As millions of college graduates made that fateful walk across the stage to collect their diplomas last month, the time came for them to seriously contemplate what’s next. It’s scary, uncertain and not easy. Here’s my unlikely story about a post-grad choice that has taught me more than I ever learned in a classroom.
I was a junior at the University of Connecticut, headed home for the annual six week stretch that was winter break, and coming off what felt like the most draining academic chapter of my education yet.
When I enrolled at UConn, I entered as a political science major, with plans to attend law school post-grad. After attending some pre-law info sessions, I learned that students who majored in economics had a tendency to do well on the LSATs. With that, I changed majors and found myself enrolled in some math-intensive courses — which weren’t exactly my cup of tea. I spent a good portion of that break at home studying. I remember doing okay on practice tests and thinking, “Okay this isn’t so bad.”
Toward the end of break, I ran into a relative who I hadn’t seen in years. She asked how school was going, and I mentioned studying for the LSATs and that I’d likely be doing that all summer. She asked if I had any interest in internships, and while I did, I wasn’t totally sure what I should be looking for in an internship. She asked which classes I specifically liked, and what I often failed to mention to people was that I was double-majoring in Communications. I think this was largely because my writing, media, and public speaking classes came so easily to me. They didn’t feel like work.
After we chatted a bit more, I learned that she was hiring for an intern role at the tech company she worked at in Boston. While I wasn’t totally sold on marketing — or tech — I knew she was a smart, successful person, and in college, I had always valued the people I learned from more than the subjects they were teaching. So I went for it.
Skip to summer. I was commuting from Providence to Boston, which was about two hours each way, five days a week. To say I was shell-shocked would be an understatement. But what I saw when I walked into that buzzing little office changed my perspective entirely. The passion that the people at this 50-person database company brought to work each day was bleeding through the walls.
After about a week, a lightbulb went off. It dawned on me that the phrase, “Okay this isn’t so bad,” should never apply to my career, let alone my future happiness.
I quickly fell in love with all things copywriting, event planning, and creative campaigns. I was exercising the creative half of my brain, but when all of the creating was said and done, there were real, quantifiable results. Never did I think that the email copy I wrote would translate into dollars and cents. It was the best of both worlds.
I stayed with the company after summer ended and worked part-time from school. That Fall, I took the LSAT. Fast forward to the most bittersweet semester of my college career — ever — I had a decision to make. With my test score in one pocket and experience at a tech start-up in the other, I did, as my mom would say, “follow my bliss.”
Don’t get me wrong. At 22 years old, I was confused about nearly everything that was ahead of me, but two things were very clear. I couldn’t identify what about being a lawyer appealed to me anymore, but I could name 10 things off the top of my head that I loved about marketing.
At this point, my cousin who had taken me under her wing as an intern began introducing me to her network in the Boston tech scene. There was one company in particular that I was drawn to immediately. They hooked me on the fact that they recognized March Madness as a national holiday, and sold me on the potential to work alongside some super successful marketers. So, I did what any logical 22 year old would do and emailed relentlessly until I got some answers.
I was sure that I would eventually get told to cool it, or they’d stop answering altogether. Apparently, I didn’t come off as crazy as I may have thought. Simply emailing to show continued interest and bulleting a few points on what excited me about the prospect of working there paid off. Here I am, three years later writing this as a Content Marketing Manager at the very same company, Datto.
In the past few years, I’ve been a part of something truly special. I’ve watched a small, agile marketing team grow into an international force, and my company as a whole triple in size. I’ve been given the opportunity to travel all over the U.S. and internationally to work with teams overseas. I’ve watched myself grow both personally and professionally, and my coworkers have become a second family. If you asked me back in college where I’d be at 25, this is far from it, and for that, I’m grateful.
So what did I learn? Was it a serendipitous run-in I have to thank for my career? Was it a network of marketing peers willing to help a newbie? Or was it my ability to talk shop with a CEO about the Final Four in my interview? I’d say it was a perfect storm of all that and more. So to those rising seniors and recent graduates, sitting, scratching your heads about what your next move should be: identify your strengths, take that job or internship you’re not sure about, build personal connections wherever you can, see where you excel, and build off of that. The rest will follow. Sometimes, the best plan you can have, is to be open to new ones.
Michaela Scampoli is the content marketing manager at Datto, Inc.