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What should I do next? I am at crossroads early in my career and I have a lot of questions

GetToTheFuture-1347443320_600Nick, an alum of Indiana University – Bloomington,  asked

I’m a 24-yr old, working as a Commercial Lending Financial Analyst in Indianapolis and have been doing so for 2 years – I graduated with a Finance degree, but have realized that Finance is not what I want to do.  I plan to attend graduate school in Fall 2014 to obtain an MBA, focusing on Entrepreneurship and/or Corporate Innovation. 

Since there are 18+ months  between now and when I plan to start my MBA,  I would like to leave Indiana. I have no obligations (family, girlfriend, etc.), and I want to experience new places while young. I am considering leaving my current job and doing something else until I go back to school.   As you can imagine, I have a lot of questions: 

  1. Should I quit my job now or stick it out for the next 18+ months in a city that I don’t want to be in, doing a job that I’m not getting anything out of any longer? My family and friends seem to think loyalty to a certain company or job might outweigh my desire to experience new places, jobs, and areas of business.
  2.  If I do quit my job now,  what do I do during the next 18+ months to further myself, my grad school admission odds, and experience as much as possible?
  3. Should I volunteer and help the world globally or within the US? I’m completely willing and this sounds awesome, but if  it doesn’t further my career at all, I doubt it will look great on an MBA application.
  4. Should I obtain summer, fall, and spring internships in separate industries to try and find out what I want to do and gain valuable experience? Problem with this is that it could be construed by future employee prospects as not being able to settle down or commit to one certain job.

I’m open to any and all suggestions.

Hi Nick,

You’ve posed a lot of good questions.  Let me address them one by one.

Should I quit my job now or stick it out for the next 18+ months in a city that I don’t want to be in, doing a job that I’m not getting anything out of any longer?

Before addressing any other part of your question, I have to address the financial aspect:

Can you afford to quit your job and be out of work for any period of time?  If you cannot, don’t!

18 months is not a long period of time.  If you know for certain that you will be entering a full-time  MBA Program in Fall 2014, you are not a desirable candidate for employers looking for candidates to develop professionally. By the time you find and transition to another job, you will probably be about 12 months away from graduate school, which means that just about the time you will become really productive for your new employer, you will be submitting your resignation.  Remember, employers hire in order to meet the needs of their businesses, not so that job seekers can have jobs.  Your needs and priorities must align to some extent with those of employers; otherwise, employers have no compelling reason to consider you as a candidate.

You say you are not getting anything out of your current job.  You are earning a paycheck. You are gaining professional work experience in a business related field. You may be earning healthcare and retirements benefits. You may have an opportunity to do something new with that company that will make the next 18 months go by more quickly.  Explore all of you options.

Beyond that, if you can really do this job well on “auto-pilot,” it may offer you the opportunity to invest your extra energy in prep for the GMAT and work on your graduate school applications, and give you the financial stability you need to visit possible graduate school destinations.  Not being too invested in your current job can be a good thing!

Don’t make this decision in a bubble.

One more thing, I don’t think “employer loyalty” is necessarily an issue. You have been with the company for two years.  You have been loyal.  At the very least, you would owe them two weeks notice of your departure, but you don’t owe them any more than that (unless, of course, there is more to your story than I currently know).

If I do quit my job now, what do I do during the next 18+ months to further myself, my grad school admission odds, and experience as much as possible?

You hit on something very important here:  MBA admissions staff WILL look at what you are doing while you are applying to their programs.  Who you are as a candidate for admission is a combination of what you did as an undergrad both inside and outside the classroom, what you are doing when you apply, and everything in between.  As a candidate, you have to “make sense” to admissions officers.  Doing  the things that will “most enhance your candidacy” may not involve doing things that will allow you to”experience as much as possible.”  These are two very distinct and different things.

Whatever you do, you have to be able to explain it to admissions officers in a ways that highlight your qualifications effectively.  You have to be ready to answer the question: So, tell me why you quit your job 18 months ago to do what you are doing now.

Should I volunteer and help the world globally or within the US?

Volunteering is a wonderful thing.  You should volunteer because you want to volunteer, you think you can add value, you believe you can make a difference; because there is a need.  Of course, you will benefit immensely by volunteering, but you should volunteer because you want help. Your first priority should not be “what’s in it for me?”

Volunteer experiences can be extremely valuable on graduate applications.  Whether they are or not will depend upon how you position them when presenting your qualifications. Again, your story needs to make sense to admissions officers.

If they ask Why did you go on that volunteer mission? your answer should not be Because I thought it would look good on my resume.

Lastly, can you financially afford to take time off from earning a living to volunteer for the next 18 months?  Remember, you are going to have to pay for graduate school.  I don’ t recommend going into graduate school expecting to borrow your way through. Those student loans eventually do come due, and you cannot get around paying them.

Should I obtain summer, fall, and spring internships in separate industries to try and find out what I want to do and gain valuable experience?

This is a great idea in concept, but might be really tough to accomplish in reality.  Internships are typically reserved for students; not for working professionals.  If you are not enrolled in school, most companies will not consider you for internships.  If you can get these internships (a challenge), if these internships pay a reasonable wage (an additional challenge), and if they happen to be in cities that you wish to explore (a third challenge), then doing a series of internships to gain a diversity of experience may be a good idea.

Three “ifs” in one sentence equals an iffy proposition.  I am not sure how viable this option really is.

Nick, it might sound like I am only presenting obstacles to moving forward where you see opportunities to grow professionally. Reality lies somewhere between those two extremes.  When you make these kinds of career decisions, you have to look at all of the related issues.

Do a personal SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analysis of your situation so that whatever you do, you go in with you eyes wide open.

Be really honest with yourself in answering the following questions:

What about my current job and career path do I like and dislike?

What career transition do I hope to achieve?  Why not just look for a different job with the same company, a different job with a different company, a different job in a different city?

Is graduate school the most logical next step? Why is getting an MBA an essential element?  How will it make you a more marketable candidate? 

You are right – with no outstanding obligations to family, girlfriend, etc., you in a great point in your life to try “something new.” Just do everything you can to make sure that your “something new” is something worthwhile for you, your present and your future.

Good luck!

matt-signature

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1 Comment

  1. […] What should I do next? I am at crossroads early in my career and I have a lot of questions […]

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