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On Learning to Apply the Brakes

EACE Blog contribution by Anne Marie Gercke, Associate Director of Career Services at University of Pennsylvania

The last year of my life has been the busiest I can remember. This summer flew by and I can’t believe that the fall 2014 semester has begun! From the chatter I hear from my colleagues both at Penn and beyond, I suspect that many others feel the same. I have attributed much of my personal busyness to my transition to my current role where I wear multiple hats (advise students, manage our two Simplicity databases and help with employer relations). Additionally, I just completed my graduate degree in August after two years of balancing a full-time job, a part-time consulting opportunity and school. I was certain that the minute I walked out of my last class on that sunny August day I’d feel a weight lifted off my shoulders and I’d be screaming, “Hallelujah!”

I finished my degree. I screamed, “Hallelujah!” The weight lifted.

Then it came back.

Within 24 hours I found myself planning and plotting my next “to do” items. All of the things I had needed to table during The Busy Time suddenly flooded into view and I started taking on new responsibilities in both my professional and personal life. The Busy Time returned before it even really left and I’m right back to where I was before, trying to stay afloat and scratching my head wondering why there’s no respite.

As professionals in today’s world, with its “insta-this” and “insta-that,” I feel it’s easy to become so accustomed to a rapid pace that it’s almost impossible to break free of it. Am I right? Is anyone with me on this? I compare it to driving at 65 or 75 mph on the highway for an hour or so and then getting off at an exit ramp onto a residential road. Slowing to an appropriate speed takes focus, alertness and effort. In my opinion, it’s actually easier to just keep going at a superfast speed when you may be lacking the awareness it takes to check yourself (and I have had several speeding tickets throughout my driving career that prove this theory!).


Does anyone else feel this way in their professional lives? And have you felt it more recently than ever before? Some of my more seasoned colleagues in my office have often said, “It didn’t used to be like this. There used to be some down time.” My photo choice is meant to bring a bit of humor to my post (as well as pull in any early 90s Saved By The Bell fans), but I find the words to be quite true.

So, I wonder, are we putting these burdens on ourselves or are they put upon us simply because of the world we’re living in? Have innovations like social media and technology trained us to move faster, sometimes so fast that it feels sluggish to slow down when appropriate? Are we losing the ability to apply the brakes when necessary? Is this a bad thing or is this more about adaptation and changing with the times? Most importantly, what message are we conveying to our students? I’d be curious to hear other people’s thoughts. If the collaborations or discussions I’ve had with colleagues this past summer are indicators, I’m not alone in this feeling!

Anne Marie Gercke

Anne Marie Gercke

Anne Marie Gercke is an Associate Director at University of Pennsylvania. She has worked on the College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate team in different roles since early 2012. She currently advises students, manages Career Services’ Simplicity databases, PennLink and iNet, and is responsible for helping employers advertise their jobs and internships on campus.  Anne Marie is also on the EACE Technology Committee and serves as the committee’s liaison to the EACE Professional Development Committee. She earned her Master’s in Higher Education from Penn GSE and a Bachelor’s of Art in English and Communication from University of Delaware.


  1. I feel the same way Ann Marie! I think it’s that times are changing and there is pressure to keep up with granting things instantly. We’re constantly competing with technology.
    BTW, congrats on your graduate degree ;0).

    September 2, 2014
  2. I think you raise some good points – in our society we tend to get on this fast track, forgetting to take a step back! Your post reminded me of another blog post I recently read – the topic was actually about American parents in Germany, but one section feels very relevant to your post:

    “On work/life balance: Most German employees get about six weeks of vacation a year, and most people work 30 to 40 hours a week; It’s very rare to work beyond that. Being a workaholic isn’t considered a virtue. There’s the sense that you have to live your life, and that while a career is interesting and fulfilling, it’s not the whole picture. (In fact, I’d say it’s not even 50%. It’s part of a whole pie made up of your family, your friends and travel.”

    It was a good reminder to me that it is a CHOICE to live and work on that fast track!

    September 2, 2014

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