When I first arrived at university, my relationship with the word “career” was distant at best. Not because I didn’t have hopes, dreams and goals for my future, but simply because I assumed that my future career was exactly that – in the future.
When I started my first job at fourteen (cleaning at an auto repair workshop once a week), and my father proudly declared that this would be a great starting point for my career, I thought he was being ridiculous. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work, but back then I couldn’t imagine how any of my part-time jobs would hold much relevance to my work after I graduated university.
As a result, I entered UBC with several part-time jobs on my resume – but also with a feeling of complete unpreparedness for life after university. This was one of the reasons I was drawn towards the Arts Co-op Program. For someone who was simultaneously excited and confused about my future career, it seemed like the perfect place to start.
That assumption wasn’t wrong: from networking with employers to going to interviews, I felt like I was finally beginning to explore my career “for real”. I was over the moon when I was offered a Co-op position at the UBC Centre for Student Involvement & Careers (CSI&C). This was the kind of work I had always imagined I would eventually be doing! I showed up to work every morning with great enthusiasm and the intention of soaking up as much knowledge as possible. I spent the semester developing new skills, building networks, and contributing to work that I was passionate about.
As much as I have always loved academia, I realized I had fallen head over heels in love with this new professional world. I decided I wanted to continue exploring it outside of Co-op as well, and was very excited to be offered a position with the CSI&C through the Work Learn program. This semester has been a great opportunity to combine work and studies in new and interesting ways. I also count myself lucky to be in a workplace that offers such a broad range of opportunities for student development – from workshops to student volunteer opportunities and conferences, there are always possibilities (for everyone!) to learn and get involved.
But as much as I have been able to gain new professional skills at UBC, I also learned another important lesson: When I started exploring the idea of a “career,” I was surprised to find that my past experiences weren’t as disconnected as I had assumed. The part-time jobs and volunteer positions I had previously held had helped me build a groundwork of transferable skills that I could develop and expand on. In many ways, my journey of career exploration has felt like jumping into the ocean for the first time, and discovering that you already know how to swim.
I am slowly starting to realize that your career isn’t something that eventually happens to you somewhere in the distant future: it is present tense, and it is rarely a straight line from A to Z. I encourage you to expand and explore your career in every direction imaginable! If there is any place that offers the opportunity to be bold and curious about your career, it is the University of British Columbia.