In the summer of 2005, I was given two options by the PR agency where I was temping. Go temp-to-perm and become an Administrative Assistant or take an internship and begin a career in PR. I polled family, friends, and mentors, “What do you see me doing? What is your advice? Do I start (another) career or take the job?”
It wasn’t that unusual a question for me to ask. After all, I’m thewoman with a BS in Chemistry who managed an ice cream parlor after trying to be a stand-up comic. The one who was a Residence Director in London two years after managing a rape crisis hot line in Colorado. I interned in the Program for Women in Science and Engineering the summer after interning for a cross country bicycle ride devoted to social action.
My career path has been anything but straight, predictable or according to plan. One friend answered with an exercise, “It isn’t what I think you should do today, but where you see yourself in five years. Close your eyes and imagine the perfect day in five years, that will tell you what to do today.”
I closed my eyes and saw myself getting out of bed. That was the end of anything I would have predicted. Perfect Future Day consisted of a husband, children, and being a write-at-home mother. There was no day care, no juggling the office with family life, and shockingly no Sex in the City single life. “Who is this person? Who is that write at home mom? Surely that isn’t me!”
I decided that it probably was what I really wanted and took the job as an administrative assistant over starting a career in PR. The money was better in the short-term and it seemed like it would be more stable. Now, don’t think that I’m judging women who don’t marry, who work with children, or who stay single, I’m just describing my decision making process. I was flabbergasted at the person I saw when I let my mind really drift into the future.
One year later and I changed departments at the agency. I’m closer to what I want and never would be here if I’d taken the internship. I also wouldn’t be in this current position if I hadn’t had my unique path to get here.
Remember that you might not do what you set out to do. I don’t have my PhD and I’m not an Assistant Dean of Student Life in line for becoming a Dean. I am, however, much happier for letting the path happen. On that note, I’m giving you the same assignment my friend gave me. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in five years. What does your day look like? What can you do today to allow that day to happen?
Originally published in November 2006 on Shebrew.com