Embracing Uncertainty

by Naz Ozbek, COL/WH ’14

If you’re reading this blog, it means that you know the ins and outs of the Career Services website, which means that it’s either not your first time here, or even if it is, it certainly won’t be your last. It also means that, just like a good majority of your friends, you’re scouring for a summer internship or a full time job, depending on what year you’re in.

If you’re anything like me when I was going into my third year (and most Penn students trying to find jobs are), you may be asking all sorts of questions to yourself. Why didn’t I get that interview? Why didn’t they call me back? My friend got an offer but I didn’t. What could I be doing better? Do I really want to be in finance? What should I be doing with my life? etc. etc. These questions may be of varying natures and severities, leading all the way up to a small existential crisis.

There’s only one piece of advice that I can give you, and you need to believe that it’s true, because it is—even if it doesn’t seem like it right now.

Here it is: Everything will be okay.

I’ve been in your shoes and I know exactly what it feels like. I applied to all the consulting firms my sophomore year to get a summer internship. Deloitte, BCG, Bain, Accenture. You name the company, and I’ve probably applied for an internship there. Not because I was dying to be in consulting, but because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I was going along with the famous OCR trend. Being an international student was an added challenge, as it was hard to find companies who were willing to sponsor my visa. After not getting a single invitation for an interview from any of the places I applied to, I entered a phase of self-questioning and doubt, and hours of Skype conversations with my parents to help me figure out what it was that I was missing or could be doing better.

After much discussion with my parents and days of self-pondering, I realized that I didn’t want to be in consulting or banking. In fact, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew what I didn’t want to do. So I decided to spend that summer with my family at home in Turkey.

The next year, the pressure was on again. Except, this time, I was a step ahead as I knew what types of jobs I was definitely not going to apply to. This was a huge step and relief as it meant that I would basically not be going through the OCR experience again. I wanted to try out an internship doing something creative in marketing, which meant that I would be applying to ad agencies or the marketing departments of some of my favorite brands like Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks. This time, however, I went through a different type of challenge as I was submitting my application not through Penn, but through each company’s own careers website, or via direct emails to individuals. My dream was to work for Disney in Los Angeles, both because I’m a huge Disney fan, and because I wanted to experience living in LA to see if it would be a good fit for me in the long run. In January, I applied to about 10 roles on their website. 4 months passed, and a week after school was finished, I still hadn’t heard back from any of the places I had applied to. All of my friends had their summers lined up and had left Philly to go home before moving to New York or wherever else for the summer, and I decided to visit my best friend at home in St. Louis. Long story short, I got an invitation to interview via Skype for the Digital Marketing team over at Disney/ABC while in St. Louis, and a week later, I got a call saying I got the job.

I didn’t have a car (I didn’t even have a US driver’s license), I had never been to LA before, and I didn’t know where I would live, but I accepted the offer thinking I’d figure everything out when I got there. Which, luckily, worked out. I met some great people and had a great internship that summer.

I had a very similar story for finding a full-time job for post-graduation. One of my managers at Disney, who had moved over to Netflix, referred me to an agency in New York. They got in touch with me in May, and I landed my job a couple of weeks after graduating. By this point in time, I had learned to live with uncertainty, so the “not knowing” did not bother me as much as it used to. This doesn’t mean that I sat back and waited for the stars to align so that something would magically come my way, but rather, that I did everything I could do on my end of things, and had a little faith that something would eventually come along.

It’s hard to think of the bigger picture when you’re going through a rough patch. One thing I’ve found helpful is to stop for a second when things get overwhelming and ask myself the following questions: will this matter a year from now? Five years from now? Is it a realistic thought that I’ll be unemployed for the rest of my life? Most of the time, I laugh at myself because I realize my worries are groundless. Chances are, yours are too.

Right now, I’m working at a co-working space that caters to individuals in the creative industries. I left my job at the advertising agency because I realized I don’t want to be in marketing. Right now, I’m happy with where I am, and I have a pretty good sense of what it is that I want to do with my life. However, it’s because I didn’t get an internship in finance or consulting (which would’ve tied me to a pretty set, straightforward plan for the next couple of years), because I took some risks and tried different things, that I realized what I do not want enough times to realize what I do want to do.

So please don’t worry. You’re at a very good school and will eventually be employed. Maybe it won’t be five months before the internship is actually supposed to start, but that’s not how real life works anyway. Something will eventually come along, and if that something doesn’t work out, another something will. Don’t worry. Uncertainty can be a good thing. Teach yourself to embrace it.

Naz Ozbek graduated from Penn in 2014 with a BA in Sociology from the College of Arts & Sciences and a BS in Economics, Concentrating in Marketing, from Wharton.

Author: Guest Perspective

Our guest perspective account includes views from Penn alumni, current students and employers, writing exclusively for Penn & Beyond!