“What do you want to do?” | Blog #3

I try to check in with myself every couple of weeks and ask myself the same questions. What is your goal by the end of the summer, Michelle? How does that fit into your plan for your last year of college? Do your choices help set you up for your future career path? Most of the time, I am confident in my answers and checking off each question strengthens my goals and my understanding of my personal motivators.

But whenever I’m hit with a casually thrown, “What do you want to do?” from a colleague or another intern, that foundation seems shakey again. It is such an innocuous question. Everyone asks it, and everyone seems to give a confident answer (or they fake it until they make it). But up until this summer, my answers have changed every time. Upon reflection, I’ve always felt uncomfortable with my responses because nothing I have stated has truly resonated with me yet.

“What do you want to do?” has followed me throughout the course of my life as I progressively narrowed down my options.  In high school, physics doesn’t make sense, so I decided that I probably will not going to be an engineer. Dissecting is okay, but blood isn’t? The medical field is out of the question. College came by and economics was useful…but too dry, history degrees do not provide job security, and I don’t see myself as a lawyer. Thankfully, my childhood love for nature documentaries and world events evolved into a passion for international affairs and environmental issues, so I now feel confident in what my motivators are, as well as the course of my career, even if I cannot precisely describe what job I would like.

There are benefits of having such an inter-disciplinary academic background; with my double minor and double major, I can be strategic with what I choose to pursue. While I am very passionate about environmental issues, under unaccommodating administrations, I can utilize my background to focus more on my international relations or energy policy side, because energy will always be a salient topic, and international issues are morphing into more transboundary issues. This flexibility, however, is also problematic, because of the array of paths I could pursue. Foreign Service, Environmental Policy, Energy Security, or International Development? All good options. Working with NGOs, multilateral institutions, and advocacy groups are on the table as well. And, thus, after mapping out all of my possible paths, I’m back again to the question of “What do you want to do?”

My friends always laugh at me every time I throw myself into another quarter-life existential crisis, but these continuous cycles of self-reflection are important to me. Even though I will have two amazing internships by the end of this summer, there’s still a self-imposed pressure of answering this question adequately.

Now that I’ve settled into my internship, I want to the rest of this summer will be centered around narrowing my focus down, and really understanding what career I would like to set myself towards. There’s always room for personal growth, and checking in with my fundamental motivators is crucial before I select what opportunity I undertake next in my pursuit of my career.

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