A+ or pat on the shoulder!
It may seem far-fetched, but finding the common denominator between my various interests, really pinning down the essence of what piques my interest and awakens my intelligence, was how I discovered the job that makes my thoughts churn, my brow furrow, and my smile grow wide.
What really "sealed the deal" was when I found my first (and current) marketing job. My good friend Google came to the rescue once again. In June, after working as an office manager for a mid-size music school for a year, I looked up three words: "Marketing Firm Brooklyn". I cold-emailed the top ten results and got two replies: one "Thank-you-but-we're-not-interested-in-a- college-sophomore", and one "When can we call you?".
That's it. One Google search, one email, one phone call, one interview, one job offer. I wake up every morning revving to go and challenge the marketing world in my incredible role at a fast-growing, constantly developing, and growth-focused agency. No, I didn't become a "morah" like my friends, or a party planner like my Mom, and I definitely did not become an actress. What I did become was a stronger, more decisive, empowered young woman who's ready to take a leap of faith, challenge complacency, and trust her own judgement.
I chose a career, not just a job.
And so should you.