Back to the drawing board

It was a week before I was going to graduate with my MBA from UC Berkeley.

I was meeting with my mentor, Arina Issacson, a truly radiant human being for whom I had taught a few sections of Leadership Communication during business school.  She asked whether I had a full-time job lined up. 

I said no.  I could feel the pit of my stomach tighten.  There were only a handful of people from my class graduating without a job, and I was one of them. 

She asked what I was looking for.  “I love efficiency and problem solving and am passionate about public education.  I’m looking for an operations manager position in a network of public schools.

Later in the conversation, I was telling her about some of the revelations I had in a recent session of my Leadership and Personal Development class.  The homework was all about what excites me, what I’m passionate about, and what was I doing when time just flew.  I told her that I realized that I really loved coaching, mentoring, teaching, and figuring out how to create a scaffold of resources that would help an individual be their best self.

“Well,” she said, “that doesn’t sound anything like what you said you were looking for.”

Bam.  She pointed out the one major flaw in my post-graduation master plan, and everything came crashing down like a forest of felled decision trees. 

Ever since an epiphany during the business school application process convinced me to leave my career in the corporate world, I had spent all of my time in business school preparing for a transition into the nonprofit and public sector.  All this time, was I chasing the wrong goal?  Did I just waste more than $100,000 and two years of my life? 

That night, I lay awake in bed struggling with the disparity between what my mind had worked for all these years and what I felt in my heart. I had gotten pretty far in life by letting my mind do its thing. I graduated from Stanford, with a degree in engineering.  After school I went into management consulting, a prestigious field that paid well.  After that I got a job in consumer products marketing, another sought-after field.  I was admitted to the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, and would be graduating with my MBA in a week.  I was prepared to find a job in public education, hopefully by the end of the summer.

But what about the things that made me feel alive?  What about mentoring, coaching, and helping people?  I wished there was a way for me to follow my heart without abandoning all the work my mind had done.  I wished I could take time to sort all this stuff out.  And then, a small idea snuck in and gently nudged me:

What if you could?

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One thought on “Back to the drawing board

  1. great post, michelle! very honest.it is very difficult sometimes to listen to your heart and to ‘undo’ what you’ve spent time ‘doing’. but those things were not a waste because you were happy to do them at the time. and we don’t always have to work towards some concrete goal… perhaps, just working towards happiness is the right way to go. being honest with yourself about what that means for you is an amazing first step. not easy. look forward to reading more!

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