April 29, 2021 | ,

Let’s Talk Non-Linear Career Paths: Hear Our Advice


Spoiler alert: We’ve all been there, and it is going to work out. And we’ve got the stories to prove it. Read on to hear all about our non-linear career paths, and the (sometimes surprising) benefits that come from the experience.

Meet Marissa from Campus Philly

“Every single one of my friends had a full-time job lined up after graduation. I applied to a lot of companies in Philly, but unfortunately just did not have any prospects for a job or an internship after graduating. Looking back, I really should have gone to more networking events.

A friend who already had accepted a full-time job elsewhere was also offered an internship at a small marketing communications agency in Center City (must be nice!). She passed it up for the full-time role, of course, and reached out to the hiring manager, telling him she had a friend (me) who would be great for the internship.

Weeks before graduating, I interviewed for the internship and was hired, starting two weeks after graduation, while everyone else I knew started their full-time, salaried jobs. The internship paid $10/hour, had no benefits, and was only Monday through Thursday (honestly, having Fridays off was kind of nice, at the time!).

I treated it as if it were a “real” job: I worked hard, I raised my hand to take on additional projects, and expressed (often) how I’d really love to work there full-time some day. My supervisor hinted that it was possible, and I held out hope… for almost five months. In September, I was thrilled to be offered a full-time job!

Interning at that advertising agency was a great experience. I learned so much, and was involved in projects in almost every department, giving me the awesome opportunity to figure out where I fit, and what I was best at doing. I gained a ton of experience as an over-eager intern who wanted to impress my supervisor enough to hire me. 

There’s no better place to learn the ins and outs of the marketing and communications industry than in an agency, and almost 10 years later, I’m still so grateful that things turned out the way they did.”

Marissa is now the Vice President of Student Engagement at Campus Philly. Connect with Marissa on LinkedIn!

Meet Jess from Energage

“I graduated with a BA in Communications, with a concentration in Public Relations, from James Madison University in December of 2008, almost exactly two months after the market collapse and start of the economic recession in October of 2008. Immediately following my graduation, I moved back home to the suburbs of Philadelphia and began my job search. As you can imagine,  the beginning of an economic recession was an extremely challenging time to begin a job search, particularly as a recent college grad with minimal experience in the corporate world.

Because many companies were experiencing layoffs and/or not recruiting, I came to the realization that I would need to think outside the box, use connections I had, and be OK with accepting a role that wasn’t my “dream job.”  

By January, I had secured a full-time job at a local bank doing Document Imaging. “Document Imaging” is exactly what it sounds like. I was scanning hard-copy documents, filing them in bank records electronically, and ensuring all account information was correct. It was certainly not glamorous, but it was a job with health benefits and a 401K.

While working on at the bank, I continued my job search. With patience, perseverance, and a little luck, by mid-March, I was able to find a full-time role at a commercial insurance company working in Marketing/Communications. The Mar-Comm job would end up being a great learning experience and great exposure in the field of Marketing-Communications!”

Jess is now the Employee Experience Specialist at Energage. Learn more about Energage today, and meet the team on our Instagram with their Energage Takeover! Plus, connect with Jess on LinkedIn.

Meet Courtney from Campus Philly

“Seven years into my career, I realized that I didn’t like what I had always wanted to do. I studied journalism in college and after some initial difficulty getting a job during the recession in 2008, I nabbed a position as an associate news producer at a TV station in Upstate New York.

After a few years, I was able to get my dream job as a producer and return to Philadelphia. It was everything I always wanted, until it wasn’t. I realized that among other things, the long, stressful, and often unpredictable hours weren’t the right fit for me. I decided to leave without having anything lined up.

I worked odd jobs for several months while I regrouped, networked, and figured out what path I wanted to follow next. I landed in international higher education, a passion of mine since I studied abroad. I’ve changed course a bit since then with my move to Campus Philly, but my varied experience has made me a dynamic candidate and I learned a great deal about myself, and resilience, while reevaluating what I wanted out of my career.”

Courtney is now the Manager of Partnerships and Operations at Campus Philly. Connect with Courtney on LinkedIn!

Meet Ashlie from Campus Philly

“I graduated from Temple’s Tyler School of Art with a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art. I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. I thought about grad school, even applied and got in, but at the last minute decided not to proceed because I didn’t want to get into more debt.

I learned more about different industries and became intrigued by marketing and advertising. Agencies seemed like a fun and exciting destination for creative thinkers. But I didn’t quite have the technical skills to get my foot in the door, so I applied to any role that would help me get my foot in the door.

