The reality is…most people don’t get to their dream job in a straight line.

When I graduated from college, I somehow skipped over the fact that my parents once graduated from college and started out living with hand-me-down thrift store furniture, struggling to find their first job. Instead, I always pictured them sitting comfortably in the living room after dinner, drinking coffee after a day at the office in jobs they both enjoyed and found challenging. I wanted that. And I wanted it now.

But, I needed to remember, my parents meandered their way to the comfortable existence I witnessed growing up.

A conversation with members of the Alumni Council Career and Employment Services Committee highlighted this reality…that most people don’t get to their dream job in a straight line.

The conversation with the CES Committee members reminded me that not every successful professional starts out in their ideal job—or even one that provides them with great fulfillment. But, the committee also reminded me that every step along the way has benefits, and that it’s important to take advantage of what each job has to offer.

Shannon Hughes ’92 worked as a salad bar attendant. She recognized that role was a “starting place” and that she “learned a lot from the experience including customer service skills and a can-do attitude” which she now applies in her work as the Marketing Communications Director of the Weyerhaeuser Company Foundation.

Wes Jordan ’74 drove a school bus for a year after graduating from Puget Sound. Driving the bus provided him with time to reflect on his undergraduate experience and after that year he headed to graduate school. While Wes is no longer shuttling middle schoolers, he still works in education. Wes is a professor of neuropsychology and faculty director of international admissions at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Lacey Leffler ’03 worked two part-time jobs right after college while waiting for a full-time opportunity to open up at one of those organizations. She has now worked full-time for nearly 10 years at the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, an organization where she started working part-time during college.

Whether you are a graduating senior or a sophomore who is going back home for the summer, the CES Committee members offer the following words of wisdom:

“Connect with alumni through the ASK Network—talk with them about their career path and ask for advice.” Shannon Hughes ’92

“If you’re looking for a full-time position, consider part-time work at an organization that interests you. Full-time opportunities may open up and by then you’ve already made an impression with the organization.” Lacey Leffler ’03

“Remember that this is a transition and you don’t always have a lot of control over it. You don’t have to jump into what you think is going to be your life-long career. Don’t let it stress you out to the point that you don’t make an intelligent decision.” Wes Jordan ’74

“Travel—in the 20 years since I graduated, I have not had the opportunity to take 6 weeks of vacation to explore this country or the world.” Shannon Hughes ’92

All committee members recommend using a summer break to explore career options and gain experience. “Volunteer, get a job, job shadow, conduct informational interviews—remember that you can do more than one of these in a summer!”

Looking for tips on how to use your summer break to your advantage? Whether you’re seeking full-time or part-time work, hope to conduct informational interviews, or arrange a job shadow experience, CES is your one-stop shop. Visit us in Howarth 101 call 253.879.3161 to schedule an appointment.

Photo: June Marie
© 2012 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound