Earlier this year I had the privilege of returning to Brock University (my alma mater) for a Communication, Popular Culture & Film grad speakers night. It feels just like yesterday I was planning these events myself and eagerly attending, soaking up any and all insights shared by grads at different places in their careers. I think there’s so much value in hearing others’ stories because there’s beauty in the fact that everyone’s path looks different.
Prior to speaking that night I took some time to reflect on my university experience and the five years since I graduated. In just five short years I’ve held a few different jobs, tested out various passions of mine, failed a little, and grew a bunch. And so I compiled some notes, photos, tips and fun presentation slides to share with current students in hopes that my words and experiences could resonate with at least one person siting in the audience. And let me tell you why…
For as long as I can remember, I had this idea that that as long as I worked hard enough during my four university years, landing my dream job would come naturally. But what I didn’t realize at the time is that sometimes even finding your passion – let alone the job itself – isn’t a linear process. I (naively) expected everything to magically fall into place once I graduated as if I had been checking off a pre-defined, laid out list of tasks that would lead me to my dream job. But in reality, when graduation arrived a panic set in when I realized that my future held many uncertainties.
Now let me stop here to acknowledge that for some, the process is linear and clear. A good friend of mine did in fact find an amazing job in her field before she even graduated. But what I wish I knew back then is that this isn’t the only way of of navigating your career/life path.
So the following list of learnings is for those students and young professionals (like me) who didn’t have it all figured out by graduation. Who still didn’t know their path or where their passion & skills would take them. This list is for those that need to know that this is okay.
1. Try, try, try
Having a B.A. in Media & Communications has been both a blessing and a curse. This field allows you to specialize in MANY relevant jobs in today’s workforce meaning the potential is endless. However finding that niche that really lights you up can be overwhelming. We’re talking Public Relations, Internal Comms, External Comms, Marketing, Television, Producing, Design, Social Media, and so much more.
If you’re unsure of what field you’d like to enter, the only way to figure it out is to try them out. Take a course, find an job/internship, or seek out a professional in that field to learn more about what the day to day is like.
And most importantly, don’t be discouraged if after experimenting, you decide it’s not for you. I’ve fallen into the “I’ve failed by wasting time” trap BUT let me tell you this – there are no failures, only “wins” and “learnings”. Finding what you don’t like is just as important as finding what you do like!
2. Make "yes" a regular part of your vocabulary (esp. as a student)
One thing that I’m grateful for is the amount of times I said “yes” to new opportunities or went outside of my comfort zone to try something new. While my classes provided me with a great foundation, it’s what I did outside of class that shaped where I am today and who I am today.
- Taking interviews (no matter how intimidating at the time) taught me invaluable interviewing lessons.
- Joining a club (shoutout to the CPCF society) taught me about event planning and community relations.
- After an interview-gone-wrong, keeping my head high for a second, same-day interview taught me the importance of not giving up and believing in yourself. What’s meant for you will happen for you. Rejections can be a blessing in disguise.
- Working in the Marketing & Communications department at Brock taught me various marketing skills + what it’s like to work in an office.
- Going on an international exchange – which was probably the most scariest thing I’ve done – taught me about independence, travelling, and that I can, in fact, do hard things.
Now this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard the word “over achiever”… so let me be clear that you don’t need to – and actually shouldn’t – say yes to everything. But tips 1 & 2 go hand in hand. Every new experience holds within it a lesson, whether personal or professional.
3. Expect the unexpected
My last piece of advice is to simply be open to things you may have never considered (especially when all else fails). Whether that’s the job itself or the nitty gritty details like full-time vs. freelancing, office vs. remote, large company vs. small company, 9-5 vs. flexible.
There was one point in my fourth year where I was certain I knew not only what I wanted out of a job environment, but what I wanted out of my internship that year. It wasn’t until I was 2 weeks in that I realized it just wasn’t for me (see, tip #1 coming into play here?). Long story short I was expecting A) a guided marketing-related internship with an established company + B) to work in an office with structured hours. By the time the year was done I ended up with a self-directed video production internship. It wasn’t what I expected, but the lessons went beyond workplace skills.
While I now know so much more about myself than – including my career “what-ifs” – there are still days that I question my path forward. But I often remind myself of what I’ve gone through to get here and that the future holds nothing but possibility.
So to recap:
- Being open to learning can go a long way
- If the opportunity isn’t being presented to you, create it
- Most importantly: there’s no one way to get “there”. Your journey may/may not be linear and that’s perfectly okay.