Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Me, Madonna & A Master's Degree?!

I graduated with a degree in psychology and no idea what I wanted to do with it. The only thing I knew for sure at that point was that I did not want to go to graduate school. Ever.

I was interested in human resources and applied to all sorts of HR jobs. Unfortunately, it was 1991 and the economy issues at the time resulted in a very scarce job pool. (Google it.)

I was working part-time in a doctor’s office. One of the regular patients knew I was looking for a full-time job and told me about a legal secretary position open where her husband worked. I politely said “thank you, but that’s not really what I am interested in”. She then told me that the clients of this particular law firm included Madonna, Billy Joel and Sting (again, it was 1991, I guess now this would be the equivalent of…um…Beyonce? Drake? Help me out here…) Anyway, I decided to give it a shot and I got the job (cut to me teaching myself to type without looking at my fingers.) That job led to another one in a different law firm. That one led to a job at Sony Music, working for one of their smaller labels, Relativity Records.

I started at Relativity in the finance department, with absolutely no interest or knack for working with numbers. After a year I jumped to their sales department. Then I worked at a college music magazine. One of my main responsibilities there was cutting out articles from Billboard magazine that I thought would interest my boss (it was 1998, people still read magazines.) It was then that I decided that I needed to find a career path.

I made an appointment with a career counselor at St. John’s University, where I received my bachelor’s degree. From the moment she started talking I realized that I wanted her job! It was the perfect combination of my business experience and my desire to be in a helping profession. I spent our time together asking about her role and how she got there.

A few months later, I was enrolled in the graduate program at The College of New Rochelle to pursue a Master of Science degree in Career Development. Yep, the girl who was so sure that she never wanted to go back to school was going back to school. I finally had something that I was interested in learning about.

For the past 20 years I have been working in career development, mostly in higher education. I don’t regret my years of job-hopping, as it is what led me to a career that I truly love. When I meet with students unsure of their career future, I can tell them with certainty that I know how they feel, and that with time and experience, they will know what fits and meets their individual needs.

So, what have I learned from my career journey? A few things. Madonna likes popcorn, for one. Also, most people aren’t born knowing what they want to do, and most people figure it out once they are open to experiential opportunities (If I had done internships maybe I would have figured this all out a lot sooner.) Also, ask people about their jobs and never underestimate the importance of a good career counselor.

Darlene Johnson
Director of External Relations
The Career Center, Hofstra University

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