Prepare to Fail


The path to success is not linear. You will have ups and downs. You will succeed. You will fail.


If you asked me ten years ago, “Where will you be ten years from now?” I would not have responded with where I am, a UCF student pursuing a second Bachelor’s degree, this time in Finance.


I started at UCF as a traditional student in the Fall of 2003. I majored in Psychology because I really enjoyed my AP Psych class. I would figure out a career later, I knew I had options. Four years go by and I graduate! The next stop on my educational journey is at the University of Chicago to pursue a master’s degree in social work.


I moved to Chicago in the summer of 2007 and by the fall I was back in Florida.


I felt like a failure. I moved one thousand miles away from home. After a weeklong orientation, I realized that not only was this program not for me, neither was social work as a career. I made an appointment and spoke with the Dean. I cried. I felt guilty. I called my parents and told them I was coming home. I moved back to Orlando.


I spent several months looking for work. I responded to a posting at my local library and luckily I got the job. It was part-time, but it would get my foot in the door. It would be temporary. I would figure out what I wanted to do next. As positions were posted I would apply. Not only did I not hear, “you’re hired,” I sometimes didn’t even get an interview. I failed again, and again, and again.


It was now 2009 and the recession was impacting the area along with the nation. Job postings were few and far between. I spent my time focused on improving my skills so I would be ready for the next opportunity. Along the way I took classes at a community college, thinking I may want to become a math teacher. I changed my mind. I visited a school to learn more about a health services career. Not for me. I enrolled in a nonprofit management program, but decided I wouldn’t finish. I failed again.


Eventually I would interview and become a full-time employee with the library, and ultimately the Coordinator of the Youth Services Department. It took five long years to get there.


Imagine my colleague’s surprise when I announced I would be leaving the position that I always wanted to return to UCF to study Finance, just two-and-half years later.


I didn’t realize it right away, but I developed a passion for personal finance. Many government agencies do not participate in Social Security. Instead of social security, the library had 401 accounts setup for each employee to invest in. I knew enough to know that if I didn’t properly invest the funds in this account, and worked at the library until I retired, I wouldn’t be eligible for SSI. I wouldn’t have a safety net. So I started to study finance and investing. The more I read, the more I learned. The more I learned, the more interested I became. Friends and family started to ask me for investment advice. I enjoyed being able to make things simple and help others. All of these things happened because of failure, and not having immediate success in the professional world.


I couldn’t ignore the pull any longer. I knew it was time to make a change. I started saving and taking prerequisite classes online while still working. I left my position in December so I could study at UCF full-time starting in the spring of 2016. My goal is to work for myself and provide affordable, accessible financial advice for middle-class earners. I also want educate and help improve financial literacy for youth.


I don’t believe everything happens for a reason. I believe you can try and find meaning in things that happen. Every roadblock, every “no” was ultimately an opportunity. An opportunity to improve myself both personally and professionally. I didn’t know it at the time, but in hindsight, I can see how every “failure” led me to where I am today.


You will fail. Or you will think you failed. Kept your mind open, and you may discover your failures were just opportunities in disguise.


Jennifer Ulmer

UCF College of Business, Finance