When I was in eighth grade, I (along with about seven other students) took Geometry (and at a local high school first thing in the morning, then bused back to our school, where we’d wait in a windowless room (and ostensibly do homework, though I remember one kid playing with a lighter, and us mostly goofing off) until the next class break. I already didn’t feel at ease with a lot of my classmates, and it definitely wasn’t the best experience for my social adjustment. I don’t know that I had any real conception of what I wanted to do professionally at that age- I was good at math and enjoyed the sense of correctness in solving a problem, but I think I felt like it was less my domain than my older sister’s (who would go on to earn a math Ph.D. from MIT). Though I didn’t stay in great touch with my friends and classmates from that era, by my junior year in college I found myself worrying that I would lose (or never have) long-time friends, so I started writing a reflective email each year around the holidays to people I wanted to reconnect or stay in touch with. The list has expanded, and every year the responses from people I’ve mostly failed to keep in touch with help me to reassure myself that as misanthropic and antisocial as I can be at times, maybe I’ve still managed to make a positive impression from time to time.
This year, one woman from our middle school math group responded, and let me know about her entrepreneurial venture supporting women’s empowerment. Other than my annual email and her occasional responses, we’d hardly been in touch in high school- she was much cooler than I (an admittedly low bar to clear), and our paths have been quite different since. She asked me if I’d be interested in writing for the blog of her website, and I wrote this piece on informational interviewing for it. Last week, we recorded a webinar/podcast on deciding whether or not to pursue an MBA. Despite the substantial differences in our lives since, there was something truly heartwarming about getting on a call with someone who “knew me back when,” and I genuinely savored the opportunity to work together, and look forward to further collaboration.
I work a lot with students who are trying to plan their next career move (and oftentimes worry about setting up for the one after that as well). I was partly qualified for my day job as a career counselor because I’d volunteered hours of my time as an alum of the University of Michigan Law School to talk with Law students thinking about careers in consulting. You never know where the road will lead, or how opportunities will present themselves. Care for people. Get back in touch (even if it’s been a long time). Do good work. Enjoy the journey.