The Career Path Less Traveled
Written by Andy Fang
Confession: I chose to study business at NYU Stern because I did not know what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. I was clearer on what I didn’t want to do, being self-aware enough to already know that anything involving high-level mathematics or science was not for me. Studying business, with its all-encompassing generality, sounded respectable enough and also offered an appealing vagueness that meant I didn’t really have to commit to anything just yet. I was privileged enough to have some time to figure things out.
Consequently, I approached my time in college as a way for me to broaden my horizons. The city offers countless opportunities in a wide array of fields and I wanted to take advantage of that, exploring different walks of life and encountering people from diverse backgrounds. Having always been interested in food and the restaurant industry, I asked, in my freshman year, a Japanese chef to give me a trial at his Williamsburg restaurant Okonomi as a ramen cook and I’ve been working at the restaurant in various capacities ever since.
In my sophomore year, I also took on an internship at Milk Gallery, a contemporary photography gallery in Chelsea. I was passionate about photography and wanted to dive into the industry head-on to learn as much as possible. Following my internship, the gallery director asked me to stay on as a gallery associate, and I spent my junior year working both part-time jobs at the gallery and the restaurant.
Working at an art gallery or working at a restaurant are not typical choices Stern students make professionally. I completely leapfrogged the infamous on-campus recruitment for the coveted junior year summer internship. Consequently, as a senior, I definitely felt incredibly overwhelmed at times recruiting for a full-time position with the eclectic experiences on my resume. Yet I wouldn’t change the choices I made one bit.
Through my non-business jobs, I enjoyed experiences that I could never have gleaned from a typical business internship, from enjoying a surprise 2 Chainz performance and interviewing established fashion photographers at Milk, to learning Japanese and visiting a farm in the Berkshires with the restaurant team. In addition, my unique job experience also provided me with skills that could translate to a more business-centered career as well. During full-time interviews, I had a resume that set me apart and experiences that I could speak about with genuine interest.
Working in the restaurant industry, I didn’t just learn about how to make delicious noodles, I also acquired time-management and customer service skills. At the gallery, I learned how to leverage e-commerce, a growing space within the art industry, as well as targeted social media campaigns to yield growth in revenue. Finally, by participating in both the restaurant and the gallery’s close-knit professional teams for an extended period of time, I gained first-hand teamwork experience in a way that most college students don’t encounter prior to entering the workforce.
Nothing exists in a vacuum, and even though I worked in completely different fields than most Stern students do, I still obtained transferrable skills that supplemented my business education at Stern, albeit in a more unconventional and personably enjoyable way. I realize that my approach is atypical and perhaps not for everyone, especially those who have already defined their career path. But for those who haven’t yet solidified their career goals and desire to explore opportunities beyond investment banking and consulting, I urge them to relax and pursue their interests. There’s always more than one road to reach a destination.
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