Between the ages of 8 and 13, my primary career ambition was to become a celebrated musical theatre actress. I was pretty sure I could pull it off—I had stage presence, comedic timing, a sweet voice, and I was still cute as a button.
But as I developed into a more pragmatic teenager, I realized that maybe I wasn’t naturally talented or conventionally cute enough to be a successful actress. I still loved the stage and the rush I got from performing, but I convinced myself that theatre would never be anything more than a fun hobby for me.
In university, I wandered away from my studies long enough to get tangled up in the student theatre company. I fell in hard, but this time behind the scenes. I painted and pushed around sets, put up posters, helped organize auditions, sold tickets—all the grunt work it takes to put together a production beyond what you see onstage.
By the time I graduated four years later, I was seriously considering a career in the theatre industry, and after an internship at a small company, I’m now a full-time employee at a company that performs Shakespeare for young audiences. I manage sales, research new projects, and perform a lot of other tasks that make it possible for our actors and designers to bring new, exciting work to audiences.
Long story short, and right to my point: I love my job, and five years ago I didn’t know that it existed. Sure, I assumed there were people like me who helped to bring the plays I loved to life, but I rarely thought about what they actually did, let alone that I could do it too, or that I would I find it so fulfilling. At 18, I had completely written off a field that I was passionate about because I had never explored opportunities beyond the obvious.
Your university or college years are a great time to explore your passions, but also to build workplace skills that are useful in every field. Skills in leadership, clear communication, or top-notch customer service will always be assets in your professional life.
Pro-tip: Businesses in the arts, in sports, in philanthropy—in any field you can imagine—all hire people with your exact skill set to keep things running smoothly.
The key here is to keep an open mind. Research companies and brands that you love, and look at the kind of jobs they’re hiring for or that they’ve hired in the past. This will give you an idea of how your unique abilities fit into a practical career path that genuinely excites you. Don’t be afraid to highlight your various talents and interests on your resumé—actors do this all the time—because you never know when knowing how to juggle or ride a horse or speak Portuguese might come in handy.
Most of all, have fun! Now is a time to try on some metaphorical career hats, even if you only wear them briefly. You honestly never know.