Finding Your Professional Path: A Career Profile Story

By Jonathan Hurt, Assistant Director of Programming and Resources

How did I end up as the Assistant Director of Programming and Resources at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester Massachusetts?  I think I’m still trying to figure that out myself.  I am not sure there is a simple answer to that question.  I guess the easy answer, or at least the answer that most college students would like to hear is that I went to a small liberal arts college in Alabama, doubled majored in Communication Studies and Print Journalism, overachieved like a boss, and came out with the job of my dreams here in Worcester.  The major problem with that is when I graduated college in 2003 if you asked me what a Worcester was, I probably would have told you it was some kind of bird or skin irritation.  It would be years before I would know that Worcester is a city in central Massachusetts with a peculiar pronunciation, the College of the Holy Cross is a wonderful place to work and learn, and that my future would be in higher education.

Exiting undergrad I didn’t have much of an idea as to what I was going to do moving forward.  I had gone to school to be an editorial writer but had changed my interest several times throughout college.  Upon entering the job market after obtaining my diploma I figured I would give newspaper writing the old college try because what else was I going to do?  That was until I learned that my likely entry point into the field would be writing obituaries.  Being the overachiever that I pretend to be, I decided to write “practice” obituaries to see if I could do the real thing, beginning with my own.  A couple of notes here; It is creepy to write an obit and even creepier to write your own.  In addition it is sad to write an obit for a 22 year old (especially your own), but even sadder to write one for a person with as few accomplishments as myself.  Beyond my scholarship that I had received for college and my diploma my top three accomplishments in reverse order consisted of 3) managing to only speak French twice on a 4 day trip to France, 2) completing eight seasons in dynasty mode of the most recent NCAA Football game on PlayStation 2 without losing a game, and 1) finding creative ways to damage my liver both internally and externally (don’t ask).  After experiencing writing my own obit and considering the fact that any newspaper who would hire me to work with their grieving customers would quickly be sued for malpractice, I decide to pursue other employment opportunities.

What were the other employment opportunities?  I had started a part time job I had found through my college career center as a bill collector my sophomore year making $11.50 an hour.  That may not sound like much now but $11.50 in 2000, in Alabama, for a college student I might as well have been Warren Buffet.  I was stupid rich (Definition: The first time an individual receives a regular paycheck that allows them to purchase self destructive, low value luxury items without concern for missing a car payment or having your electricity shut off).  I decided, “Hey if I’m stupid rich working here part time, why not work here full time?  Sure being a bill collector kind of stinks but it doesn’t matter though because I would be stupid rich!”  So I started my way up the corporate ladder which in my line of work was more like a stepstool.  There were only so many opportunities and in most cases I was under skilled or ill-equipped to take on the new position.  However after a lot of hard work and many conversations with people where they either provided me with suggestions on where I should put their past due bill or explaining where they planned to put some part of their anatomy I managed to work my way up in my department eventually landing in a position that I really enjoyed as a training specialist.

Now for many that seems like the end of a great (ok fair) success story.  I managed to take a fairly directionless professional journey and turn it into a fulfilling career.  I loved working in the classroom environment, assisting colleagues and showing them how to work various systems while persuading customers to pay and minimizing verbal abuse.  Yet what I really enjoyed most was working with the new college students who were making $11.50 an hour.  I saw a lot of myself in them.  Many of them were stupid rich and not sure what direction they were going.  Sometimes they would ask personal job and career related questions which I would gladly answer.  I wondered why there was no one else who could answer their questions or for that matter my questions when I was in their position.  That is when I realized that there were people like that and in a roundabout way they were the reason why I was where I was.

I noticed the bill collector position on a message board outside of the career center at my undergrad institution.  Wanting to learn more (which really means I wanted to be stupid rich), I went in and asked about the position.  All of my previous employers had required me to complete an application to get the job.  However for this position I needed to produce something called a resume and cover letter, things I did not have nor knew how to do.  During my few meetings with career services I learned and used valuable resources they offered including resume critiques, mock interviews, interest inventories, and general career counseling.  What I forgot to do was to continue to take advantage of all of those resources once I became stupid rich.

So here I was full circle.  While I enjoyed my work, eventually I had decided that working in the corporate environment was no longer where I wanted to be and I really liked working with the college students at work.  This led me to go back to graduate school at the University of Alabama (By the way there is a networking story in there that I will tell at a later date).  That opportunity and a little luck, lead to a graduate assistantship in the University of Alabama Career Center.  After a lot of hard work, several internships, earning a degree, and a nationwide job search I landed in, drum roll please, Worcester, Massachusetts at the College of the Holy Cross.  And I can honestly say that I have never been happier in my professional career and that stupid rich 20 year old did not even know where Worcester was could not have even imagined this.

So what is the point of all this?  First off to let you know that you do not have to have all the answers now.  Not everyone knows where they are going to end up the day they step foot on a college campus or even the day they step off.  It may take time to find the profession that best fits you, or that profession might not even exist yet.  Second, you may try several things before you find the right fit.  That is ok.  Few people get it right on the first try, or the second try, or even the third.  Take the skills that you learn and continue to grow and explore.  And lastly, use the stinking career center.  You didn’t think I wrote all this not to plug the Holy Cross Career Planning Center did you?  We offer all the things that can help you on your career journey.  We do not have all the answers because everyone’s path is unique, just look at mine.  However we can help with services like resume critiques, interviewing skills and mock interviews, internship search, general career counseling and more.  And at the very least we might be able to help you get stupid rich.

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