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The Career Journey of a Renaissance Woman


Ellison Sherrill '17
Ellison Sherrill '17

When I was going through the college search process, I was looking for a place where I could do it all. (Actually, I take that back—the open curriculum did allow me to no longer have to take German, which I struggled through in high school.) While my most important stipulation was a competitive lacrosse program, I knew I wanted a small school, an inspiring and comprehensive art program, the opportunity to go abroad, and challenging academics. I couldn’t be stuck into a category or box like our society tends to do; I was a jock, an artist, a social butterfly, a musician, and a nerd. I needed a place where I could thrive in more than one lane. I do not believe I am alone, which is what makes the Hamilton community so special.        

I actually wrote my Hamilton admissions essay on how I was a Renaissance woman. For those who may not be caught up on your art idioms, a Renaissance man (because the men were the only interesting ones back then, of course) is a term coined after figures, such as Leonardo da Vinci, whose expertise spans a wide variety of subject areas. A couple of years out of school, I can confidently say this classification still reigns true. Evidence can be found within my folder of over 30 customized resumes targeting the wide variety of subject fields(big shout-out to the Career Center for your guidance).        

I guess this is the time to catch you up on what my life looks like outside of college. I graduated from Hamilton as an art major with an education studies minor. I had produced a body of artwork, had experience within art museums, interned for a professional lacrosse and soccer team, student taught in a high school classroom, and grown my leadership skills while working at the Career Center and as a resident advisor. I had all of these skills, but I did not have a job—unlike most of my peers, it seemed.

I moved home with confidence in my ability to do good work, but with an unsteadiness as there was not a job that was made for a Renaissance woman like me. I missed being in a place that embraced ALL of me. I knew I wanted to be surrounded by a group of people that knew me, but with room for growth. I was set on Boston.        

My father, as a search consultant professional, but mostly as an annoyed dad who was sick of my complaining, gave me the best career advice. He encouraged me to devote a week to go to Boston and meet with as many people as I could. I compiled a list of connections: people from previous experiences, people through the Hamilton Alumni Network, and people connected to jobs I wanted that I had seen online. Backed by the organization of an excel spreadsheet, I sent out dozens of networking emails, saying “I will physically be there at your doorstep on this date,” which made it hard for people to say no.

One of those opportunities was an open position at Babson College as an assistant lacrosse coach. I may not have even gotten the opportunity to interview as I was competing against experienced coaches, but my willingness to ask probing questions about what it is like to be a part of that specific program landed me a part-time opportunity alongside the new assistant hire. At this point, I had checked off one of my identities and now was set to find the rest, both to fulfill me and financially support myself. I also became a live-in part-time nanny for twin two year old boys for free rent. I secured a part-time teaching position at the Museum of Fine Arts. And lastly, I took a position setting up bikes at a cycling studio. For both a little extra cash and my emotional stability, I continued my art practice and grew a little business on the side. I became a Renaissance woman all over again, this time with less sleep and more mileage on the trusty car.      

This way of life may not be sustainable, but in retrospect, I grew immensely from every person I met, and through the hustle. Fast forward a little, I kept many of these jobs but also completed a masters in an art teaching program. The plan was to settle down and get a job teaching and coaching in a high school. This seemed like the only way to quench these passions in one place, just like at Hamilton. Life had a different plan for me. One car ride after a lacrosse recruiting trip, I knew deep down I needed to pursue “this coaching thing.” Career moves come from your gut, and I truly believe discomfort is where growth happens.        

I am writing this from my porch in the quaint town of Carlisle, Pa., where I am now a full-time (just writing that makes me breathe a little easier) assistant lacrosse coach at Dickinson College. Fear not, this is not the end of my Renaissance woman journey! I am getting involved in the Carlisle Arts Learning Center, participating in enriching programs at the college, learning by reading and listening to podcasts, and actually painting (not just for money, but for pleasure). My urge to all of you is to live full lives! Life can get crazy on its own, but if you do not take the time for all of your identities, you aren’t you.

Find opportunities in your community that can use your skills and passion, and allow them to fulfill you. Most importantly, as artists, we must be just that. Block out time to devote to your artistic practice. And for those who are willing to piece together part-time jobs, just know it’s exhausting, fun, and possible!

To all my Renaissance people, a.k.a. Hamilton grads, stay busy!

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