As one should know, my first job out of university was in the corporate world. I worked in the snow, skate, and action sports apparel world, which translated to, “I work with pretty rad people.” Unfortunately for me, I had one of those life-changing epiphanies in which I realized my purpose in life went beyond brightening store employees’ days and ultimately helping sell cool gear to people.
When I decided to go into student affairs in higher education, I was afraid that my lack of formal or professional involvement in higher ed was going to impede my admission into programs. I applied to seven schools after all, and I had a 3.9 GPA with honors on my undergraduate transcript. I thought I was at a major disadvantage because I was corporate.
I remember introductions at most of the schools where I interviewed on-campus. I remember everyone standing up and saying, “I’m such-and-such, and I am currently a resident director/admissions counselor/etc.” My turn would arrive, and I’d stand up and announce, “My name’s Ardith. I graduated from Western Washington University in 2008 with a degree in communication, and I am currently a company services assistant for a snowboarding and skateboarding company.”
And the thing is–I swear I was the only corporate-world person at these events. It was scary.
Despite this self-perceived shortcoming, I managed to get into six schools. Three schools offered me assistantships, and I got an offer at my top choice. Now, I’m mere days away from the official close of my first year as a student affairs graduate student.
Last night, while sending off some of the graduating CSSA’ers, we got on the topic of my corporate experience. They talked about “how cool” it was that I brought a different perspective to the table. I hadn’t drank the student affairs Kool-Aid. I had just arrived at the decision point on my own (which is well-documented in the early stages of this blog).
I noticed that I had a different lens to view things while enrolled in my AHE 599: Organizational Architecture course. When we talked about management style, I was able to speak to the centralized communication and leadership style my former employer tended to employ. I shared stories of sitting at the front desk and having daily exchanges with the Chairman, the CEO, the CFO, and various Vice Presidents. I shared that these exchanges made one feel important, despite rank and hierarchy. I shared that our company culture embraced fun and unconventionality.
The more I think about it, the more it solidifies that it was never the company that made me leave the corporate world. It was my personal purpose and desires. What I took away from my corporate experience was the notion that good work can be done with good people while still having fun. Yes, I had ups and downs throughout my transition and processing. But what I got was a set of skills and perspectives that I can transfer to student affairs.
It doesn’t matter what sector of the working world I may be a part of–I have the ability to make my work fun, make what I do fresh and new, and make an impact on people’s lives.
And all because I used to climb ladders and sell shoes.