A little older & a little changed
I am finally in Hong Kong now and ecstatic to be with my family again after not having seen them since Thanksgiving last year. My little 11 year old brother is now officially 2 inches taller than me, and I must admit, it feels a bit weird. I officially turned 21 (finally!) this past Friday, though it was probably not the most typical or eventful 21st birthday one might expect. It was the last day of my summer internship– the day we had our final reviews and offer decisions, and thus the day was filled with more anxiety than anything else. The night was filled with packing and getting ready to leave. I’ll elaborate on all of this more later.
I learned a lot about myself this summer, and for the first time, I was finally honest with myself. I was also probably a little too honest with the recruiters, but in retrospect, I am glad I was. This past Wednesday morning, I was called in by a lady who has been in charge of recruiting at the firm for approximately 30 years for essentially a final round interview (though we were not warned of this), and the conversation was quite an experience. In addition to the typical question such as– What can you offer this firm?– she also asked what my favorite song was, what the title of my autobiography would be, and who would I want to meet if I could talk to anyone in this world. Caught offgaurd by these questions, I responded surprisingly honestly. Had I 100% wanted to get hired, I knew honesty would not be the best way to approach these questions. In fact, the minute I left her office, I knew I was done for.
The reason I turned so many of my posts private is because the question that really caught me offguard was the title of my autobiography. I sort of panicked, and basically told her, “Moving Beyond Perfection”. I explained how I was a perfectionist at heart, but realized that at some point, I realized I had to come to terms with the fact that perfection is an unattainable concept. This was probably mistake #1. From a friend or parent’s perspective, this sounds like a wonderful realization. From an investment bank’s standpoint, you’ve probably got yourself a lazy worker.
Mistake #2, and probably the largest mistake, was my response to the question who I’d like to meet if I could meet anyone. Now, I’ve been asked this question during interviews before, and I know I had practiced my response to such a question before – but for some reason, my mind blanked and I decided to be honest again. I told her I’d love to speak with Joanne Chang, a Harvard applied math + economics graduate who quit her consulting job to pursue her true passion of baking and proceeded to open 2 successful restaraunts in Boston after a few years of painfully hard work. As an Asian, her change in career must’ve given her parents a heart attack. I am in awe of how she managed to follow her heart and go after what she truly wanted. However, while my interviewer was quite interested by my story, I am sure my response did not give her the impression that I wanted to work for an investment bank.
Needless to say, I did not end up receving a full-time offer. I received only wonderful comments about my intellectual capacity and my work abilities, but the reason they were not extending an offer to me is because they had doubts about my “passion” for the job. I was not too surprised by the outcome, but it did upset me slightly to find out which of the interns did end up receiving offers. Some of them were quite unexpected. My manager from last summer (same firm) was also shocked that I did not receive an offer as he had given me a fantastic review then. The whole process, however, was extremely political. It is almost disheartening to realize how political these decisions really are.
So how am I feeling now? Given all the hours and effort I put in the internship, I am of course not too happy with the outcome. However, I also know that if they had extended me an offer, I would have felt compelled to take it. Given the economic circumstances, it would have been foolish for me to refuse the offer. It is an extremely respectable position, and working there for 1-2 years would have enabled me to go anywhere. But I also know that I would not have been happy there. Not at all. I would not have liked my co-workers, I would not have liked senior management, and I would not have enjoyed my job. I would have appreciated the skills I would learn, but used the job as a stepping stone for others. When I told my parents about the outcome, even they were relieved. They knew how miserable I truly was, and now I have so many options I can explore. In the near term, I am going to explore the buy-side, but in the long term, I realized that what I really want to do is go back for more education. It will most likely not be for economics (which is my concentration), but perhaps law or a joint law-business degree, or perhaps something even in government. I am inherently quantitative, but I enjoy the writing part of analysis much more than the number crunching. I like logical reasoning, but the actual math part such as accounting bores me. In addition, I enjoy understanding the rules behind society — how bills are passed, how our government is run, etc. I never thought I’d want to learn more about the government because I have never enjoyed watching lying politicians, but understanding how the government works is a different story. So where am I at right now? I really don’t have any clue what I am going to be doing next year or in the next 5 years, but I can say I am working on it. This is also refreshing for me because all my life, I’ve known exactly what I’m going to do (or thought I knew), and have always followed a straight line path. I was never one of those who could say that they had no idea what they would be doing next summer or next year. I am a planner at heart, but sometimes it is more freeing not to plan.
And so now I am just sitting back at home, feeling like a little girl again. I am eating leftover birthday cake (cheesecake!) at 9 AM (my mom and I have the same birthday, so my family had birthday cake too), not knowing whether I am going to exercise at all this week, and not knowing what I have in store for the rest of the day. It feels wonderful. I can tell that my body and mind have just been both emotionally & physically drained from the past 10 weeks. Sitting at work was stressful because I knew I was being constantly watched. They have these 2 inch thick folders of all the interns, basically tracking every conversation we’ve held with anyone, and documenting everything we do. It’s a little creepy.
So my plan for the next two weeks is just to let loose. Eat what I want, exercise when I want, go shopping with my mom, bake, spend time with my little brother, have fun conversations dreaming about my future with my parents.. just do whatever the hell I want. I can go back to being 21 years old and a soon-to-be adult when I return to school, but for now I am going to be a little girl again. I love being pampered by my family :).