The "Real Job" and the Clean Slate

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It’s been just over six weeks since I graduated with my MBA and a lot of people have asked me how I feel and how I'm spending my time now that business school is over. My response: "Decompressing from the last two years.” Decompressing for me meant spending the first three weeks balancing my sleep deficit and the following three weeks binge-watching 'Silicon Valley' and 'Jane the Virgin.' 

In moments where my heart wasn’t breaking and head wasn’t spinning on account of the violence around the country and world, I spent a fair bit of time preparing for what’s next: a "real job."

This isn’t to say my job at HBS before business school, the one that got me out of New Jersey and into Massachusetts (and, for small bursts, over to China) wasn’t real, but anyone who met me while I was a Research Associate knew how absurdly flexible the job was. I came to campus maybe once or twice a week, and when I did, it was rarely for more than a 4-hour day. There wasn’t much work to be done and when there was, my professor’s "management style" was exceptionally hands off, partly on account of his temperament and partly on account of his crazy schedule—he was traveling about 75% of my time working for him. 

The thing I’m most excited about my new job tomorrow? Having a manager. The thing I’m most afraid about my new job tomorrow? Having a manager. I accepted my job for a few different reasons, but the biggest one was the manager. I took a leap of faith on someone I hit it off with during the fall who, based on our conversations, was someone I’d be excited to work for and someone who could help me get to where I want to go next in my career. Or where I think I want to go next in my career. Because two years of business school and two seasons of podcast interviews later, my only conclusion is that no one really knows what they’re doing. But if they’re lucky, they like what they’re doing or are at least learning something from it. 

I was catching up on the phone with a friend of mine last week and she asked me, “What makes this job ‘real’?” The answer I think I gave—or the answer I would give now—is accountability. I’ve never had to be fully accountable to anyone for my work for more than an internship’s worth of time. The beautiful thing about the end of internships is you get to cut your ties at the end. You’re no longer accountable to your coworkers or responsible for the success of the organization and its people. 

From tomorrow until the day I leave, I have to be fully invested in and committed to working at my company. I’ll no longer have the same luxury of thinking, “This is just for a few months,” like I did in college and graduate school. This is for a longer haul. The longest time I’ve held a full-time job is ten weeks. For this role, it’s likely I’ll need to put in at least two years, or develop a substantial track record that makes me eminently employable elsewhere—whichever comes first. I don’t think I’ve ever suffered “fear of commitment” with romantic relationships, but I might when it comes to jobs. It remains to be seen.  

Aside from this being my first “real” job, this job is a major transformation in my experience of Boston. So long as I’ve lived here, I’ve either worked at an academic institution or attended one. Even before I lived in Boston, I prided myself on achievements that were largely academic in nature. Without attending a school or pursuing a degree as a way to identify myself and give myself a sense of value and purpose, I’m not sure who I am anymore. 

Tomorrow, starting my new job, I get a clean slate. I can finally be known for something more than where I went to school or what I’m studying. And now that I’ve finally decompressed from the last two years, there’s space for me to expand into the person I want to be.

At the very least, I’ll be a Wayfa(i)rer.