The Epiphanic Moment
I chose Wharton two years ago to figure out what exactly I wanted to do in terms of career. Although I liked my prior jobs in banking and private equity, I had always been envious of people who passionately talked about their jobs. I was “comfortable” with my job but didn’t feel like it was particularly impactful or intellectually stimulating. Thus, during my first year at Wharton, I tried out a variety of extracurricular activities, stretching my comfort zones and hoping that the “magic moment” would click and I’d know what I wanted to do.
I spent my summer internship in Indonesia and Singapore and was drawn to the region’s investment industry, including its strong dependency on relationships, frequent interactions with entrepreneurs and how hyped-up everyone was about SE Asia. Post-internship, I couldn’t decide whether I want to move there.
On the one hand, I had a great summer experience but on the other, the thought of moving to a new country far from my friends and family was intimidating. In January of my second year, I realized that I had five months until graduation and still hadn’t found that “inspiring” career. I began to feel antsy and thought that maybe moving to a new country was the secret formula. As a result, I started to look for buyside jobs in Asia. I received two PE offers in Asia by end of April.
To my surprise, I was not particularly thrilled at these offers-—even though they had favorable terms. However, by May, I was too antsy to look further and was 99% certain that I was going move to Singapore.
All of this changed during Beach Week. During the craziest four days (of drinking) I had ever experienced, I realized that I would talk about my decision to go to Asia every time I was intoxicated. I would constantly ask every person around me to evaluate my decision.
In reality, I was looking for “justification” that I was making the right choice. I wanted my friends to convince me that this was an exciting opportunity and that I should be 100% hyped. By the end of my four day bacchanal, I finally became truthful with myself. The reason that I always talked about my decision post-drinking was because I doubted myself. I was too scared to admit that I made the mistake of dedicating four months to recruit for a region that I did not want to go. More importantly, I was afraid to admit that I failed at my only goal coming into Wharton. Five days before graduation, I made the decision to decline my offers.
Sinking to the Very Bottom
Post-graduation, I started to recruit again (yes, from scratch). I was very discouraged because 1) I realized that I wasted four months recruiting, 2) there weren’t many jobs going into the summer, and 3) I had no place to live. At first, I was able to crash at friends’ apartments but as they all left, I started to “couch surf”. I moved once every two weeks, looking for the next rentable couch.
I aggressively pursued the job market with a variety of tactics—religiously checking Career Path, sending cold emails and pushing for referrals. Thankfully, by mid-June, I received my first offer in NYC. I was getting slightly desperate and felt FOMO looking at Facebook Newsfeed filled with travel photos of my Wharton classemates. However, I kept reminding myself why I came to Wharton, so it was only fair that I conduct diligence on my offer.
Unfortunately, the more people I talked to, the less excited I became at the people and firm. Although, I wanted to have stability in my life, I realized that I would be repeating my past mistake if I tried to convince myself that this was the right job. I came to Wharton with a specific goal and I was determined to achieve it. I turned down my first NY offer and continued the couch-renting journey.
Then I was robbed. Because I was migrating every two weeks, I lived with two suitcases. All of my belongings were stored at a storage unit just north of Center City. I discovered that my storage unit was completely raided one Saturday morning. All my boxes were ransacked and after a thorough examination, I realized that I probably lost over ~$15K of valuables, including my laptop, Guccis, and all of my jewelry and electronics. My heart ached because the things stolen held special meaning. I lost the diamond necklaces that my parents gave me when I graduated high school, the customized bracelet from my grandparents and the most thoughtful necklace from my best friend (Lena Koolman, WG’15). I was trying so hard to hold my breath so I wouldn’t cry—I was unemployed, homeless and felt that I had nothing (literally).
