The Career

When I was in my middle years of high school (around 16 years old) I undertook a series of tests to determine what my ideal job would be. The results: Marine Biologist. The conclusion: those tests can be way off.

Then my friends and I began chatting about career aspirations. The titles: lawyer, stock broker, film maker (ok that one is cool), dietician and many others were uttered. My simple answer: I want to be a home maker.

This shocked a lot of my friends (and teachers). I was an extremely high achieving student and very vigilant in my studies. I cared a lot about my studies and was top of all my classes, school captain and eventually dux (ok, so a bit of a nerd). All my peers and educators felt it was a terrible waste for me to not have a career and surely there must be something I wanted to do.

Cut to me now: working in a fairly exclusive industry 60+ hours per week (my longest week so far has been 100 hours), often having to work from home, tied to my desk from early morning until night-time, having to travel on a moment’s notice and generally not having a huge amount of control over my own life (I never really know when my day will end until all my superiors have packed up for the night).

Funny, but along the way my simple desires to care for a home (and hopefully children) got lost. All those things I once dreamed of: caring for a home, having a homey dinner prepared, working on my crafts and the constant smell of some baked good seeping from the oven and permeating the house have now become the thing I try to achieve in my minimal spare time.

How did it all change?

During my last two years of high school I started developing an interest in business studies. I studied “Business Management” and really enjoyed it so thought studying Commerce at university would really be up my alley. I chose to also study Arts as history and cultural studies were always where my academic passions lay (plus I really wanted to study Arabic).

I applied for a Bachelor of Commerce and Arts and was accepted at the University of Melbourne. I’ll admit I was so proud to be enrolled and so excited to begin my studies in such a historic institution. I have always loved learning and for me school had never been an inconvenience. One of my favourite times of year was stocking up on new stationary for the beginning of each new year and I genuinely enjoyed the hours I spend on my homework each night (yes, I already admitted to being a nerd).

The truth was, however, that I had no idea what I actually wanted to do in terms of a job. I just knew if I was going to work (which I did want to do until I had children) I wanted something I enjoyed, where I could work reasonable hours and earn a fair salary. Nothing flashy – just something that made me happy. Part of me always wanted to be a high school teacher but I wasn’t enrolled in the right course for that and also thought it would be a good idea to get some commercial practise.

In my penultimate year of university I attended seminars conducted by the Commerce Faculty regarding internships and future career opportunities. Other than accounting, only one ever seemed to be discussed: Investment Banking. The most gruelling, the most challenging and the most exclusive internship position possible in my field.

Truthfully I never dreamed of becoming an investment banker (and even now wonder why I am) but at university it was the only opportunity presented to me. When it became clear to me how great an opening it would be I thought that I’d be lucky to get such a position. I suppose even then I never really stopped to ask myself “is this really what you want to do?”

Therefore I applied to all the major investment banks and after weeks of preparation, initial tests and examinations, countless phone interviews, 10 face-to-face interviews, numerical tests, literary tests and a Super Day (“fun” name for a day long interview session) I was lucky enough to secure myself a position at one of the oldest and largest Investment Banks (yes I did think I was lucky).

Then the real work began. The internship lasted 3 months and was one of the most challenging times of my life. I worked minimum 90 hour weeks and was in the office until at least 1am every night. I never saw my family and had to work every weekend. The demanding job was also tough on The Hubby (The Boyfriend at the time) as I was always so stressed and had become a ghost of my former self. Funny story: I finished up at 9pm on Christmas Eve, thrilled that it was so early (yes your mind does get warped) and my mum made me some tea. I went to reach for the mug from the coffee table and was so exhausted I fell off the couch.

It wasn’t a fun time – but I did it and managed to convince myself that it was what I wanted. During this internship process they were also looking to hire us as full-time employees. I wanted one of those positions so much. Looking back I don’t even know why. I hated the job, I hated the hours and I still didn’t have any strong career aspirations. Where had the girl who wanted a reasonable job she loved gone?

I suppose I got caught up in the exclusivity of it all. I was told for what I had studied it was the best job I could land: the most coveted, the most respected and the best paid. So when I was offered a full-time position no part of me even considered not taking it. I signed the papers that night and gave them in the next morning – feeling so lucky I had been chosen.

It wasn’t until my internship started and I returned to university that I began questioning what an insane job it was. But I was in and I wasn’t going to leave. For some reason I thought it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I promised myself I would do it for a year and after that I could get a job doing anything I wanted in the industry (still being unsure of what that was).

Thank God that powers unknown to me at the time were at work. At the time I was the Head Tutor for the university’s finance department and my supervisor and I got on really well. Little did I know that he had mentioned my name to one of his former students who worked for a boutique investment bank which was looking to hire.

