I went back to school at the ripe old age of 30, frustrated with what I viewed as situational delays in reaching my career goal of becoming a Director by that age. Unwilling to stand still, I had to do something to further my career, whether the opportunity for advancement was apparent or not.
I found a program through New York City’s CUNY system that was affordable in comparison to other options, and my company reimbursed me for it as it directly related to my job. I came into the program pretty cocky. I was 8 years into my career, and I knew a lot of my classmates would be those who were going straight from undergraduate to graduate school without getting field experience. I figured a lot of the content would be redundant.
I was right, to a certain extent. There was some courses and content that I knew in my sleep, and lots of recent graduates mixed in with some career professionals, field changers, and an abundance of international students.
But as the education system is designed, there was some new content, perspectives, and lessons that opened my eyes to the broader opportunity in the communications field, and ultimately led to the development of my long term career goals.
I took courses that were very much traditional educational style courses and what you might expect from a graduate program- research method, diversity, and legal classes where I really questioned the connection to communications. I also took courses led by career professionals on employee communications, marketing, financial reporting, video production, strategy, and global communications. I got different things out of each of my courses, learning just how big and wide communications is and how it truly gets at the core of business. I also built upon my skills as a self-starter, as the grad school experience is really driven by the student with very little steering from professors.
I remember when I was in my first trimester of pregnancy, taking an accelerated summer class while launching a new brand at work. I was completely overwhelmed and nauseous all the time. I’d show up to the 3 hour class 3 times a week after working a full day with a ton of snacks. I wasn’t showing yet – I can only imagine what my classmates thought! It was about this time that I finally got promoted.
Halfway through my final semester of classes, I delivered my son. The “plan” was to have him after classes were over, but alas that was not to be. I only missed one week of classes.
I was finishing my thesis while on maternity leave, writing when he napped, exhausted all the time but driven to get to the finish line. I was proud of how I managed the program’s demands. But when I went to file for graduation I learned that I was one credit short. Queue the biggest freak out session you’ve ever seen. I’m pretty sure the neighbors could hear my cries of distress. How could this even be possible? After my breakdown, I found a solution and completed an independent study also while on maternity leave, (you know, because I didn’t have enough to do).
I don’t know how I did it to this day, but I do know this. I know where I want my career to go, and I have a good idea of how to get there, but I am not a master of anything. There is always room to grow.