“You have to work your way up the ladder.” I have heard that phrase mt entire life and to be quite honest, I’ve always believed it. I’ve always looked at my career as a stepping stone; each job preparing me for the next. I worked really hard to get every internship I could, soak in the best opportunities that were available to me….and it still wasn’t enough.
Now, before I continue, let me say that I LOVE my current position as a graduate assistant. I have already learned more than I could even imagine and I truly feel this was the best decision for my career.
After 6 internships during college, 3 of which were in sports, I secured a full-time job 2 weeks before graduation, but it wasn’t in sports. It was tough to leave the industry I was passionate about, but I was a broke college kid with a mountain of debt (p.s. still broke and still in debt lol), and I had to do what I had to do.
Fast forward about a year, and I had a craving to get back into the industry. So, I reached out to someone at my Alma Mater and asked if there were any openings in the athletics department. Sure enough, there was a part-time position becoming available and I was now the lead candidate. I took it and ran with it. This was a step above my previous internships and this job truly gave me a better understanding of what it meant to work in sports.
Fast forward 6 months and I went into full job hunt mode (mostly because my Marketing Assistant position with BU turned over every year). I was looking at a lot of Assistant Director positions and had gotten to the final rounds of a few interviews but nothing panned out quite like I thought it would. I was crushed and could NOT understand what I was doing wrong. The answer was NOTHING!! I was doing nothing wrong. Other candidates either had more experience or more education under their belts and to be fair, deserved those positions over me. And that is when my boss told me something that I will never forget:
“Your career is not a ladder, it’s a jungle gym.”
I never thought I would go back to school to get my Masters degree and I never thought I’d be accepting a graduate assistant position. I will say this: when I stopped searching for just the higher title and higher pay, I finally found a position that was exactly what I needed and would truly help me get to that next level. I’m now getting a master’s degree (for free), learning how to plan and execute ACC events and living in a city where I’ve already had the opportunity to volunteer for major sporting events.
So all of that to say, make sure that when you’re on your next job hunt, remember that it is okay to “take a step back” if that means it will help catapult your career in the future. It’s okay to “take a step back” if that means it’s what you need to do at this moment. You don’t have to follow any set of rules or paths. You only have to do what is best for you and what helps you grow!