Our Story of Sweet Second Chances In Life
I graduated from biomedical engineering on December 9, 2008 at the cusp of the Great Recession. Just weeks before, on September 29, 2008 the Dow Jones crashed a record total of 778 points, something our generation had never seen.
If there was a bad time to graduate, that was it.
The strategy of my time was that if you do a co-op while you’re in college, you will most likely get hired by them after graduation.
I dreamed of being a top engineer with medical device patents and then selling it to be rich LOL! 😂 And my parents were always super supportive of my dreams. So I spent 1.5 years co-oping for three medical device companies across the country. I even spent half a year at the “holy land” of medical devices, the FDA in Silver Spring, MD, where the headquarters are and all medical devices have to get approved.
By the end of the tunnel, with the three co-ops I had done, it took me almost six years to get my bachelors.
Friends who were not engineering majors made fun of for calling my third year my “pre-junior,” but this was very typical pathway for engineering students. The journey is long, hard, and required days in the basement of a computer lab eating only Doritos and drinking Mountain Dews.
I was confident that by taking this long route and working super hard, I would have a job offer in hand by the time I walk to get my diploma. We all were working towards that.
However, nobody predicted the Great Recession…
And it turned out that last semester, I had a hard time getting interviews. My classmates also had trouble as well. Luckily, I did have a job offer in hand eight months before graduation.
The issue is that it was NOT my dream job. It was for a software engineer verifying controls for a military jet engine in the aerospace and defense industry. As you know, I was in the biomedical engineering industry. It would an “okay” cubicle job. But okay is hardly a word that a 20-something-year-old wants to describe the rest of her life. But I took it and did the best I could in a field that wasn’t my passion.
My Husband’s Story
My husband (then-boyfriend), an electrical and computer engineer, faced a very similar job market situation when he graduated. His roommates were in the same boat, but they bought more time by pursuing masters and PhDs until the job market looked better.
My husband, though, was able to get a job as a field service engineer in the machine tooling industry. It was not exactly the high-speed tech industry that he had dreamed of. Machine Tooling is a very classic, old technology. When you hear machine tooling, think manufacturing plants and steel. But it worked for now.
Neither of us was in our dream jobs. But we were in our early 20s and figured we had time to find our way to success no matter what it took.
WELL, IT GOT WORSE.
In 2009, companies were cutting back on buying new machinery as production slowed down. Soon after, the military budget was cut so the jet engine program I was on was eliminated.
First, he was laid off, then me.
Here we were with our dreams crushed and our spirits devastated. Being laid off was so hard to accept. Imagine being both laid off at the SAME time 😢
When we chose our majors during the era we were in, career prospects with “just” a bachelors degree in engineering were supposed to be great. Instead, here we were, collecting unemployment.
We felt so much disappointment for all the hard work we worked for all our lives thus far, from getting awards at Science Fairs, to acing every final, and doing all the co-op and internships, to now have to navigate a different way to success.
Turning Point Of Our Lives
What was one of the lowest points of our lives became a transition period to other opportunities as my husband — who had not even taken a single biology class — brought up that he was thinking of going to medical school. Inspired by all my biology, anatomy, micro, and organic labs I had taken, he thought, “This really interests me and I think I’m called to go into it.”
I also had a fork in the road: I could go back to graduate school like him, or I could work to support the man I was so in love with so his career pathway would be easier ❤️
I chose the latter.
The Beginning Of My New Career
Through some random ad on a major job board, I got a new job as an entry-level recruiter. But shortly after starting, recruiting was going badly. I thought I had made a complete mistake. Daily quotas I had to meet were like whips at my back and I almost threw in the towel. I was getting burnt out.
My husband was already in medical school and depending on me to support him!
How could I resign?!
Not wanting to have zero income for my family, I planned to hold on and quit only once I had another job in hand, so I can say, “see ya!” and start a new job ideally in my original field I had studied or at least something better. I kept applying and applying while still working that job.
It Finally Started To Look Better
After some time building my recruiting skills in that job, my résumé got strong. Soon — get this! — I got interview offers! The one that interested me the most was so good, it sounded like a scam.
In fact, my husband said, “Theresa, it’s probably a scam.”
The job was 100% remote, paid well, required 0% travel, and the quotas weren’t grueling. Something in me said to call them back.
I did and the rest is history.
I’m still working it now. Today, I am a full-time senior recruiter for a global Fortune 500 company telecommuting every day from our spare bedroom.
The least suspecting job became a blessing to me and my family during these training years. We live off of his training salary and save all of mine. I don’t know what lies in the future of my career, but for now, this job gives me the flexibility to raise our little children and savings to build our future.
The Great Recession was very good for us. But while we experienced it, it knocked us down on our butts.
Now we know that if the recession did not happen, my husband would not have come to the realization that he was called to medicine.
And I would probably still be an engineer, which would have been location-dependent. Because of all our moves for his training, I would have had a choppy résumé for each time we moved. And because flexible jobs in engineers are rare, it would have made raising our children harder. I don’t know if I could have been the engineer I wanted to become in my situation in life.
Hardships can be awful and gut wrenching at the moment. But in the end, it can open up lessons and opportunities that will make you stronger and better. Ours gave us a second chance at a new beginning.
I’m a hugger. I’m hugging and supporting you, friend.
To your strong medical family,
What made you stronger as a person or as family during the medical journey? Share in the comments or reach out to me in Contacts.