My first job in marketing was an office manager/receptionist position at Visit Philly. From there, I gradually worked my way onto their advertising team as a project manager. Eventually, I got a job at Brownstein Group, a creative ad agency. I was promoted from project manager to account executive and got a chance to help win new clients. I learned that I really enjoyed developing business.

When I joined Campus Philly, I realized I was really good at developing new partners and programs. That’s truly what brings me joy: Making things happen. Coming up with creative solutions to people’s problems. Finding a way that everyone wins!”

Ashlie is now the Interim President at Campus Philly. Connect with Ashlie on LinkedIn, and hear her LinkedIn advice here!

Meet Ayannah Kamryn 

I would say my non-linear career path started my sophomore year in college. I took a semester off of school and decided to apply for the Disney College Program in Orlando, FL.

At that point in time, I was thinking that school wasn’t really for me. I wasn’t enjoying my classes for my major and wasn’t sure what other major to try. I also didn’t fully appreciate going to a small university. There were about 4,000 students on campus and I had been regretting not applying to a big city college.

With all of this uncertainty I thought that working in the Disney College Program for a few months would help me figure out the best path for me. I did enjoy the hospitality industry, and for the Disney College Program I was assigned to work as a housekeeper (or mousekeeper) in one of the resorts. So I packed up my dorm and moved to the greatest place on Earth for six months. 

After working in the program for only a few short weeks, I realized that the hotel industry was really exhausting for me and I didn’t know if I was really passionate about it anymore. While the rest of my friends in the program really enjoyed it, working there helped me realize all the things that I didn’t want in a career. Which in the grand scheme of things, was exactly what I needed at that time. I think a lot of students get overwhelmed with finding the perfect job, but figuring out what you don’t like in a career can positively pivot you to the things that you do enjoy.

After spending a semester in Orlando, I returned back to school still unsure of my career path but with a renewed sense of appreciation for my university. I changed my major from an International Business track to a Philosophy one (huge jump!). I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t like the structure behind my business courses, but I really appreciated the open conversations that my Philosophy classes created. Even though it scared me to make such a big switch, I don’t know where I would be if I decided to stay in something that didn’t make me feel happy or fulfilled.  

It’s been two years since I graduated from undergrad, and I can say that my career journey has been more of an exciting rollercoaster ride than a linear path. I’ve worked as an intern at the Delaware River Waterfront, a full-time Event Manager at Campus Philly, started and stopped my own lifestyle blog, written for a few online publications, and lots more. 

Currently, I am a freelancer using my event and writing experience to work with companies and entrepreneurs based on their project needs. The types of projects that I do can vary, but they are always exciting. I could be planning a virtual conference one day, hosting an interview on Campus Philly Conversations the next, or even writing a blog like the one you’re reading now! 

If I could lend any advice on a non-linear career path, I would say to “be afraid and do it anyway.” Making a career shift, or even deciding to become a freelancer is really scary. However, one thing I have learned over the last few years is that you should never let your fears be louder than your dreams! 

You can connect with Ayannah by following her on Instagram @ayannahkamryn or checking out her website at Ayannahkamryn.com

Looking for ways to start your journey, wherever it may lead? Check out these resources: 

Join REC Philly

REC Philly is a creative incubator, studio and co-working space for artists, entrepreneurs, and folks in the gig economy. Their 10,000 sq ft space comes equipped with recording studios, video/photo labs, podcast studio, dance studio, and design studio for anything you might need as a creative! REC also offers 20+ virtual events & workshops per month. It’s the perfect place to get access to all the creative tools you need in a space built for you, learn from industry professionals and earn paid gigs—all while keeping 100% ownership of everything you create. Interested in becoming a member? Book a tour now!

Exciting news: REC Philly is hiring! Check out their open full-time, part-time, and internship opportunities

Become a Digital Nomad

Since most people are working remotely these days, being a digital nomad has become really popular over the last year or so. A digital nomad or freelancer is a person who works remotely, while also traveling or living in different countries, states, or cities. This allows them to experience new cultures and places while also having an enjoyable career.

To be a digital nomad, you do have to keep a few things in mind. Calculating and understanding the cost of travel, international fees, lodging, and Wi-Fi are all important if you’re considering this type of work. Check out this Digital Nomad Index to learn the top countries for nomads right now and the going rate for the expenses listed above! Lastly, while exploring new places is exciting, your safety and health is a top priority. Before traveling to a new place search on the CDC and US Embassy websites to know all travel restrictions, requirements and safety precautions. 

Listen, we know starting your job search (at any stage) can be challenging—but it’s also wonderful and so exciting. And we hope that these stories help, even just a little bit. If you want to watch our Campus Philly Conversation on this topic, check out the recorded sesh here.

Until then, follow us on Instagram for event updates and more announcements. 


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