Last July, I decided not to pursue my post-Korea plan of going back to school to become an English teacher. I made this decision because I realized that teaching isn’t something I’m passionate about; teaching was just something I thought I should do because I didn’t know what else to do once I moved back to California. Also, in college, I majored in English. That’s what all English majors do after they graduate, right? They become teachers.
After I made this decision, I felt lost. I panicked and wondered, “What will I pursue as a career now? I’m in my late 20’s, so I need to figure out something SOON.” In case you’re wondering, trying to figure out what you want to do for a career is even harder once you’re out of college because 1) you can’t change your major to explore other options and 2) you don’t have the convenience of guidance counselors to give you ideas and help you figure out your next move.
So I brainstormed on my own. I considered a restaurant management position because I had just been promoted from server to shift leader at my restaurant. Plus I love learning about and being surrounded by good food and wine, and I have over 10 years of restaurant experience, so this career option seemed feasible. However, I soon learned that I don’t have the right personality to be a manager: I don’t like telling people what to do, and I’m a sensitive person– the thought of having to fire someone makes me want to cry!
I kept brainstorming. I considered becoming a full-time blogger, but I don’t like the idea of working from home. I also considered getting a job as an administrative assistant, but at the time, I had no office skills, so that idea was out. Chris and I even considered moving back to Korea to teach English again because it would be easy money and we could travel more. But then we realized doing that would just be an escape from facing the crappy economy here in the U.S. and working on our careers.
Come September, I was running out of ideas. All I knew was that I wanted to get out of the service industry and get a full-time 9-5 job that could lead to a career. I knew that I had a college degree and I didn’t want to throw it away by letting myself turn into a career server. I knew that if I was going to get out of restaurant work, I would need to gain new work experience somehow– professional work experience. What I needed was professional development, so I decided to start volunteering.
I decided to volunteer with the American Cancer Society because it’s an organization I can relate to; my mom died from breast cancer, and my dad is currently battling prostate cancer, so ACS’s mission to fight, prevent, and put an end to cancer is something I’m passionate about. Volunteering with ACS soon led to an internship with their sister organization, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. ACS CAN fights cancer in a different way: they promote cancer advocacy by proposing and supporting legislation that will help prevent people from getting cancer and help people who already have it. For example, ACS CAN works hard to increase tobacco taxes so people will be less inclined to smoke/start smoking, further preventing their chances of getting lung cancer. They are also big advocates of the Affordable Care Act, which will provide health care for anyone who has cancer, regardless of their income, pre-existing condition, etc.
I started my internship with ACS CAN last October, so for the last seven months, I’ve been gaining experience with advocacy, public policy, lobbying, networking, working in a professional office environment, and learning how a non-profit works. This internship has been great for me because not only has it given me professional development and new skills to add to my resume, but it’s given me a new career focus: I want to work in non-profit, specifically one related to public health. As far as a specific role, I’m interested in one that has to do with community outreach and working directly with volunteers.
Something else my internship has given me is a job! In a little over a week, I will start my new job with ACS as an Outreach Specialist. It’s a full-time 9-5 job like I wanted, which means no more restaurant job! (And no more having to work nights and weekends!) Unfortunately, this job is only a six month temp job, but I’m hoping it will turn into a permanent job come November. And if not? Then at least I’ll have a lot of new, professional work experience under my belt that can hopefully help me find a job with another non-profit organization.
I am beyond excited for my new job. But most of all, I am happy that I finally have some direction as to what I want to do with my life. In the last seven months, I realized I want a career where I can help others. By working for the American Cancer Society, I’ll be helping others AND helping fight cancer– a cause I’m passionate about. And I firmly believe that my passion for fighting cancer will fuel my success in my new position, as well as my newfound career path.