In the Spring of 2011, I should have been celebrating with my classmates. I had just finished my first year of medical school, an accomplishment anyone should rightfully be proud of. Instead all I felt was tired and confused. I had just spent another year working towards a goal I did not find personal meaning in. I reflected on my past and saw my college self: a cute, tiny hamster who spent four years running vigorously forward only to realize I had been running circles on a wheel others picked out for me. Equipped with this realization and feeling discontent and disillusioned for the first time in my young life, I needed a change, something new. I sought a leave of absence from medical school, and started my job search.
I was a terrible job seeker. My idea of seeking a job, resembled that little hamster's way of seeking food. If I just sat around, eventually someone would drop in and feed me a job, right? At first, I went weeks without sending applications in until I finally applied to...Starbucks and Whole Foods. I had some romantic notion that I would work part-time as a barista and write during the rest of my waking hours so I could a) discover myself, and b) write a best-selling novel in order to stick it to "the man" by finding independent success. I never heard back from Starbucks. I still haven't finished that elusive novel. I was forced to look elsewhere. Little did I know, that was the best thing that could have happened to me.
I found the description of the Career Advisor position and was instantly hooked. I was pleasantly surprised to see a career office describing an emphasis on student's story first rather than just a resume. It talked about challenging students to reflect on their story and make connections from that to potential options and a future career path. i•Plan resonated deeply with me. Essentially, I would get to work with students in avoiding the same mistake I made of not reflecting on what I wanted from life and a career. As a bonus, the position was one year (perfect for a leave of absence), salaried with benefits, and at my alma mater! I spent two full days on my resume and cover letter alone and with an incredible amount of luck, landed the job that has helped me grow exponentially.
These last two years as a Career Advisor (I liked it so much I came back for an additional year!), have taught me more than I could sum up in this post. Here are four main points:
1. The joy of facilitating. When one normally thinks of an advisor, they think of someone who tells you what to do. What I appreciate about my supervisor and colleagues is how they have challenged me to ask open ended questions and create a space for students to see they are already capable of so much. This is a challenge and an art, but one I am grateful to practice! No matter what I do in the future, facilitation will be a huge part.
2. I have learned what it is like to work in a professional setting and still be my authentic self. The Career Center has been a great place to work, in that colleagues were supportive of me finding a way to carve my own niche in the professional world. Though I am in a professional setting, my supervisor and colleagues have been so supportive in my interests whether it is taking five minutes to meditate during the workday or taking on the additional role of Social Hour Captain at our office!
3. I have learned how to balance the ups and downs of work and life. The twenties are an important and tumultuous time for us all and I have seen that we cannot avoid troubles! But through having a supportive community of colleagues and friends at The Career Center, I now know I have the capacity to manage them.
4. Through working as an advisor I have been exposed to more of the amazing work students and staff are doing around campus, more so than when I was a student. Every week, I gain inspiration from the interactions I have and the new faces I meet.
In addition to the above, I must say there are not many better places to work than The Career Center, when you are exploring careers yourself. I did not seek out The Career Center in my four years as an undergraduate. Working here has made up for that missed time! As I am preparing to leave this year, I have a solid understanding that any jobs I pursue in the future will involve facilitation and creativity. Through working here and developing relationships with some of the best colleagues one could dream of, I have come to a deeper understanding of who I am. To me, that is the mark of an amazing job.
This hamster has finally stepped off the wheel and out of my cage. I am excited and much more prepared to move forward in the world "out there" thanks to my time as a Career Advisor.