He set us up and fortunately for me the gents at the boutique firm liked me. They offered me a job and I battled with the decision for a while. It was risky to rescind my contract with one of the world’s largest banks for a smaller firm. Thank fully I came to my senses and made the right choice. My hours are still long and tough at this job (many late nights, interstate trips, weekend work) but it is a lot better than the alternative and I do enjoy the work.

Even though I always had dreams of being a home-maker there is no part of me now that does not want to work. I enjoy contributing to the workforce and my family’s finances but sometimes I do wonder if I am in the wrong industry (it’s inherently demanding nature does often conflict with my nurturing one) and wish I loved my job just a little bit more. I do think about if there is something else out there for me – teaching is still heavily on my radar as it’s always something I thought would be a rewarding job and I’d love people’s advice if they work in the education sector (all my old high-school teachers sadly only have negative things to say about the job)…

But I cannot help but think back to the girl who wanted such a different life. I ask myself how I got into such a demanding and intense industry when all I really wanted was to take care of a home and have a job that I enjoyed and gave me time to explore my other passions…

Right now I am not daring enough to leave or radically change my employment situation. I am just settling in with The Hubby and it is not the time for major life changes. What I am trying to do now is make the most out of balancing my two competing worlds until I am brave enough to radically change and re-evaluate my career choices…

I would love to know if there is anyone else out there with a similar story to me. Are you still in the same position or where you courageous enough to make a change?

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16 thoughts on “The Career

  1. I very nearly ended up in the same position as you. I got top marks in school, graduated university summa cum laude, and had an LSAT score good enough to get into most any law school.

    It’s important to note that I only went to university because everyone told me I should. I didn’t really know why I was there or what I wanted to do. And my political science degree is totally useless here in Australia! Law school was what a lot of poli-sci majors went on to do and since everyone else did that, I figured I would, too.

    I was saved by a very kind professor who one day called me into his office to ask me about my aspirations post university. When I told him I figured I would go to law school, he sat me down and gave me a heart to heart. Law school, he said, was grueling and expensive. Law schools inflate their post graduate employment numbers to include people working outside of law or in part time positions and that is what most law school graduates end up doing. If you work in law, you usually have two options: 1) go to work for a large firm, working a bazillion hours a week until you burn out and want to die, or 2) start your own small practice and be in debt and poverty for the rest of your life. He said if I really wanted to stay in school, I should consider a masters or doctorate program in poli-sci and would be happy to recommend me for one, but that he would hate to see me waste my talents in law school and end up miserable.

    So I didn’t go to law school. My dad was furious, because he wants trophy children that he cane brag about, but I figure, law schools will always be there if I change my mind. And so far I haven’t.

    As for people telling you that you are wasting your talents by being a homemaker… well, that really depends on how you define a “waste”. I think it is a waste of life to work in a job you hate. No one ever says on their deathbed that they wish they spent more time at work. The way I think of it is that by being well educated, I’ll be a better mother. I also think that having been to university, despite how I loathe paying off my student loans every month, made me a better, more well rounded person who is capable of assessing all the various things in life and understanding the information I’m presented with every day. There are certain “soft skills” one gains from a university education that are useful in every day life no matter what you do.

    And if you have children, it’s not like your special qualities will go to waste, as your children will most likely inherit them and you will be perfectly positioned to help them cultivate those same talents and skills.

    I’m sure once you have children and leave the workforce, you will encounter all kinds of naysayers, but really, the choice is yours and you have to do what makes you happy and what is best for your family. What other people think does not matter in the long run.

    • I totally agree that any form of learning is never a waste (and yes the university loans sting me every month too!). I myself did love learning and did love my time at unviersity but I still am trying to decide whether my demanding working life and current profession is the right fit for me. As usual, thanks for your feedback – it is always insightful.

  2. I worked in banking & then Economic Development and now am lucky enought to be a SAHM (stay at home mom). I was a single mom raising my son & made the decision to change when I met my sweetie and his two girls (now my step daughters). Many times my son told me how proud he was of all the work I did….but once he did comment that it would be nice to have a 24 hr mom like his friend had. I look back now and wonder how I did it all & when I ever slept!
    My step daughters have a background of not having a mom in their lives and are still young. So we made the decision it was better for the kids, and we really didnt need the money. Believe me, your work experience and education will indeed help once you have kids – it takes serious brain power to be a good mom!
    I am also now living in an area where the SAHM thing is revered, not looked down apon. We are all over the place – I know women who have not worked in 10 years and have told me to “just relax, you’ll get used to it” when I talk about feeling guilty for not working. Which, I should say, I work my butt off now because o feel so much more pressure to have things perfect at home…. but i love it at the same time because cooking, baking, organizing it what I love to do !
    My advice is to enjoy each day, it is special to have some time with the hubby before munchkins take over. Things have a way of working themselves out.

