In Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel, Brave New World, a futuristic, utopic illustration of what our life might become in the near future, in style similar to an Orwellian 1984, breeding is solely performed in test tubes and every human is built as belonging to a given class. Class A are the intellectuals, Class D are the mindless labourers, etc. and each citizen’s role in society is pre-determined and inescapable.
Fortunately, Huxley’s vision of a utopic (or rather, dystopic) future hasn’t played out just yet and we are offered a plethora of choice in a society that welcomes diversity and freedom of thought (for the most part). But still, it is pretty tough knowing what you really want to do. It is even more challenging, and often a true life-long journey, to find out what you are meant to do.
I was recently made aware that I am a member of the so-called Generation Z, having been born in 1996; and as The Economist refers to us – “stressed, depressed and exam-obsessed.” I can relate to a constant rush to get there. When I left home in Bulgaria on my own at 16, to pursue what turned out to be the most fulfilling journey that I could hope for, I had an insatiable curiosity towards all disciplines. I wanted to be a psychiatrist, a writer, and an economist; I found nature and animals truly mesmerising and for one whole summer I was on a route to be a vet. But I remember always being unsettled about what is it that I want to spend most of my waking hours doing.
Fast-forward to a few months ago, after having completed a degree in Economics, which I grew to truly love, tasted life in the office with my first job in investment banking and a year later, having applied for the MSc Finance programme at Imperial College Business School, I was there, changing once again. I was at a crossroad – what am I meant to do and what is my perfect match?
In August, amidst the heat of summer, I was reading a book about happiness that I got as a gift and didn’t think that much of it – it was yet another page-turner teaching me how to be grateful. Alas, one concept developed first by Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi really caught my eye. He defined flow or what we call being “in the zone”, as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” If you have ever found yourself losing track of time and not checking Instagram for a few hours while doing something, this might be your flow. If you remember what you loved doing after school as a child, without being forced to, this might be your flow. Here is how I am attempting to find mine.
Finding my flow at Imperial College Business School
When I joined Imperial, I arrived on our first day with a truly open mind and a lot of questions under my belt. I began attending as many events as my schedule would afford – ranging from healthcare consulting firms to luxury retail to financial journalism.
I am lucky to have joined a Business School that brought not only the big names to campus but also the small disruptors, innovators and entrepreneurs. I knew from day one that I was in the right place. I had insightful conversations with inspirational professionals and followed-up with them, discovering new mentors and friends along the way. I always questioned them about their lightbulb moment of knowing what they wanted to do and what change means for them – both juniors and managers with many years of experience.
Everyone’s story is truly unique, and I gained an invaluable and tranquil perspective – one is not meant to have it all figured out, not at 20, nor at 50; but at your own pace.
Truly meaningful to my exploration became the relationships I was able to build with different people here at Imperial. Through running the Finance Club, I work intensively with Employer Relations Manager, Anita Borkowska, who not only supported the club every step along the way but also always cheered all my ideas and was there to direct me when I needed it most. She works incredibly hard to bring a plethora of employers to campus and organise the best events for the whole school – we have a different firm on campus every night!
I was also lucky to be part of Career Consultant Mark Daley’s consulting crew. With true enthusiasm about what he does and his variety of contacts in the industry, he prepared us for the toughest case study questions and always made us laugh along the way. Mark organised a consulting super-Saturday, bringing a full day of guest-lecturers, panel discussions and case preparations. His knowledge and preparations were contributed to my discovery of the colourful world of strategy consulting.
In addition, Imperial offers one-to-one career meetings with experienced Careers Consultant for every step of your application, from CV and cover letter checks to mock interviews.
The School gave me so many opportunities to creatively express myself and find my ground while also helping others. Being a student ambassador and working with the wonderful Student Recruitment Coordinator, Annie Greening, to help prospective students and give talks and webinars is always a lot of fun and a great way to give back.
Having always enjoyed writing in all its forms, I discovered that the student blog you are reading now is the best platform for self-expression and a writer wannabe. It also allowed me to get to know and work alongside Content Marketing Coordinator, Nicole Pires, who is always full of energy and new ideas, such as student video vlogs, that allowed me to imagine what life of a journalist might be like.
Truly inspirational and dedicated professors, such as Associate Professor of Finance, Harjoat Bhamra, who taught us Derivatives and made us look forward to even the toughest formulas with his wit and subject passion. Alongside Alex Michaelides, who is the Head of the Finance Department and teaches us Macroeconomics for Finance and who we got to know better at our International Elective at Dubai, I learned first-hand about Islamic Finance and the monetary policy of the UAE Central Bank; and I found a newly sparked interest for a potential future career in the Middle East.
Discovering my career path at Imperial
When one thinks about it, there are so many incredible people that contribute to our future in so many little and big ways without even realising; I can only hope that we will spread the message across along our own ways. Imperial is a one of a kind place that brings together not only the brightest minds and ideas but grows to become a second family. So there I found it, the flow; when you don’t search for it, it decides to pay you a visit. Greet it, welcome it, embrace it and if you are lucky enough, it will also pay your bills.
Amidst all the colourful events, relationships I built, events that Imperial provided and questions I asked, I reached a place with McKinsey where I desire to be, at least until the next change comes, and got to know my own self a little better. If you are still searching for your flow, look up from your phone and grab all the small opportunities today has to offer. And for any pessimists reading, who might frown upon and call this all a bit of a cliche, I recommend reading “Grit” by Angela Duckworth – the only “self-help” book that ignited a passion for searching and changing in me.
Thinking back, I remember sitting in an empty corner office while I was still working in banking, enjoying one of the first conversations with the School after having received my Imperial offer and scholarship, with Student Recruitment Manager, Anum Akhtar. The warm and welcoming voice at the other end, sharing experiences and answering every single one of my questions and worries, felt like I was catching up with an old friend. And whilst we were laughing about something silly, I already knew – I don’t know what I truly want to do in life yet, but for now, I am going to Imperial and it will be a hell of a year to remember.