True story: My first job changed my entire career path

Her career path seemed certain, till this recent graduate’s first job changed everything.

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halie kelletHalie Kellet graduated from the University of Michigan in 2017 with a degree in neuroscience. She thought she knew exactly what her “dream job” was, but her first job after graduation changed her entire career path — and she’s never been more excited about the future.

My career path story

I knew I wanted to be a doctor since I was 10 years old. I followed a pretty clear track through college, took the MCAT, and when I graduated I immediately started applying to medical schools. However, I had a year to fill before I would attend medical school. So I applied for jobs in the spring of senior year and settled on a public health research position at a nonprofit organization.

I chose that research position because it was the most connected to what I thought I wanted for my career path. Much to my surprise, this research position made me realize that I didn’t want to go to medical school after all! Now, I’m pursuing a degree in clinical psychology — ultimately becoming a psychologist, which will allow me to work in research, education, or to help patients with mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders.

What changed my mind about my career path

 My first job out of college helped me focus on my actual interests and revealed skills that made me realize that a career in clinical psychology suited me better than a career in medicine. While clinical psychologists still treat patients, they’re helping with mental disorders — not diagnosing strep throat, setting a broken arm, or treating a cancer patient.

Being exposed to clinical psychologists and seeing what they actually do every day made me realize that this was the job for me. Through my research position I was able to learn about a whole new field that I didn’t know about, and was right up my alley.

In addition, seeing coworkers who were truly invested in their work — whether that was a clinical social worker or a research assistant — inspired me to figure out what I was passionate about. What career could I really invest myself in for the next 30+ years?

Thinking hard about this made me realize I was most interested in treating personality and mental illnesses. I can still work with people one-on-one, and counsel them through difficult issues, which is really what appealed to me about being a medical doctor in the first place.

What I learned from my first job

The skills I learned in this first job after graduation will always be useful in the future. I’ve gained more interpersonal skills as I interact with our study participants on a near-daily basis. I’ve learned management and teamwork skills and improved my critical thinking and problem-solving.

The job taught me how to adjust to a 9-to-5 schedule (or in my case, 8-to-4), and I’ve been able to enjoy a friendly work environment, which made me realize how much I value positive day-to-day interactions with others in a career.

In addition, I’ve learned to code and write project proposals — though this work made me realize that I don’t want to be staring at a computer screen all day!

What the future looks like

Looking back, I’m incredibly grateful that I had a year break after undergrad. I took a job just to get through the year, and it ended up changing the course of my life.

Even though I thought I had my “dream job” figured out, I now have a new dream: applying for the GRE, continuing to work in my public health research position, and (hopefully) attending grad school for clinical psychology in fall 2019.

Thinking about going to grad school? Sign up for the Wells Fargo webinar: Why I went back to school — the journey to grad school.