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MIT student blogger Maggie L. '12

How the Career Fair saved my summer by Maggie L. '12

And forced me to try something new

This is a summer of new things for Maggie Lloyd. I rented a car for the first time; I drove over 400 miles across several state lines; I rented my first apartment; I had to find furniture for said apartment; I have to rely on my kitchen for dinner, not a dining hall; I have to wake up before 5 a.m.; I therefore try to fall asleep before 9 p.m.; I don’t have any free MIT wifi.

But the biggest change for me is this: I am not doing research.

Ever since I was a sophomore in high school, I walked around telling people I wanted to be a cancer researcher. It sounded so awesome! I imagined that I would try new experiments, test new compounds, and write exciting papers that would be published in exciting journals. There was only one problem. Saying I want to be a “cancer researcher” is like saying “I want to work as a scientist!” If I wanted to commit to a career in research, I needed a very specific plan. I had no plan, but that’s what summer internships are for, or at least that’s what I told myself. You get to try a career for a few months to test the waters. If you don’t like it, you have narrowed your options.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed the experiences I’ve had in labs, but I started to realize that it’s not the career for me. Last fall was the big moment when I told myself to start looking for opportunities outside of the lab. It was terrifying. For almost five years of my life I had been set on this one path, and now I was forcing myself to chart a new course. Interestingly, I knew writing would have to be involved. I never thought that a few years of MIT would make me enjoy writing so much, but it has.

At the MIT Career Fair a few months later, I only had an hour to meet with company representatives because of my class schedule. This was like the Supermarket Sweep of Career Fairs. Out of hundreds of tables, I had time to meet with three companies.  I handed my resume out and discovered what a chemical engineer (“with a focus on Biology,” I said, since I’m course XB) could do for each organization. That night, one of the companies called me back and asked for an interview.

“Oh, um, wow! I mean, sure, when are the interviews?” I asked.

Turns out, they were the next day. I usually like to prepare a few days in advance of these kinds of things, not a few hours. But something was going right because they asked for a second interview, and then I flew out for a third in a company site visit, and before I knew it I got a nice, big envelope in the mail.

I’m still working in biochemistry, but now I’m writing about it. As an analyst, I’m researching new biochem and biotech developments and advising different groups based on that information. It’s a brand new environment for me—I’m sitting at a desk, not a lab bench, but it seems like my instinct to explore a new career was a good one because I have never felt time fly by as quickly as it does when I’m at work these days. Yes, it’s even worth the early wake-up time.

This experience also meets my InternshipPlus requirement as a two-year GEL student. The GEL program encourages its students to get the most out of their internships, so we are challenged to ask our supervisor for leadership opportunities. At first, this sounded simple enough to me, but once I arrived at my new job I started getting cold feet in terms of bringing up my InternshipPlus requirements. I felt very much like a rookie, and didn’t want to seem pushy in my first week of work.

So how did the conversation with my supervisor go? Well, not to leave you on a cliffhanger or anything, but I think the rest of this story should be saved for another entry. Check back soon!

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