From College to Career: Making the Most of it

By: Emily Klein

(Photo from Unsplash – Vasily Koloda)

Before you know it, the question of “What are you going to major in?” becomes “What are your plans post-graduation?”.

Throughout your young adult life, you’ve probably had someone tell you to make sure you pick a job you love. This statement can carry a lot of weight, as choosing a career path is one of the biggest decisions you will make in life.  Once you’ve decided on a major, the focus moves to determine what you’ll do with the degree after graduation and how you’ll make money with it.

If you are like me, despite the advice you’ve been given, you begin college and still have no clue what you want to do with your life. I am going to be totally transparent when I say that I chose communication studies because it was a “safe” major. COM studies is such a broad major with a wide range of jobs that you can apply your degree. I knew that I liked working with people, being creative, and having a diversity of tasks in my workday and COM provided opportunities for all of those things. I thought I was going with the safe choice, but little did I know how perfect of a fit COM studies was for me.

Everyone has a different journey when it comes to their college career but compared to others, my journey has been somewhat simple. Due to the confusion, I faced regarding choosing a major I started my college career at a local community college. I decided to pursue an Associate’s Degree and then transfer to a university in hopes that after those two years I would have a better idea of what I wanted to do. Spoiler alert: I did not.

(Photo from Unsplash – Jason Goodman)

With my time at community college coming to an end I knew I had to make a decision on what university to attend and to do this, I had to pick a major first. Because I was transferring in, I needed to start my specific major classes right away and there was no time for general education classes. I was accepted into NCSU which happened to be my dream school ever since I was a child. ECU and UNCW also expressed interest in me as a potential student. I was already living in Wilmington at the time, attending Cape Fear, and had already committed to a lease in Wilmington for the next year. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t devastated to give up my spot at NC State, the school I always envisioned myself going to, but God had other plans. I was meant to stay in Wilmington, to attend UNCW, and I am so thankful I did.

(Photo by me. Me and Julia Dolinshek circa 2020)

Having decided to stay in Wilmington, I settled on the idea of majoring in COM Studies with a concentration in Integrated Marketing Communication. I jumped right into my core COM classes, virtually, as we were at the peak of a worldwide pandemic. I never envisioned my college experience being online and never stepping foot inside of a UNCW classroom, but that’s exactly what happened. I attended classes virtually and obtained a marketing internship with the New York State Senate, working on a candidate’s campaign. I learned so much about written and verbal communication during this internship. I mean heck, you learn a lot from cold-calling people who tell you to shove it.

After completing this internship, I was approaching the middle of my junior year and knew that I made the right decision in choosing COM studies, I still wasn’t sure what sector of communication I wanted to work in…but I knew politics wasn’t it. I was able to apply the skills I learned during the previous internship along with the knowledge I had from class to a new internship, which revolved around project management. I became a Project Management Intern with a computer software company called Red Hat. Project management was something I had never thought about exploring prior to this, but I felt equipped to try it due to the vast amount of knowledge I had learned in my first two semesters as a COM studies major. I learned so much through this internship, but once again knew that this specialty was not for me, so onto the next.

Right after finishing my time at Red Hat, I accepted an offer as a Conference and Event Marketing Intern with an up-and-coming computer software company, nCino, where I was able to be IN THE OFFICE! I would no longer be restricted to the confines of a home office and would actually be able to have an in-person team to work with. This was huge! I was pushed out of the comfort zone that the pandemic had put me in, confining me to my home, and communicating via Zoom. This was it; I had found my niche.

For the last 8 months, I have spent time applying everything I learned at UNCW to the workplace. The knowledge I learned in COM 346 taught me how to communicate with a diverse team. The information provided in COM 200 gave me the skills to conduct research and draw my own conclusions. The skills I gained from COM 334 taught me about branding and how to represent the company. I could go on and on about how I was able to apply the knowledge from the UNCW COM department to the real world, but I won’t bore you. My time in this program has forced me to grow not only professionally but personally as well.

Being forced to make a decision so big at such a young age is hard but doable. Take the time to discover what you like, what you don’t like, and what your true passions are. Decide what your career options are. Pick your major. Apply the knowledge to real-world scenarios. You’ve got this.