Shannon Cuthbert '14

“What job would you take if you thought no one was watching?”

I ask because sometimes, especially senior year, it can feel like the end of a marathon, with teachers, friends, and family all cheering you on to the finish line that is the Real World. Despite their best intentions, their advice and perspectives, which have been shaped over the years by their own unique life experiences, can sometimes cloud your awareness of what you’re really looking for, what you hope to achieve in your nascent career.

Senior year, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices that opened up, the number of industries that could still be explored: should I pursue clinical psychology or social work, editing or marketing, or something entirely unknown to me? In the end, I decided to try out working in marketing at a media company I respected, finding a position at BBC Worldwide in their consumer products division. This was unfamiliar territory, though I found that amidst working on contracts for licensing deals, assisting with email marketing, and creating brand strategy decks, my team was happy to let me carve out space for my love of writing as well through creating a BBC Shop blog and copywriting for our website and catalog. I have learned so much about a field I knew little about, and it has turned into a great opportunity to pursue both old interests and new.

Once you’ve found a new job, it’s easy to become engulfed within it, but try to find time to reflect on it too. I would encourage everyone to seek a job that gives you space: space to step back every now and then and think about where this path is leading you, what you’re learning, and what you’re giving back; space to grow and pursue unique interests of your own, whether fostered within the office setting or nurtured in your own free time. Both like and unlike those well-meaning teachers, friends, and family members, you have an infinite number of memories, experiences, and perspectives that you bring to each situation you are in: find a workplace that allows you to bring forward words, ideas, and actions that no one but you could have dreamed up. And as they say, once a Hamilton student, always a Hamilton student. Although daily life may get in the way, you should never stop studying the world around you. There are any number of ways to do so, whether by volunteering, traveling, reading, or creating, so finding a job with a work-life balance will allow you space to continue walking down these many unexplored roads.

Each job experience you have will be vitally different based on any number of constantly-changing factors: the people who work there, the larger challenges that industry is facing, and perhaps most importantly, the point you are at right now. Who you’ve been, who you are, who you want to become: we are all shape shifters in one way or another, trying to come to terms with ourselves and how we fit into the world around us, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to pause and think about how you see yourself and thus what type of work will fit you best right now and five years from now.

Ultimately, until you jump in and try it on for size, there’s no easy way to figure out if a job or organization is right for you. As much research as you may carry out, each job experience is a microcosm of the real world: sometimes loud, overwhelming, and filled with challenges, often rewarding and full of unexpected delights.

alumni career advice

Hamilton has a long history of connecting students with alumni and parents whose advice, expertise, and resources help talented young people achieve success for themselves and in their communities.

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Which brings me to my final point: you may have no idea what your “dream job” is or how to get there, and that’s ok. In fact, you may find the dream changes as fast as you do, and that’s ok too. But whatever you do, I would challenge you to continue examining the place you’re in and learning from it. Take note of what frustrates you and what brings you joy, what holds you back and what helps you grow, and only by becoming aware of how you are and who you are can you push yourself closer and closer to that dream and find yourself traveling places you can only now imagine.

Shannon Cuthbert, a psychology and creative writing double major, graduated from Hamilton in 2014. She currently works for BBC Worldwide as an assistant manager of licensing and e-commerce.

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