career independence

My first career crisis happened in college. After investing three years and a lot of my parent’s money in a college education, organic chemistry stood between me and graduation. Either I passed this course or I would not graduate.

I would not get into graduate school. I would never get a job. I would wind up homeless on the street. OK, so these last statements may not be scientifically based, but my parents had threatened horrible consequences if I didn’t get a degree. That was a cold, hard fact.

Passing the course was going to be a bit challenging. I received an F on the first test and an F+ on the second. The one thing I was good at in organic chemistry was failing. With those grades, even if I aced the final, I would not pass the course. But I took a positive attitude and a healthy dose of parental fear to my chemistry professor and tried to negotiate:

“Professor Evil, if I get an A on your final exam, will you please give me a passing grade for the course?” (Insert whimper and quivering lip.) After the maniacal laughter, Professor Evil said, “If you ace the final, I will give you an A for the entire semester!” (Insert more maniacal laughter.)

So I made a plan. I figured out how many chapters I would need to review per night for the next two weeks, reserved a study booth at the library, and posted a flyer for a tutor. I was going to make it happen. I was going to ace this class.

There was one small problem. Deep down inside, I knew that if I succeeded, I would have to take another chemistry course just like it the following semester . . . and then another and another. Secretly, I wanted out.

Each day, I found a million different things to do—sort laundry, color code my notebooks, organize my books and highlighters, visit my best friend at a school 100 miles away. My subconscious and my heart weren’t letting me get anywhere near a chemistry book.

The night before the exam, I knew that there was no way I was going to pass; there was no way I was going to graduate with a chemistry degree. It was over. I sat at my desk, took a deep breath . . . and I smiled. A huge weight was lifted. There was joy and hope for the future. I could dream again.

The next day, I changed my major and declared my career independence.

The late Steve Jobs once said, “Don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

What do you want to become, and are you ready to declare your independence?


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A big dreamer as well as a big do-er, Madelyn draws on her experience of successfully navigating three high-profile careers to provide the expert advice, encouragement, and step-by-step action plans you need to activate your career dreams.

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