The value of adaptability

Jeff Chin – AB 2008 Music, Economics

Was it me?  Was it my degree?  Why wasn’t I able to get a job in the career I wanted?

After six months of tapping every contact I knew, traveling to New York five different times for interviews, nothing panned out.  As a double concentration in economics and music from LSA, I thought my dream job would come easier.  I questioned my decision to attend school at Michigan. Should I have attended a music school in hopes of attaining my dream job?

My deep yearning for a job in the music industry grew from a childhood steeped in music performance.   Starting music lessons since the age of 5, music was a large part of my life.  By adolescence it grew into fanaticism.  One story helps to paint a vivid picture.  Christmas of 1994, the only thing I wanted was Alanis Morisette’s album, Jagged Little Pill.  After receiving the album as a present, I found it absolutely necessary to share my new gift with my entire extended family.  Unfortunately, the listening session didn’t get very far.  After I played my favorite song “You Oughta Know,” I was immediately grounded and my new gift was taken away.   For those of you who don’t know, there are certain expletives in the song that should never be shared at Christmas dinner.

It was a week after taking a 26 hour round-trip train ride from NY to MI.  I remember where I was and what I was doing when I got my first job offer.  After months of stressing, I was finally starting my first full-time job in the music industry.

Although I started at the bottom, I worked hard and built a good reputation.  After a year and a half I was promoted to analyze and manage projects.   As a business analyst in the project management office, I worked on projects involving transactions between major record labels and publishing companies.  My job was to make the transactions and processes involved with paying artists and writers more efficient.  I was living my dream.  Although I was perfectly content with my vocation, part of me felt empty.  At the time, the music industry was suffering from a one industry recession (as it still is today).  My job of determining efficiencies eventually became penny pinching.  I then saw penny pinching turn into bending the truth, and bending the truth turn into lying.

After 3 years, I knew it was time for a change.  It was a difficult decision to walk away from my passion.  After all, working in the music industry had been part of my identity.  With the advice of my wife and family, I eventually decided I wanted to work in an industry that was less self-seeking and more service oriented.  After thinking and praying about the decision, I decided that I would apply for health care jobs.  The problem was somehow translating my music experience into health care experience.

I wondered if anyone would take a chance on me.  Sure, I had project management experience, but helping a music publishing company help pay song writers was different than doctors helping to heal an ailing patient.  After 2 months of applying for health care jobs, I accepted a business analyst position at a major university in their clinical research department.  Finding a job in health proved much easier than a music career.  I was thrilled at the opportunity, but wondered why would they take a chance on me?  After asking my hiring manager, one major reason was my degree.

In the end, I began to understand the value and diversity my degree afforded me.  The decision to pursue my education at Michigan as opposed to a specialized music school allowed me to change the direction of my career.  Although my dreams changed, my education helped lay the foundation for my future vocation.

Jeff Chin is a member of the LSA Dean’s Alumni Council.

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One thought on “The value of adaptability

  1. Jeff,

    Your story is very humbling, and I cannot begin to voice how many students that I come across that walk out of school thinking that they are entitled to a “dream job” off the bat. These individuals walk away from a great institution like Michigan and default to the school as the culprit for lack of job prospects. My argument is a lack of adaptability and change management. The days of growing old under one employer in a single industry are antiquated. All the best to you.

    -Neil

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