    • It is always really inspiring to me to hear these stories. I hope that one day I am financially secure enough to be a stay at home mum when I am blessed with children. For now, I suppose, I feel it is right to be working and contributing to my family’s resources in that way. But if I am lucky enough to have children then my attitude towards work will greatly change. Its great your kids appreicated having you home. Good to know that all the work skills will pay off toward raising them as well.

      I have no doubt that your day is as busy in the home than at the office. House work and home making never ends! Especially if those duties give you a lot of joy as you can always find another task to undertake.

      For now I will enjoy balancing work, keeping a warm home and savouring this quiet time with The Hubby!

      Thanks very much for taking the time to comment and your advice…

  3. I feel like there are still too many people who look down on women who choose to stay at home and raise a family. I remember a few years ago when I was still in school, I mentioned to a couple of friends that ultimately I would love to be a stay at home mom some day. One of them said “Wouldn’t that be a waste of your education?” I truly feel like taking care of a home and raising children is one of the most important jobs that anyone can take on, and I can’t wait for the day when I get to do that full-time (hopefully I’ll be able to if my plans all work out).
    Right now I’m in the process of looking at switching my career field. It’s definitely overwhelming and stressful because I worry that I’ll leave what I know and end up hating what I get into. But I think that most things in life that are worth having take some sort of risk to get there…choosing a life partner, choosing to bring children into the world, spending a lot of money on the purchase of a home, etc. I’m realizing more and more that it’s most important to do what you love and work on being happy. It’s hard to remember that some days, but you sound like you’re extremely intelligent and obviously a hard worker, so there’s no doubt that whatever you set your mind to you will accomplish 🙂

    • Thank you so much for sharing your experience and advice. It is always greatly appreciated! I think it is sad that people do still have a tendency to look down on stay at home mums – I think it is a noble career choice 🙂

      I am also contemplating switching careers – it is very scary and daunting. I am not ready to take the plunge yet – but I wish you the best of luck for your big move.

      Hope you will realise your dream of being a “home-maker” full time – I hope my simular plans work out too 🙂

  4. Wow, I can relate! I am in academia, and I still sometimes question if this was the right career choice (long hours, a male-dominated field). And I really love your respect for homemaking–I am the only woman in my family to have graduate education. My mother and grandmother were homemakers, and they are lovely, intelligent, sassy women! Plus, Homemaking is a job, really. The refusal to recognize domestic work as labor (with value) is just another way women are disenfranchised!

  5. I endured one semester of college before I realized what a waste it was and quite willingly married my sweetheart. We were not well-off enough to do that, but we were so happy we did not know it or even care. He finished his education after VietNam and we have lived happily ever after.
    No one who stays home and does the jobs of several professionals at once, for her family, should say, “I don’t work”! It is work, as has been noted above, and it is beautiful work to touch the life of a man and help him be all he can be, to touch the lives of his children and send them out into the world stronger because you were in their lives. It is just awesome.
    And to those who say it is a waste, I say, tell that to Edison, whose mom not only left her teaching career to raise him, but also educated him when the schools failed. Where would we be without his mom “wasting” herself on a child?

  6. Investment banker equals very smart girl… I had a career that eventually became a dead end after 20 years. I wanted to leave but didn’t dare – I was chained to my job for it’s benefits and financial security. When the chain finally broke I felt blessed. The job no longer controlled my life – I did!

      • Re: Education as a career — We.’ve had several teachers and school counselors tell us that times have changed so much, what began as a plum career has turned into a frightening irritation. They say that if they could do it over again, they would not have chosen education as their profession.

        Sorry

  7. hello hello 🙂
    It’s taken me over half a year to make a move and go part time. I had to go past the stage of simply being frustrated with how things were and figure out what actually wasn’t working, and what I want to change.

    For me it was feeling of wasted time for lots of decisions for my clients (in my BA role) I believed didn’t matter. I was lacking full ownership of a project. 🙂 So here I am, working 2days as a BA, and spending rest of the week on setting up my own business. I’ve been doing that since September now, and loving every minute of it!

    It’s not always easy, and you really need to know deep down what you are doing it for and why you have decided to go down that route, but it’s so rewarding! I just need to start earning money on it now 😀 lol

    I am absolutely loving reading you blog!!! It’s very creative, funny and refreshing!!! 🙂

    All the best!
    Freddie & Cinnamon

  8. I used to work ridiculous hours at a job I didn’t particularly care for. And then one day I was just SO TIRED. So I left with no real plan in mind. And really? It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I found a much better job and I am much, much happier working less hours for more money.

    Believe in yourself…you’ll find what you’re looking for.

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