When I was a senior in high school, I wanted to be a doctor. (Sure, partly because I wanted to open a practice and hire my sister…and be her boss. Muahaha. Every little sister’s dream 😉 )
When I was a first-semester freshman in college, I wanted to be a neuroscientist. (I wanted to cure Alzheimers.)
When I was a second-semester freshman in college, I wanted to be a journalist – and it stuck.
For the next few years, I pursued journalism with the passion that I’d always had for writing but had never given breath. I had exceptional experiences; God blessed my path in journalism more than I ever imagined possible when I switched to that major.
I got to study abroad in London and intern at NBC News.
I got to anchor a news broadcast for Bloomington’s PBS station.
I got to write stories, meet people and learn things that I never would have otherwise.
But even so, as a senior in college… I wanted to work in communications and marketing.
I’m writing this so that, if you’re in the midst of your school years or you’ve had similar experiences and can relate, I hope this brings comfort. You can change your mind a million times, be totally certain of what you want to be one minute and totally flip the next, and it is all okay. It’s better to figure it out now than to stay with something just to graduate sooner and then try to go back later for the degree you actually wanted. (Nine times out of 10, I’d say that doesn’t end up happening, despite peoples’ best intentions.)
So, what changed my mind?
Life. Growing up. Getting nearer to the “real world” and realizing the bubble of college was soon going to burst.
While my journalism internships were all amazing and I wouldn’t trade a minute of them, during the summer before my senior year I had to take a hard look at whether or not that lifestyle would make me happy in the long run. (I cannot stress enough how much – if you are pursuing a career in a creative/liberal arts field like I was – that you NEED to get an internship if at all possible. It is the best way to see what your life would be like in that job after school, plus you learn so, so much more out of the classroom than inside of it.)
A boy had come on the scene (ahem…Nathan), and suddenly there were bigger things on the line than just my own passions. I had to figure out what would ultimately make my heart happy long before I knew if any of it would exist – I was thinking about a future family, a future husband, a future lifestyle and security that I wanted to be able to have as a young adult. None of these things seemed tangible prior to that summer, but with Nathan and senior year in the picture, they became more and more real.
I decided that the answer to the age-old question of “what I want to be when I grow up” did not rest on a specific career – it rested on my heart and the person I wanted to be. I wanted to be someone who had time for family and friends, who had a schedule that permitted vacations and holidays away from work, who got to write – yes, by then I knew that I needed a career in writing in order to be happy – I wanted to be a woman who had enough quiet time in her life to hear God’s calling for the direction in which she should go.
I also found myself attracted to the business sector, as I had grown up with two CPAs for parents, not to mention the fact that my dad ran a company for most of my childhood. I found that the stability of a career in that field and the potential for growth aligned with my professional motivations.
So, I switched gears.
I left the internship I’d had all throughout undergrad at the PBS/NPR station and began traveling to Indianapolis on Fridays to intern in a communications and marketing department for a local university.
As usual, mom always knows best, and thanks to her sage advice when I changed my major to journalism, I also had a minor in business under my belt. I had the mix of studies that I needed in order to seriously contend for a career in the communications field, and by the time I was halfway through the internship, I knew that it was the fit for me.
I stayed with the internship until graduation, but I began my job search in December of senior year. I didn’t actually apply until the end of January, and I only ended up needing to apply to a job once. (Again – God has blessed me on my path more than I could ever imagine!)
A couple interviews later, I landed the job I have now and I honestly couldn’t be happier.
I’ll go into more detail about my current job in another post, but the point of my musing here is to give insight into my own journey toward a first job. If you’re experiencing some of this right now, or if I could go back and tell 18-year-old Rachel a few things, it would be this:
- Try it. Whatever “it” is. If you think you may be interested in something – go find out! Don’t sit there and wonder (like I did for so many years) what it would be like to be a journalist. Go DO it and see for yourself.
- Internships and work experience – as many and as much as possible. This goes along with my first point, but honestly – it is THE most invaluable thing I did in college. It helped me figure out what I wanted to do…and later what I didn’t want to do. I got to meet people (and work with people) actually in the careers that I wanted to have and get their perspective. It helped so much to work with a 35-year-old news anchor and be able to ask myself, “Would I be happy being her in 10 years?” Don’t cheat yourself out of these chances!
- Apply. Reach out. Email. Call. (Repeat). If there isn’t an internship posted online, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one available. If the internship says only for college sophomores and above, and you’re a freshman, apply anyway. (The internship I had after freshman year was one like this. So don’t take their word for the bottom line- they haven’t met you yet!) The internship I had senior year was one that I inquired about out of the blue – they didn’t have an intern position, but they made it work in order for me to get the experience. (Interesting tidbit, the university director who set up my internship there was a man whom I had interviewed for a PBS segment sophomore year in my journalism internship. Full circle – everything happens for a reason!)
- Talk to the people you trust most (with OPEN EARS). My mom is the one who finally got me to see the light and give journalism a try. She is also the one who helped me decide on a minor. People around you may know better than even you do what makes sense for a job, so don’t shy away from getting their input. And be ready to hear it, even if it scares the living daylights out of you to consider. (Journalism scared me to death.)
- Don’t limit yourself. The odds are bad. Don’t look at the job rates, don’t look at your chances at your dream career – all of that is well and good to a point, but don’t let it mute your own calling. I never in a million years thought that less than two years after deciding to major in journalism that I would be spending the day with Meredith Vieira for NBC News in London, but you truly never know. While the path is bumpy (I also spent an entire summer getting up at 4 a.m. to work at a radio station), you must ask yourself this: Am I afraid of hard work? I made it my goal to never shy away from hard work, and that’s something that never goes out of style. So work hard, don’t limit yourself, and you might get further than you ever thought possible.
I think that’s enough about me for now – so I’d love to hear from you. How many times did you switch majors in college? If you’re out of college, what is the best advice you received when figuring out a job?