As we approach the fated day of convocation and the end of 4+ years of our undergraduate degree, the reality that must inevitably follow the rush of congratulations, flowers and balloons begins to bear down with even greater ferocity. After thousands of hours writing papers, studying for exams and agonizing over group projects, the academic certainty that has guided us begins to fade. For the first time, the future is a giant question mark anxiously waiting to be answered. How can we possibly know which career path is meant for us?
Recently, I attended a CMNSU networking event called ‘Careers in Communications’. With industry professionals from a multitude of sectors and positions, the event presented itself as a way to delve further into the day-to-day life of real jobs. As we rotated around the colourfully decorated room, in awe of the amazing professionals before us, I thought about the immense variety of opportunities available. Everyone was so passionate about what they were doing, it seemed like they had found the perfect fit.
One industry professional stood out to me in particular - Michael Africa, Communications Manager at Herschel Supply Company. He began his roundtable session by painting a picture of the path that had led him to where he is today, a path of many unexpected twists and turns. From painting to fashion to marketing, his interests led him through schools across Canada and jobs throughout North America. In the bright world of New York City, he’d found a fast-paced, high profile and ruthlessly competitive environment. Back in Vancouver, life was more balanced, albeit somewhat complacent. Everywhere had something unique to offer, and the process of finding the right fit was dizzying and often frustrating.
I find myself in a similar boat - navigating a multitude of fascinations and interests. I love my major in Communications, from writing about films and advertising, to using critical theory to discuss social-cultural issues. There are endless streams of opportunities within Communications, perhaps more so than most majors. And while this makes it a flexible and relevant degree, it also means there is so much more to choose from! I find it overwhelming at times. Here is some advice I learnt from the professionals at the networking event that helped me have more confidence in my future:
Sometimes you will want to follow the allure of big cities or companies, and you should! It is important to put yourself into spaces that challenge you, mold your career and allow you to gain new perspectives. If you only ever let a goal sit far on the horizon, it will remain a hypothetical and you will always be asking yourself, ‘what if?’.
When it comes to your career, you don’t just have to choose ONE thing. It is normal to be drawn to new experiences and to desire more from your job. As I learnt from the event, if something feels genuine to you, go with it. Rejection, drastic change and big decisions are all part of the process. Trust that when things don’t work out, you are that much closer to finding something that will.
To help me explore this world of career opportunities (without years of commitment), I chose to do co-op. At first I was hesitant to try it, as I was mostly set on continuing down the academic route. However, I knew that getting real, tangible experience would help clarify what was right for me. Now I am discovering the parts of my job that I love, and those that I would pass on in the future. There are so many things in life to enjoy, that I would encourage you to figure out what you don’t like, instead of limiting what you do like. Make a list of things you would avoid, and leave open as much room as possible to fall in love with new opportunities. Jessica Nabongo, who is on a quest to be the first black woman to visit every country, shares this piece of wisdom from her travels:
“It is easier for me to tell you what I don’t like rather than a favorite thing. Life is too full of amazingly beautiful things, places and people to pick one. I don’t have a favorite country. I don’t have a favourite color. I don’t have a favourite food. I enjoy too many of these things”.
Having your heart invested in different areas is not something to shy away from. It is a gift to be passionate about many different things and to feel the need to evolve and grow. So do not worry about what you will do, because that will change. Think about how you will start this journey of self-discovery. Be open, stay determined and never let yourself settle for something that is ‘just a job’.