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?