After a long line of businesspeople in my family, I knew exactly what I wanted to do in high school.
I joined all the business clubs, like DECA (a marketing association) and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). I competed in as many local, regional and national competitions that I could get my hands on. In my sophomore year, I scraped up a national win for public speaking in FBLA, and for my senior year, I led DECA as the state president.
Business became my identity.
So, naturally, when it came to picking a college major, I didn’t hesitate: Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in marketing and finance. Easy.
When I moved into college, I immediately signed up for all the business clubs, just like I had in high school. Within my first semester, I took a job in the business school editing students’ resumes and cover letters. I was ready and excited to continue to mold my passion and skills in the industry I belonged in.
Thought I belonged in.
The first time my passion for business wavered happened only a couple weeks into my second semester. I sat in my little work office, editing resumes, when I overheard a group of boys whispering about a party the night before, right outside the door.
“She didn’t even blow me. What was the point in inviting her?”
I snapped my head up.
“You gotta make her next time, dude.”
Slimy nervousness crept over me. Their voices faded as they walked down the hall, but those words echoed around my brain until I couldn’t hear anything else.
“You gotta make her next time, dude.”
The trickle of doubt began to seep into my heart.
The second time my passion for business wavered occurred during a business presentation, a group project, in which I was the only girl in the group.
I don’t remember what the presentation was about--Argentinian economy, something like that--but it went smoothly, all of us talking about our individual parts.
And then it came for the question and answer part.
“What’s the most important industry in Argentina?” asked a student in the audience.
“There’s a few--” I started to say.
“I’d say agriculture is definitely one of them,” interrupted a group member.
I nodded, a bit annoyed, but willing to let it go; perhaps he didn’t hear me. I cleared my throat and when it came time to answer the second question, started off louder.
I was interrupted a second time.
And then a third time, only a few minutes later.
I didn’t understand; I spoke clearly and confidently, yet my group members talked over me every time. They never interrupted each other. And the professor sat there and watched them.
It dawned on me, then, how much I wasn’t heard--or wanted.
The trickle of doubt grew into a steady stream.
My passion for business broke apart completely when I spoke with a friend at lunch, voicing my disgust at a local news story that had just come out--a CEO forcing women to sleep with him if they wanted to move up in the company.
“Well, what do they expect?” he scoffed. “That’s business.” He smirked before returning to his hamburger.
I stared at him. “What?”
He shrugged. “Sorry, but that’s the truth, Beth.”
That was the last time I had lunch with him.
It became abundantly clear to me that what I lived about business in high school--competitions, winning trophies, making friends--was not about business at all. In high school, I was the Colorado DECA State President, a national FBLA winner, a force to be reckoned with; in college, I was just another girl that didn’t belong in the boys club.
It was that night that I sat at my desk and pushed my business binder away from me, thinking. Thinking, thinking, thinking.
What were my favorite parts of business in high school?
The connections. That was always clear; I loved working with my DECA teams and all my business teachers and advisors. I loved making new friends at each competition….
Competition! I loved every part of competing, from the nervous flutters in the minutes beforehand to the rush from settling into my competing groove. I could spend weeks preparing myself for one competition, diving into creating the perfect business plan. That’s what I truly loved most; creating.
Connections and creativity. Connections and creativity. Connections and…
I opened my eyes, walked outside, and called my parents.
“Mom and Dad, I’m switching to communication. And--and film.”
I’ll give it to my parents; they didn’t miss a beat.
“Good for you!”
My parents were beyond supportive, something I didn’t expect to hear when I was switching my major from business to film production. Perhaps they knew they didn’t have a say--I was on a full-ride scholarship so they didn’t pay a cent for anything--or perhaps they just trusted and believed in me. I fully suspect it was the latter.
Communication made sense to me. Film...film shocked me as much as it shocked my business professors and advisors. I always enjoyed creating small videos in my high school here and there, but making it a major?
It was the best decision I ever made.
Four years after that day, I couldn’t be happier. After spending countless hours on film sets and in editing rooms, I graduated this past spring with a B.S. in Strategic Communications with an emphasis in public relations, and a B.A. in film production. I landed a full-time job perfectly combining the two: media services in local government, where I get to create and meet new people every day.
I think about my time in the business college, and I know now that it was only a few people that made me feel like I didn’t belong; in reality, there were many wonderful students and teachers within the school. Perhaps I just wasn’t strong enough to deal with the loud few.
Or perhaps something inside me knew I just wasn’t where I was meant to be.