I was fortunate to have amazing friends who supported me throughout the process. As soon as my friends heard that I was robbed, they called to make sure I was ok. In particular, I would like to thank Ravi Singh (WG’15) as he managed to make me laugh by cracking jokes and taking selfies with my eclectic collection of raided clothes. More importantly, Ravi reminded me that despite all things that could go wrong this summer, I was extremely lucky to not be hurt and still have family and friends who really care. Ravi also encouraged me to take a break from the job search because the “ever-so sunshine Lucy” was slowly fading. I was no longer smiling 24/7 while my chirpiness was replaced with sighs and frowns.
On a whim one night, I started Googling for modeling auditions in Philadelphia. I came across a few modeling auditions and pageants that were happening within my vicinity in the next few weeks. After applying and auditioning for a few of them, I somehow became one of the regional winners for one of the largest Asian pageants in the world. As a result, I qualified to compete for the America title and shoot infomercials that would be televised in US, HK, China, UK and Singapore.
This little journey was an “interesting” experience. It taught me a lot about “Asian beauty” and highlighted how much I had grown during my time at Wharton.
Prior to Wharton, I was very good at taking orders. Inevitably, working in finance, I was always the junior person on the team. As a result, I only “executed” orders. However, I learned that two years later, I was no longer that “order-taking” person as I became quite upfront about things and spoke up for myself. I was probably the only person in the pageant that openly talked back to the film directors and bought french fries for myself even though the organization told me I could only eat salads (yes, I got into major trouble for that).
Retrospectively, I really didn’t know why or how I was one of regional winners. One of the most unforgettable moments during this journey was when the film director said to me “This is a beauty pageant. Not Miss Pregnant Pageant. Suck in your stomach”. Sure, I had gained weight at Wharton but this was the first time in my life that I was categorized as “obese” and had to be on a starvation diet (Yes, I was reminded that I need to diet and not eat every day). Although everything we filmed looked beautiful, I can’t express the amount of “hangryness” I suffered.
Thankfully, I will never enter another pageant. The experience was “interesting” and I had my moments of shine on international TV, but I don’t think that I’m a fan of constantly being criticized for my physique. At this age, I’m happy with who I am.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Meanwhile, I continued my recruiting process. During the final stretch of my recruiting journey, I was blown away by the amount of support and help from my friends and colleagues. Regardless of location and time zone (Kuwait, London, Boston, SF), my friends and former colleagues picked up the phone to do my reference checks and vouch for my character. The light finally turned my way as I received two additional offers.
I was thrilled to receive an offer from a NYC based VC fund that focuses on EdTech. For the first time ever, I felt that I had found a job doing something I was passionate about. I wasn’t just doing a job but rather making a difference in learning and hopefully contributing to social impact.
My summer was tumultuous, but I came out of it with several valuable lessons and gained important realizations into who I am as a person. Sure, not having a job post-grad sucked, but the important thing was that I followed my intuition and didn’t give in when things were rocky. Following the road less traveled eventually led me to the top.
Words of Wisdom:
For the Incoming (Ever-So-Excited) 1YRs
First Year is the time to be adventurous and try new things. It’s also important to have time for “yourself” because “alone time” is the only time in which you can self-assess what you want.
Take the time to figure out who your close friends are as you might be overwhelmed by the number of people in your class. The classic mistake is trying to be friends with everyone but realizing that you don’t know much about anyone.
Don’t rush to go to every EIS or jump into a popular industry simply because all your friends are doing that. If you don’t know what you want to do, list out the things that make you excited about a job and use that list as your guide.
For the (Let’s Make it Worth it) 2YRs:
Don’t be pressured to accept a job! Most importantly, don’t accept a summer offer simply because of timing or because you don’t want to recruit. Think about why you’ve come to business school: Is it because you wanted a career change? Do you want to try something new? It’s important to be truthful to yourself and to not drift away from your personal goals.
Focus on relationships. Now that you’re a second year, you’ve done the whole scouting for friends and going to every party. It’s important to deepen your existing relationships because those are the people who will speak on your behalf in the real world.
Go to Beach Week because it’s actually cost efficient (you won’t want to go to another club or touch alcohol for a very long time after that…).