Senior English Major Morgan LaMonica interviews Emily (Testerman) Reely '10 about doubt, leaving positions, networking, and the concept of the "dream job."
Morgan LaMonica: What were your plans post-graduation while you were still in school and how much did you stick to that plan? How much did it change?
Emily Reely: My plans primarily involved finding a job. That may sound hard-hearted, but that was how I felt because I was paranoid and scared. I also did not have the luxury of not making income while discovering my career path and I had school loans to boot. I stuck to my plan because upon graduation, I had a job as a research assistant. That was a part-time, low-energy gig so I had the time and capacity to seek work elsewhere while I worked there over the summer. I never knew where I would end up, I’ve just always known what I never want to do.
ML: How did you know you were in the right career? Did you ever have doubts?
ER: I still don’t know. I think everyone naturally has doubts about where they work because the grass is often greener. Social media and online platforms accentuate this which is an obstacle. I loved the job I held for five years, but eventually the company culture was too much of a negative aspect. There is no such thing as a perfect career; you just make things work for you, or you can’t and you leave (or remain unhappy).
ML: Did you have plans to pursue higher education (Masters, PhD)? If so, how did you and what was the timeframe?
ER: I think about it from time to time but ultimately my focus has always ended up being my career. If the timing was right, I would absolutely go back and likely go an online or night school route. Additionally, I have taken several courses (using tuition reimbursement through workplaces) here and there that bolster my job roles.
ML: How did you get to where you are today? Who did you talk to and what positions did you have before getting to where you are now?
ER: I’m not quite sure how to answer that. I got to where I am today by being myself. If you look at my LinkedIn – which you should, because I have too many positions to go through here – you can see I didn’t shy away from leaving roles. We are told it is a red flag to “job hop” but it isn’t. At least it hasn’t been one for me. It isn’t 1965. I don’t need to stay at the same company I started with because they have some great retirement package and I’m afraid I won’t find anything better, especially as a woman. There is likely always something better and more suited to your values and skillsets if you feel like looking.
I was an English major who has worked jobs in PR, Marketing, Content Management and now, Philanthropy. Clearly people in upper management positions see the value of an English major using multiple skills throughout the course of their career path. Dr. Snyder put it a way I related to – it’s like I’m rolling a ball (dirt, snow, whatever) and at each position I hold, I make the ball bigger. I put new things under my belt and the ball grows. Whether I, myself, am the ball or if it’s a ball I created and rolling, I’m not sure.
In college I had the help of a great couple of mentors who acted as soundboards for my concerns about the/my future. Along the way, too, I’ve had bosses that truly listen and care. From these relationships, I’ve gained an understanding of who I want to be. What kind of lifestyle I want to live, where I want to live it, etc. Your career should reinforce all those things. Where there has been a conflict in my life values and my work? Those are the times I start keeping my ear to the ground for opportunities.
Additionally, great advice that is overly given albeit true – never stop networking. Online, in person, all of it. You never know where you will end up or who you will meet along the way to get your foot in the door somewhere.
ML: Are you at your dream job?
ER: No. A dream job doesn’t exist to me because the dream would be to simply not work. We work to earn money, bottom line. If you can work at a place where you also love what you do and what the workplace does, feel a sense of fulfillment, like the location, use the skills you’re naturally good at, genuinely enjoy and care about your coworkers and make money at the same time? I think that is as good as gets. It’s an impossibly lucky person that makes a living by doing exactly what they would be doing in their free time.