Discovering purpose through work is a new concept to me as I have begun to experiment with expanding my skill set and delving into new experiences. My interactions with other students and the campus community have brought me a long way. The social skills that I have developed as a result of the experiences are not something I could have planned to achieve, and I would not have learned them from textbooks. These practical skills have built on my pre-set purpose: I still aim for a career in the sciences, but my purpose now also includes the incorporation, and even emphasis, of the necessity of communications and teamwork.
I continue to work with a purpose, towards graduating with a degree in biochemistry. However, I have realized the importance of experience and the discovery of purpose through work. I had never imagined that I would be working in a laboratory for cancer research. I feel that I have learned more from working in the lab than I have from poring over textbooks. It is the focused knowledge associated with the specialization as well as the hands-on application that have intrigued me and have helped me hone in on a career in the pharmaceutical industry.
I entered the university with a purpose to study the biological sciences. I had declared a major in biochemistry and determined the courses that I would be taking every semester until graduation. I had even accounted for summer and winter courses along the way! The courses seemed difficult, but I continued to take on the challenge to learn the material presented to me. In discussions with my friends during freshman year, it seemed that all that really mattered to us were grades and maintaining a strong GPA for medical or graduate school. I determined a long-term goal and worked towards meeting the short-term goals that would lead to my eventual success in reaching graduate school. I was working with a clear purpose in mind.
I could have retained this mindset, but I made what I consider to be a “wise decision”: I opened up to becoming more involved in campus organizations and other opportunities. Now in junior year, I have several friends who are still focused on working straight from point A to point B and have therefore led a very narrow existence in the university. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had I remained so aloof, so close-minded, and so unwilling to participate in the rest of the opportunities that the university and the campus community had to offer. I, unlike my friends, began to drift along my undergraduate pathway, not because I was losing focus from my major and scientific interests, but because I wanted to explore other options available to me.
As an undergraduate, I quickly learned that one can only go so far with theoretical knowledge; the true test is in the practical applications and interactions with the rest of the world. What good is knowing the theory if one cannot practice it or communicate its importance to the rest of the world? How does one learn and share the information?
I have also taken the chance to become involved in service activities that may not directly seem to be related to my career path. The skills that I have acquired in the process are indeed valuable, though. In the process, I have developed leadership skills and communication skills, both of which are necessary for a professional and an organization to succeed. While I have learned how to make presentations in the classroom, I felt the true reward when I organized a team of peer advisors to work with a group of students in determining their progress towards graduation. Theoretical knowledge – in this case, being aware of university academic policies – gave us the basis of aiding the students; what made a difference were our conversations with the students and the comfort that our guidance provided as our team of peer advisors explained the policies to the students. Such experiences have given me the confidence to grow and build on my purpose as I develop into a professional.