Fall Semester Doom & Entering the Workforce

I smell coolness in the air, and the leaves are losing their green. New York Fashion Week attendees throw shade beneath designer shades. Garish pumpkin and cornucopia displays suffocate previously elegant storefronts: it’s fall 2016.

Unfortunately for me, New England autumn gives me a feeling of impending doom of the upcoming school year. A new school year comes with terrifying side-effects: harder classes; post-summertime sadness leaving family and internship friends; nervousness that there is one less year in this warm educational womb called Wellesley.

I graduated in May, but my biological rhythm is still stuck in fall semester uncertainty this September. While crisp air and colorful Central Park trees charm most New Yorkers’ hearts, they leave a pit in my stomach as I head to work.

After graduation, I joined Google as a full-time employee. This is not an article about being jobless and 22 in New York City (and if you are, please reach out to me, and I will help you the best I can).

I have my dream job, and I live in NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood. As a child of immigrant parents, my goal was to have a prestigious job after college, one I would think worthy of my parents’ endless stamina and sacrifice. So, why do I have September doom when I achieved my goal?

Me after happily accepting my job at Google NYC.

In college, I studied digital arts, computer science, led the satire news show, ran marathons, completed an honors thesis senior year, and worked at the MIT Media Lab throughout my four years. Each school year brought on more difficult challenges that culminated in graduation (hopefully, with honors and a job). But now I’ve been working for a few months, and there is no graduation, no tangible end goal. I am not able to pursue my various passions with the intensity I did in school, and I don’t want to get stuck. The September pit in my stomach is the fear of getting stuck.

I don’t want to lose the fire that drove me to do bigger badder things every year of college. I have so many interests, and I want to continue to pursue them all! However, this is hard while working a rigorous full-time job. With a seemingly impossible dilemma on my hands, I decided to bring in an expert.

Edlyn Yuen, a fellow Wellesley College graduate, worked in global non-profit, investment banking, venture capital, and founded a company all in seven years out of college; her LinkedIn bio read “making things on the Internet.” Dynamic, intelligent, and hardworking, she was just the champion I needed.

Edlyn studied political science at Wellesley then worked at Kiva, which does microfinance for developing nations. After that she jumped deeper into finance, taking a job at Bank of America. “I wanted to learn how to turn numbers into stories,” she told me when I asked her what inspired the job switch. My takeaway from her first jump was that she understood the core of her work at Kiva: using numbers to make tangible change. While this sounded really simple when I initially wrote it down in my interview notes, I now realize it takes a lot of time and energy to truly figure out the core meaning of your job. I’m still figuring out what that is at my job at Google. There is a lot of fluff in jobs that distracts us from the real thing we are doing. I think she identified those things and then figured out what she liked from those things and took that learning into her next steps.

The next step for Edlyn was investment banking followed by venture capital, and now she’s a founder of her own startup.

Edlyn’s professional journey, from my perspective, looks pretty linear. But in fact, each of those transitions was really challenging, and I’m just at the beginning of my professional journey. So I wanted to know how I could make sure I have an epic journey like Edlyn. “Curate your curiosities,” she advised me.

Of course, we’ve all heard this at some point from a counselor, a friend, or from our own brains. But Edlyn gave me resources to help me go curate those curiosities. She gave me a boot camp syllabus to starting my own project in 12 weeks, with tons of information on entrepreneurship and how to actually start something. The best thing is, this is all doable alongside my demanding job.

Even if this syllabus doesn’t result in my establishing a startup or getting my personal blog to a million followers, it’s an exercise in finding myself and curating my curiosities.

Personally, my interests lie in tech (hardware and startups), finance (venture capital), and the arts (music/video production and fine arts/fashion). My dreams are big, and I hope to find a way to do something that satisfies all my interests. Pursuing all your interests takes time and energy, but that’s why I moved to New York — to be surrounded by inspiration and hustlers. I’m working on writing and producing a YouTube show similar to the satire news show I ran for four years at Wellesley. I’m attending NYFW events and film screenings. I’m going out with friends to be inspired and comforted. I’m meeting superstars and role models like Edlyn and, of course, learning everything I can at work. Take your fall semester doom by the horns and use it to power you through.

Here’s a list in case you haven’t read full paragraphs since like 2012:

  1. Reach out to your idols, friends, classmates, LinkedIn connections and get their advice! Be honest and ask what you want to ask, otherwise you’re wasting everyone’s time.
  2. Curate your curiosities alongside your day job. Enroll in something like Orbital; download Stitcher and find podcasts you like; make a Pinterest and Twitter account; start writing about things that matter to you.
  3. Self-management is important. Keep note of how many hours of sleep you’re getting a night and how many drinks you’re drinking per session (especially in summer, New Yorkers). Use HelloWallet to keep track of finances, contribute to your 401(k), and pay off loans.

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