Being comfortable with change is much easier said than done. If you are anything like me, you always feel like you need to have your life planned out. By the end of my first semester of college, I had a spreadsheet of all the classes I would take each year, a layout of the internships I wanted to pursue, and even an outline of my career path 10 years after graduation.
Don’t get me wrong – having a plan is not a bad thing. In fact, in a lot of my experiences, planning has helped me develop goals and impart structure in my life. The problem in having or feeling the need to have everything sketched out is that it can often cloud your ability to explore other opportunities.
LEARN TO BE FLEXIBLE IN YOUR ACADEMIC PLANS
The Dyson School offers a flexible curriculum which encourages students to pursue coursework in many different disciplines. The first day of freshmen orientation, I remember being handed a sample 4-year course plan by my academic advisor. The plan outlined core coursework requirements, like marketing, and financial accounting, as well as some general education requirements like biology and chemistry. What really stood out to me were the three boxes representing the last year-and-a-half of college, which had almost 12-15 credits of “open space” every semester. My academic advisor explained how students are given the freedom and time to graduate early, pursue a double major or minor, or even take a semester off to do an internship or study abroad.
By the end of that week, I had looked through the double major options, talked to my advisor, and enrolled in courses that worked toward all my new requirements. I was so excited to be: ‘Pranav Vasishta, Double Major in Applied Economics & Management and Information Science, Concentrating in Business Analytics and Data Science.’ After two semesters went by, I started to realize that coding and working heavily with data was not my thing. Many enrolled credits and months of hard work later, the last thing I wanted to do was change my path. I was worried that my entire plan was wrecked. It was hard to feel like I hadn’t wasted my tuition pursuing something that I didn’t really enjoy.
If you ever find yourself in the same position, talk to someone and address your concerns. I remember having a very impromptu conversation with a Dyson professor, Donna Haeger, who inquired about my academic aspirations. She asked me what I liked about the courses I had taken and listened to all my grievances about what I didn’t enjoy. At the end of the talk, she re-directed me to more business focused analytics courses, which I ended up enjoying so much that I now TA for those classes. The biggest lesson here is that you don’t have to go through the stress of adapting to change alone. Reach out to someone – a professor, friend, or even a close alumnus. Change feels a lot more comfortable when you have someone to talk it out with.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO DEVIATE FROM TRADITION
Throughout my college experience I was very fixated on following the traditional four-year path. After completing my second internship, I realized I learn a lot more about myself and what I enjoy when applying my learning to real contexts. The strategy class I took sophomore year continuously touched on the concept of synergy. This talks about how the value of combining two similar processes together results in a better outcome than having them run separately. Although I understood this concept on paper, looking at the financial data during my internship helped me realize the magnitude in which a company can save and better perform when it finds synergies.
I expressed this realization to one of my friends who was simultaneously scrolling through LinkedIn. He spotted many posts about students at other schools who had built-in, year-round internship programs. He recommended I check out pursuing a school semester internship. At first, I was very averse to this idea – leaving school and deviating from my 4-year plan? Pursuing a co-op/full-time spring internship was common for engineering students, but not necessarily for Dyson students. I looked over my remaining coursework and spoke with the career management team and decided that the benefits of pursuing another corporate opportunity outweighed the courses I would miss out on while being away from school.
Two months later, I had finalized my position, applied for my leave of absence from Cornell, and moved to California. Currently, I am 8 weeks into my internship and have learned so much about the type of work I want to pursue. Since my internship wasn’t during the summer, I was working alone, which meant I had a higher amount of shared responsibility to complete projects. Although I enjoy collaborating with people, this position taught me that I thrive in situations where I can be competitive with myself. Since my winter/spring internship led right into the summer intern session, I was given autonomy in deciding the strategic direction for many of the projects. I was able to explore opportunities outside my scope of work that I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to pursue in a shorter summer internship. Given the smaller internship class during the off-cycle period, I was able to have more thoughtful conversations with leaders inside my organization. Overall, I learned that I had some entrepreneurial drive — something I couldn’t realize sitting in class learning about supply and demand curves.
Also, the time away from school has helped me explore some new passions like real estate development that I had not considered before. Now, I can go to back to school in the fall and enroll in courses about real estate and asset management. Deviating from my traditional plan brought me valuable insights that I will take with me as I progress forward in both my academic and professional careers.
HERE IS WHAT YOU SHOULD TAKE AWAY
Don’t be afraid to be the student that steps aside from the norm. Whether it means taking time off school and traveling the world or changing your major four times, get comfortable with uncomfortable change. Learning how to be adaptable and adventurous has helped me find myself as opposed to sticking to my freshmen self’s 4-year plan. Remember, redirection is a wonderful opportunity to get one step closer to who you want to be and what you want to do.
Bio: Pranav is from Saint Louis, MO, and studies Applied Economics & Management at Cornell University, where he aspires to combine his analytical skills with his interest in strategy and problem-solving. His career interests include corporate strategy and business development. Previously, Pranav interned with Cigna Healthcare and T-Mobile in market strategy and development. He is currently interning at KPMG within their Customer and Operations consulting practice.
At Cornell, Pranav is very involved within the extracurricular community. He is a Project Manager for an analytics-focused consulting group, a campus tour guide, and Vice President of Alumni Engagement for Dyson’s undergraduate business council. During his free time, he enjoys cooking, planning travel, and exploring new restaurants with friends.