Last month I formally concluded my assistantship as the JDP Fellow at the Office of Career Development and Professional Engagement. Today, I’d like to reflect on what I’ve gained from the experience.
In terms of hands-on projects, this is probably one of the most involved assistantships I’ve had since coming to William & Mary. In addition to developing three brand-new workshops, I translated data on JDP majors and their subsequent careers into an illustrated overview of the Programme, offering a quick glance at what students study, where they work, and where they live. I also used that data to develop an initial alumni network on LinkedIn, connecting with over 80 graduates of the Programme, first through my own LinkedIn account, and then through an institutional one I created for the JDP Fellow position. Through that network, I not only collected information directly from graduates for workshop content, but invited them to participate directly in programming as guest speakers and panelists. And I managed to do all of this while meeting regularly with students for one-on-one appointments or Quick Advising. Not bad for ten hours a week.
Then there were the benefits of getting to know the Programme itself. The most obvious example was traveling to Scotland to see St Andrews, something Brandon and I were both able to do. But I also benefitted from talking with the students themselves and learning about their experiences with the Programme as they navigated two different universities. I learned about their projects, their passions, and their career aspirations. When you’ve been working for a while it’s easy to become jaded about the world, especially during the last few years, but talking with these accomplished undergraduates and learning more about all the things they hoped to do helped me dial down my own cynicism a little. Throughout the course of my assistantship, my admiration for these students only grew as I learned how deftly they navigated the logistical challenges of the Programme, and it made me all the more determined to make sure they got the resources they needed.
But the most important thing I’ve gained from this assistantship is the opportunity to use my skills in a different setting. Up to this point in my life, outside of summer jobs in retail or day camp administration, my professional career has consisted almost entirely of teaching or curating. While I’ve been saying since coming to William & Mary that I’d like to keep my options open, it’s hard to know what that actually looks like when you’ve only worked in one or two fields.
Through this assistantship though, for the first time in recent memory, I could see my transferable skills in action. My ability to research a variety of topics in a short amount of time was put to use again and again as I created workshops, compiled data, and sought out resources for students. The communication experience I’d developed through talking with artists, donors, and other museum personnel served me when I reached out to alumni to invite them to participate in events or complete questionnaires. Even my public speaking experience was useful beyond workshops and other presentations. In my advising appointments, I found myself using my public persona to not only cultivate a sense of approachability to students, but to project a sense of confidence and assuredness onto their career aspirations. In essence, for the first time, I found myself working in an environment that wasn’t a museum or a classroom, and could envision myself being happy in it.
This doesn’t mean that I plan on becoming a career counselor. Rather, this experience has provided me with a concrete example of my transferable skills, and has helped me better appreciate that there are lots of satisfying ways to use them. Regardless of what I decide to do in the future, there’s more than one way to put my skills and interest into action.
And that alone has made this assistantship worthwhile.