When I reflect on my years after college graduation, I always regret not pushing myself harder to break out of my comfort zone.
From a career perspective, I had it easy for a long time. I picked something that looked good on paper and was right on my turf, a profession called “actuarial consultant”.
It had a special ring to it. No one knew what it meant, but everyone thought it must be difficult. And many people had heard that “actuary” was regarded as one of the best jobs in America for multiple years.
The perfect fit
I felt it was the perfect job for me not only because of all the positive media reviews, but also because I thought it leveraged all my strengths.
At a young age, I decided my biggest potential areas lay in quantitative analysis and interacting with people.
I acquired such confidence from my near perfect scores in math classes, and also from my work experience at UVa’s Phonathon soliciting donations from fellow alumni.
However, I wish I didn’t define myself so early and tried out more things.
Take your time making decisions
I am not saying that you should be doing something you are not good at, but making a hasty decision can limit your potential.
After all, most of us would not have accumulated much experience in the real world by the time we graduate from college, and we do not really know who we are yet at that age.
If I had explored more, perhaps I would have noticed my passion for adventure and creativity, both of which had little to do with actuarial modelling.
To get the job, I prepared early.
- Took my first actuarial exam after my sophomore year.
- Attended all the necessary networking events.
- Contacted all the people my alumni network gave me access to.
- Attended career training workshops and did all my homework.
All of these led to my success in landing an internship at one of the top actuarial consulting firms in the world, which led to a full-time offer.
And then, I stopped looking.
Keep your eyes open!
Even though I did not particularly enjoy my internship – in fact, I found it rather bland and boring – I told myself it was ok. After all, I have worked so hard all through college. Why not just take it easy and have some fun during my last year?
This decision cost me a miserable year doing something I did not enjoy much and I ended up making various efforts to find something more interesting.
It was not until years later when I found my passion for social innovation and education.
The path was actually quite simple. I pushed myself to participate in things out of the ordinary, such as improv, dance and snowboarding. I also started to join meaningful weekend activities including volunteering and part-time teaching.
If you want to find a career you love, start doing something “crazy”
It doesn’t need to be mind-blowing, but it should be something that is not on the path right in front of you.
The more it deviates from your defined path, the more you will find out about yourself, and the more likely you will find something that you are truly passionate about.