Mapping out a career path one step at a time

My friends were receiving college acceptance letters and comparing SAT scores, but I was barely keeping my head above water my final months of high school. I had loosely planned on attending college, but at the start of my senior year in high school, my parents suddenly divorced.

My world was turned upside down.

And if I had received any guidance about my future, I truly don’t remember it. My family shifted into survival mode and I had no idea how to sign up for SATs and absolutely no motivation to keep up my grades. College wasn’t even on my radar.

I’m not bitter about it; however, it was not the picture-perfect plan I had envisioned in my younger teen years and watching my friends head off to college that fall stung a bit.

Fast forward a few years to my early 20s: While working multiple jobs, I attended a community college part-time and earned my associate’s degree. Then, at the age of 40, I returned to college to earn my bachelor’s degree. I graduated five years ago with a BA in Communications and I would never have been able to do it without the support of my family, friends and work colleagues.

My next major career goal is to earn my accreditation in public relations, signified by the initials APR. Which brings me to the point of this post: There is no one-size-fits-all cookie cutter approach when it comes to a career path.

I think it’s important to understand this as we find ourselves in high school and college graduation season. Young people may be feeling lots of pressure as they transition and we need to encourage they see beyond whatever limitations they face, self-imposed or otherwise.

I joined Diakon nearly 11 years ago as a part-time administrative assistant. I had the opportunity to be mentored in public relations and communications by my supervisor and take advantage of Diakon’s Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP, which is offered to staff members. It helped to offset some of the costs of college I never would have been able to afford, especially while having a family to take care of!

I think it’s important for businesses and organizations to invest in their employees. One of those ways is to offer tuition assistance, as well as opportunities to grow. Not only have I had the opportunity to use TAP funds, but I also am currently enrolled in a program called Leadership Diakon.

Leadership Diakon presents participants with opportunities to meet fellow team members and participate in meaningful educational offerings. It has been so valuable learning about all aspects of the organization from finance to business development and even how to better understand and work alongside people who have different personality traits.

My advice to those just starting out in their careers is to never settle. There is something to be learned in every position and at every level in the workplace. We just have to be willing and open to learning new things. And college or no college, what you have to offer is extremely valuable, so keep growing and exploring!

By Melissa Kindall
Manager, Social Media and Digital Communications Manager
Corporate Communications & Public Relations

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