After graduating from the College, there are a few well-trodden paths that people take: becoming an investment banker, going to medical or law school or going into academics.
Jennifer Krouse ’89 did not take any of these routes. Instead of heading into life with a precise plan, she decided to see where life would take her. And it took her some crazy places – from Hollywood to Sweden and finally, back to the Berkshires.
After graduation, Krouse was burnt out from four strenuous years at Williams. She was ready to stop constantly pushing toward some goal. Instead, she decided to let opportunities come to her. “I became opportunity-driven. Part of me was still directive – I always had some ideas about what I would like to do, but mostly I let the circumstances shape me,” she said.
Her first thought upon receiving her diploma was that she needed to get away – not just from Williamstown, but from the country. “I think because I went to high school in Japan, I got so that I had to travel out of the country every couple of years. Otherwise, I’m restless,” she said. “I basically blew my life savings on a backpacking trip around Europe, but I was still restless when I got back.” Krouse continued to feel a strong desire to escape the known for something new. So after her backpacking trip, she moved to Los Angeles.
“I was like, ‘What’s the most like living in a foreign country, but still in the 48 contiguous states?’ I thought about it and decided it was L.A. I just wanted to continue the adventure,” Krouse said. When she first arrived in L.A., Krouse knew only one person. She spent her first night in the city at a youth hostel, but by the next afternoon she had her own apartment, and her career moved just as quickly.
“At first, I was planning on getting into architecture … [But] it turned out to be a terrible time for getting work [in architecture],” she said. “However, it was a fine time to get work in film and television!” Krouse found an entry-level position in Hollywood. She also decided she wanted to study at film school to further her career. Krouse quickly moved up in the industry, working on several big-name television shows, including Dawson’s Creek.
Though Krouse had moved across the country to escape the Berkshires, the College continued to play a part in shaping her life. “Dawson’s Creek [was] probably the best-known show I worked on,” Krouse said. “It’s a funny story … It involved all these other Williams people! The executive producer was a Williams alum. Then one of the writers [was] also a Williams grad.” After working in Hollywood for a number of years, Krouse decided that she’d had enough of the entertainment industry. She again felt burnt out, and the Berkshires called louder and louder to her, so she headed back to Williamstown, taking a job working for the College’s alumni fund.
“Unfortunately, I wound up staying in Hollywood about eight years longer than I should have. I had to spend the next three to four years back at Williams to undo the damage that that did to my soul,” Krouse said. “I think the number one thing I would say from the experience is that you have to follow your gut – if you have a bad gut feeling about something, it probably isn’t for you, no matter how many people you love, respect and admire tell you to think otherwise.” However, Krouse wasn’t ready to settle down in the Berkshires just yet. So she headed off on another international adventure – this time to Sweden for business school.
Initially, Krouse applied to business schools in the U.S., but they rejected her because of her age. “Basically, the message I got from the admissions people was that I was too old for them,” she said. “My application was really strong, but I was too old.” Luckily, the Stockholm School of Business held a different opinion. Their admissions officer told Krouse they could “really use someone with a lot of life experience.” Upon graduating from business school, Krouse went into real estate consulting, but she came to realize that she was tired of making money for other people. She decided it was finally time to reassert control over the direction of her life.
“It took a long time for me to gain a sense of entitlement to happiness,” Krouse said. “To say, ‘Yeah, I’m sort of happy, but the answer actually isn’t to just try harder. It’s to look for what I would be happier doing.’” Following this new life philosophy, Krouse stopped letting circumstances shape her and decided that she wanted to settle in the Berkshires, where she started her own web design and development company. “Finally, I’ve landed on the thing I’ll be doing for the foreseeable future: building my business and using it as the base for whatever adventure I want to come next,” she concluded.