Graduating from college is an exciting and terrifying time. You're finally able to enter the "real" world, and while a lot of people have set ideas about their career goals and how to achieve them, it can be a harsh lesson to learn that credible work experience for your dream job is not one size fits all. And even more importantly, there's no set timeline to get there. I've learned that the hard way over the last two years.
Over the course of two years, I've worked a handful of jobs that were not directly connected to my degree but still taught me so many useful skills.
I graduated from college with a degree in photojournalism and a minor in earth sciences. My "end" goal? To work for National Geographic. I was always interested in science and nature, and as luck would have it, a few weeks out of college, a friend was able to refer me for an administrative assistant role at the magazine. The job description was simple: work in the position for x amount of time, and if you stand out, make the right connections, and learn quickly, you can maybe transfer over to the creative department one day.
Although I wasn't thrilled about the job itself, I was so excited to potentially be a part of the company at all. But after rounds and rounds of interviews, I was told I wasn't selected. While it was definitely a bummer, I also felt relieved. I still had the freedom to find a job where I would have the chance to do more of the things I actually love, such as photography and writing, rather than just assistant work. Yes, I was just starting out and needed to gain every kind of experience I could, but there were no rules that said how exactly that had to happen.
Soon after losing out on that job, I decided to follow my dream of living in Hawaii and moved 4,000 miles away from home to Honolulu. At first, I was still eager to find a job that suited my degree, but in such an isolated and limited market, I could only find a few entry-level jobs inside the communications field. But I didn't care. I wanted to learn all I could outside of an office and on my own terms.
Over the course of two years, I've worked a handful of jobs that were not directly connected to my degree but still taught me so many skills that apply to it. I learned how to be an excellent portrait photographer while working for a resort, I learned how to open up my own business through online freelancing groups, I learned what an amuse-bouche is while working in a fine-dining restaurant, and I learned where the best sunset spots are to photograph thanks to my food delivery job. I quickly learned that you can apply your degree and passions to just about any job if you get creative, and I'm really grateful for that lesson.
Although I didn't land my dream job at National Geographic and start climbing the ladder immediately after college, I much prefer this windy route instead. The road I've built for myself might lead back there one day, and if it does, I know I'll have so many useful skills under my belt that'll make me a huge asset. And if not, I'm sure I'll find something else just as fulfiling, because the road to a dream job doesn't have to be linear. It changes and turns and stops many times. The only thing I do know for certain now is that the future is limitless.