Fall means a few things every year: football, changing leaves and job searches. Recruiting season in the Business School officially started recently, and recently I turned down my return offer to work full time in finance. It wasn’t an easy decision, nor a simple one. The decision required a lot of self-reflection. In retrospect, the factors I considered are indeed important to the broader decisions of life in general, beyond just a first job after graduation. There were four main paradigms, four main pieces of advice that went into the decision. As a senior, I feel it my obligation to share those thoughts, such that you may too share some of the introspection as you think about life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Climb the mountain to see the world, not so the world can see you.
There are numerous pressures on us as students throughout our schooling: financially, academically and socially. These pressures generally convey to us a sense of things we “should” do — whether grandma says you “should” be a lawyer at Chanukkah, or whether your friend says you “should” break up with that girl at the tailgate. Be wary of the “should.” The essence of this nugget is in pushing you to do things that make you feel personally validated, not socially valorized. As a Ross student, I felt like I should do banking, and to have people see my logoed-out swag would be a nice perk to that. In the end, the T-shirt you wear in the gym means very little to anyone else if it means very little to you.

Do what you love and like, because nobody’s going to care unless you’re doing brain surgery.

As a corollary, personal validation usually runs parallel to genuine enthusiasm. While I disagree with some of what this quote alludes (as an aspiring doctor, I love and like brain surgery and people will care about it to boot…), the message is valuable. Understand what you like to do. Understand what makes you happy. Take a step back. You will not last long, nor be good at, a job (or a relationship, etc…) that is forced. Do you, in all that you do. Be authentic and genuine, inside and out. I did not like the work I was doing, and I did not like the person I was becoming.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road.

Now, as you do you, know that there will be difficult choices along the way. You must take ownership of these choices. The greatest blessing of college is that we may choose our path — but know that saying yes to one option often requires saying no to another. As Dorothy traveled down the road, inevitably she faced a fork, turned left, and kept walking. She was forced to see that decision out to the end. Likewise, appreciate the importance of the decisions you make — and do not regret them, nor think twice. Just make sure you see them all the way through. I said no to my offer — a definitively left turn where others might have turned right — and I take ownership of it. Let’s hope we all get to Oz.

To know your limits is to realize you have none.

Finally, the amazing thing about carving out your own path is how many opportunities will come up that you never expected. Opportunities are definitively a surprise — if you saw them coming, they would have just been “part of the plan.” You would be shocked by how good of a position you are in as a University of Michigan student. So give yourself some credit, and perhaps more importantly, some time. Patience is not easy, but it is a virtue. Doors will swing open, but only when you walk far enough away from your comfort zone. And remember, you can only walk through one door at a time, so you’ll have your pick of the litter. Embrace the uncertainty. Let it surprise you. Open your sails, and let the wind carry you. I certainly hope this one may be true for me as I apply to medical schools.

So all of this is to say, if you love banking, do it. Just make sure you’re making the decision because it’s what you want, for who and how you want to be. You’re allowed to be selfish on this one. A career is a long time, and constitutes a considerable part of your adult life. Work/life balance reflects a constant, Sisyphean battle for those whose work is not a part of who they are. As such, I would encourage you to let work be a fundamental part of your life. Don’t think of it as a balance — work on one side and life on the other. Think of it as game of Jenga — the entire substance of the shape, of your being, constructed from both, each supporting the other. But don’t worry too much. The best thing about Jenga is that, though for a fleeting moment life may come toppling down, you can always build yourself back up. And, your friends will be with you as you do.

Eli Cahan can be reached at emcahan@umich.edu.

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