Hitting 'Refresh' On My Career
The following column, "I went back to school and you can, too," was published on Monday, November 21, 2016 in the Post-Crescent, by Community Columnist and FVTC Professional Communications student Jessica Thiel:
I went back to school and you can, too
It was about two years ago that I’d hit a crossroads. I felt stuck, anxious, unhappy.
My youngest son had entered kindergarten, and after nine of years of staying home to raise my kids, I had lost my identity. I was no longer full-time mom. I didn’t know who I was.
Don’t worry — just take the year to figure out what you want to do, my husband urged. His calm, sage advice didn’t work.
I’ve never been good at uncertainty. I needed to figure what came next for me — right away. I dabbled for a while.
I tried subbing as a paraprofessional. I came away with a profound respect for the profession — and a realization that I wasn’t cut out for it.
I thought of devoting myself to volunteer work. While I loved that endeavor, I decided it wasn’t the season of my life to give myself over to it entirely.
It was a grudging process deciding that I needed to go back to school. My journalism degree was 14 years old and I’d been out of the field for a long time. I needed to hit refresh.
I was lucky to discover the perfect program for me at Fox Valley Technical College. In the school’s professional communications program, I found a way to update my skills and make them more applicable to today’s world.
While I started the journey with apprehension, I soon settled into it and began to love it. Motherhood can be a bit of a thankless job. It’s amazing how little praise kids hand out.
I devoured the opportunity to use my brain in a different way. I reveled in receiving positive feedback — or any, really — on my work.
I never would have imagined that it would work out as well as it has. I genuinely enjoyed learning, and I saw many different directions my career could take.
Last spring, I landed the ideal opportunity as an intern in FVTC’s marketing department. I met fantastic people who taught me so much.
In a few weeks, I’ll walk the stage for graduation. The sweetest part? I’ve already started a job I love as a business reporter for a local magazine.
As I’ve reflected on the last couple years, I’m still in disbelief that this is where I’ve ended up. I spent much of my early life telling myself that I was stupid and tallying the things I couldn’t do.
Math of any kind, public speaking, interviewing — all of these scared me to varying degrees. I’ve spent the past two years of my life knocking those down.
Lackluster grades in my college math classes 20 years ago meant I had to take another math class at FVTC. When I found this out, it was almost a deal breaker. My fear was that great.
I put off the class until my third semester, and when it came time to tackle it, I felt calmer and more prepared with several classes already checked off on my program list. Given my past with the subject, I set my goal low. A C-plus would’ve been OK; I would’ve loved a B.
After spending a semester working through the problems slowly and methodically and talking to myself a lot to make sure I understood them, I had earned myself an A — my first ever in dreaded math.
Public speaking? I crossed that off in my marketing class. And I did two job interviews before landing my job.
My new job in itself is a coup. I spent my early journalism days on the copy desk, a job I adored but one that also felt safe for my introverted ways. I loved to write, but what if I sounded stupid? And the idea of calling all those people felt mortifying.
Today, those things I feared most are my favorite parts of my new job. It’s a privilege to talk to people about their ideas and to write about what’s important to them.
If you’re like I was, if you’re unhappy — with your life, society or the state of the world — remember you always have choices. Never stop working for change.