Growing up as the child of two teachers, it’s funny that I have ended up working in an educational setting. Education has always been a big part of my life, but my parents never pressured me to follow in their footsteps and become a teacher. They did however, always say that I needed some sort of post-secondary education in order to get a “good job”.

I went to College to study to be a Legal Assistant, not because I did not have the grades to attend University, but because at that time I did not fully appreciate the value of a University Degree and I did not want to incur the debt that a 4 year degree would leave me with.   I was one of those students who didn’t end up working in the field that they studied. Outside of my field placement during college, I have never worked as a Legal Assistant or in a law office. Shortly after college I went to work for Bell Canada and spent several years there. This was my first real job and I feel like I grew up there. I learned more about the things that I like in a job, what kind of bosses I like to work with, and what I like in a company’s culture. I also made many good friends at Bell who I am still in contact with.

After 6 years of working at Bell, I decided to go back to school to upgrade my skills and education. I finally took the plunge to get that University Degree on a part-time basis. I also returned to what I consider to be “my roots” in Education. Using the transferrable skills that I had gained, I was able to get work assignments with the Halton Catholic School Board, then worked for several years at a Private High School for International Students.  While completing the last 2 years of my degree at McMaster University on a full time basis, I worked on campus in the Human Resources Department. In this role, I was able to gain experience as well as insight into a Career in HR which I was considering.

When I completed my degree in Labour Studies, I knew that I still wanted to work in an educational setting and preferably in a post-secondary institution. My current role at the Career Centre is a perfect fit because I am in an educational institution, I am able to use what I studied in University along with the skills I’ve gained from my past experiences, and because I love to work with students. I’ve come to realize that I am happy as long as I am helping people in a meaningful way that adds value to their lives, there is variety in my work, and as long as I keep learning and experiencing new things. The paycheque helps too of course!

So what my parents said about needing a post- secondary education in order to get a good job is somewhat true. A University Degree certainly does open up many options and increase the earnings potential for graduates.   Gaining experience and developing what employers consider to be “transferrable skills” is also an important piece of the puzzle. My advice to students would be, don’t be afraid to try different things. Experience is a great teacher. Although some people do find their life’s purpose at an early age, the average person changes careers 7-10 times in their lives!  Where you start out in your career is not necessarily where you will end up.

Later on in life, when my kids are all grown up and/or I retire I may pursue freelance travel writing. I have an affinity for cruises & tropical beaches!   I would love to see many other places in the world and write about my experiences visiting them.

-Sasha Thornhill, Career Services Representative, UTM Career Centre