“Yes, I think you have what is necessary for a career concentrated on law. But for god’s sake, don’t become a lawyer.”
“Actually, I’m still planning on going into advertising.”
“I take it back. Be a lawyer.”
This conversation with my professor and mentor, Dr. XXX, was the first time I had ever considering a future outside of advertising. The conversation occurred because I had been frustrated that someone I held in such high regard had seemed disappointed in me, particularly given my nearly perfect marks in his class. When I asked him why, he gave his usual response in the form of questions, in this case, what interested me. I often became defensive to his questions, especially where my focus was concerned, and would argue that it was sensible that I spend time focused on my agency work instead of course work, or defending the hours spent studying ad-creative instead of my biology book, and building web marketing campaigns instead of campaigning for a position of on-campus leadership. He would listen with a nod and smile, sometimes lightly chastising me as a, “young fool.” My defensiveness came from his approach of questioning as I was comfortably, instead, with the imposition of expectations I had become familiar with in my interactions with my other mentor: my father.
Growing up with an advertising agency in the basement of my childhood home, I have sharp memories overhearing negotiations or acting as a sounding board for marketing campaigns. This was amongst the greatest shaping influences of my childhood. Even from a young age my father would discuss my potential for marketing, pointing to my persuasive skills, creativity, and emphasizing my ability to understand and communicate to various subjective perspectives while maintaining and objective perspective. His excitement for me was contagious, so much so that I began to my choices became guided by this more than anything else. I ignored other desires and interests, leaving high school at seventeen to begin college when my peers were enjoying their senior year. In college I married my wonderful wife, YYYY, but other than that focused entirely on my future career to the detriment of my education. While my father's expectations constantly urged me forward, Dr. XXX's questions were intended to make me pause to think. My commitment to advertising remained steadfast, but my confidence in it did not.
In my final semester, as I was preparing to transition into my career, my father decided to sell his agency, believing I would be more fulfilled if I was forced to succeed on my own merit alone instead of in his shadow. This made me realize my driven commitment had been based on the family aspect of the agency, and not an interest in advertising. With my resolve shaken, I sought Dr. XXX's advice, hoping he would push me towards law or philosophy, providing me with some resolve once again. Instead he told me I wasn’t ready for the advice he had to give. He said that for now I should be the best advertising man I could be, and that when I was finally ready for his advice I would know. I trusted his wisdom and so determined to do just that.
For all my preparation for a career in advertising, the greatest challenge I faced was something I hadn't expected. Because of my pedigree, it was assumed by my peers that I would feel entitled or receive special treatment, some hoping for my failure and others actively sabotaging me. I quickly learned I would have to work harder, perform better, and be the best co-worker possible to succeed at all. I count as my greatest career success that I was able to change minds, earn respect and collaborate with, and even lead, some of my firmest detractors. This helped me learn that I had abilities that were underutilized, and I found I had interests that could not be engaged in this career path. The uncertainty began to return, but I had one more essential lesson to learn before I would be ready for XXX's promised advice.
Complications caused my son to be born extremely weak. He lacked the strength to nurse but with allergies to every formula we tried he was constantly either in pain or near starvation. I was sleeping only a few hours each night but my amazing wife was sleeping even less, causing her to be on the brink of falling apart. Worried for my son’s health and wife’s sanity, I poured every ounce of myself into my family while still advancing my career. I found myself stretched thin and yet felt truly fulfilled like never before. Being a father and a husband took everything I had to offer, and I came to realize that it this brought fulfillment I had been missing in my professional life. I had more to offer, not only in skill but in effort and passion.
Dr. XXX had known that to be ready for his advice, I had to understand it from my own experience. I told him of my realization, that I was now ready for his advice, and he sent me these words: “The question you need to answer – J.G. Fichte said it is the ultimate one for each of us – is: what is it that only I can do. That is, given not just my wants, but my strengths and weaknesses, my training (toilet and beyond), my family tradition and what all of this best matches up with what our society and the world at large need, what and how can I uniquely contribute?”
I had to wait six years for this advice, for the lessons I learned in that time equipped me with the knowledge, maturity, and drive for what lays ahead. What had started as a question of what others wanted for me, or what I wanted for myself is now a question of what will use everything I have to offer and more. I am ready to take this step towards fulfillment; as a student, a son, a husband, a father and as a professional.
(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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