Life After Lehigh: Expectation vs Reality Part I

It’s amazing to think that it has been over four years since I graduated from Lehigh. I mean, I basically could have gone through Lehigh and graduated twice by now…that’s nuts!

Even though it feels like yesterday, I still look back to the perceptions I had of what life would be like post-college and realize how wrong (and occasionally right) I was.

With that in mind, I have put together a four-part series to share what life after Lehigh has been like and how my expectations have varied from my reality.  I will dedicate one blog post for each part of the series, which will cover:

  1. Career
  2. Finances
  3. Relationships
  4. Self

Career

Expectation:  I loved my corporate finance classes in school, so it went something like “I’m going to get a job in a corporate finance function at some company and build financial models and stuff…”

Reality: I got a job in the corporate finance function at an investment company and the financial models are already built and four years later I now work in a job that doesn’t, at its core, have much to do with finance at all.

Hm. Yea…so I suppose I wasn’t too far off.

To be fair and transparent, I had a couple internships in college and I was fortunate enough to have my job secured during my second semester senior year, so I wasn’t building my expectation blindly. Even so, it turns out the concepts I learned in my finance classes gave me a great baseline knowledge to prepare me for learning my company’s methodologies and responsibilities for my specific role, and that’s about it.

What’s even further from my original expectation? Here I am, four years later with the same firm, but working in a completely different division, as a data analyst (read: what finance degree?)

Of course, there are a number of people out there whose work does revolve around their college major, but my point is — choosing a major was more directional in nature and not as “permanent” a decision as my college-self originally thought.

At least Lehigh had the foresight to write on my diploma “Bachelor of Science in Business and Economics,” because I am still in the business world after all!

I’m curious how your career expectations have varied from your reality? Are you in a role/field related to your degree, or somewhere completely different?

2 thoughts on “Life After Lehigh: Expectation vs Reality Part I

  1. If you think 4 years is a long time, imagine how I feel now 36 years after my first Lehigh degree ( and 35 after my Lehigh MS and 33 after my Lehigh MBA). I spent 5 years at Lehigh to get a BS and MS in industrial engineering (OR & IS concentrations), with a minor in business before going out into the workforce. My first job was as a manufacturing quality engineer at a semiconductor factory because I thought that since I got a degree in engineering I should work as an engineer.

    Now, after 35 years in the “real world” I look back and realize that I have never had the same job for more than 4 years at a time, even when I was working for the same company for 20 years. I have been a QC engineer, market forecaster, forecasting manager, sales manager, industry marketing manager, network design consultant, information systems architect, systems development manager, data warehousing director, IT director, IT consulting manager, advertising company chief operating, officer, and now college professor. Along the way I picked up a Ph.D. in business and worked for 5 different companies and two colleges.

    There are times that I look back and think that I might have enjoyed part of my career more if I had chosen one of the different paths offered to me at different points over my career, but I have had fun in almost everything I have gotten to do. I know that had I not had such a diverse range of jobs I wouldn’t be nearly as effective in helping prepare new college students for going into the business world.

    I don’t know that I had any big expectations when I graduated, but I can’t complain about the jobs I have had or what I have accomplished. I never got to be CEO of a large corporation, but working as a COO of a small one helped me decide that wasn’t what I wanted anyway. I think that even though I have worked in a wide variety of roles from manufacturing to sales, every job I have had has been related to my degree in at least some small way. That is because the education I received from Lehigh wasn’t primarily about learning certain tools, which become obsolete anyway, but about being able to define problems and systematically design solutions to them, no matter what the tools used. I think that is the big takeaway from the past 35 years post Lehigh, that your degree is a stepping stone and does help you learn some useful skills. However, you never know which skills are the useful ones until you encounter different situations or challenges.

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