Did ‘Career Day’ leave you uninspired? Are you currently considering a college major, profession, or career switch later in life? Catch up on Role Call, a blog feature where young professional women share their insights on achieving success (…and their advice to teens!) You can also visit our sister site, Major Crush, for a more comprehensive view of the possible college majors and career paths walked by inspiring women.
Now take a look back at the growing list of women career role models – and importantly, what they would advise young women on pursuing their dreams.
We are always looking for more diverse and unique professional young women to profile – contact firstname.lastname@example.org to recommend yourself or a friend, or leave a suggestion in the comments section below.
Academia: “Don’t do it.
Jussssst kidding. But be 100% sure that you want to dedicate yourself to what you’re intending to study. Find someone you think will be a good mentor for you in your research. Then find another person who can talk you through the moments of struggle. Neither of those people should tell you how great you are; that doesn’t do anyone any favors and often covers up the areas that are essential for you to improve. Ideally, they will both be someone who has become a badass in their own right, and can help you develop as a scholar and give you opportunities to learn. Academia is a weird blend of essential collaboration and essential independence, and finding the line between the two can be tough. For example, I love working with other people on projects, but sometimes that comes at the cost of my own work, and then I get into an anxiety spiral. Oh, actually that is another thing: Stress and anxiety are a part of the game, and everyone is faking it if they are making it look easy. Talk to people about it. Be open when you’re struggling. Otherwise you will find yourself waking up at 4 am each morning in a panic for the check boxes you’ve failed to meet. Finally, read On Writing by Steven King and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. They’ll help to normalize the debilitating writing process.”
-Bernadette Doykos, Research Associate
Architecture: “Go for it! But be sure to do some research on college programs and on the field in general to make sure it’s right for you. Visit schools if you can. As an undergrad, you’ll spend long hours in studio and need to be able to present your ideas to your classmates and professors. The late nights are completely worth it and the friends you make in the studio are friends you’ll keep all your life.”
-Lauren Thomsen, Architect
Blogging: “Write, write, write! And don’t write for free! Some sites will say the exposure is your compensation but if you do good-quality work, you deserve to be paid! Write and pitch and make connections. I’ve gotten nearly every writing job I’ve had because of someone I knew. Connections are very valuable in this business.”
-Valerie Williams, Blogger at Scary Mommy
Business: “I’d say go for your dreams, in business or otherwise. Life is short. Business is good because it employs people and can solve real problems. Ethics are important, too, so don’t forget that morality and business go hand in hand. Oh, I would also advise that money should not be the first priority – but rather a commitment to service and solving problems.”
-June Odongo, Entreprenuer
Education: “It is often a tireless and thankless job. As long as you know this going into it, you are good to go! That, and the idea that you have “summers off,” is only partially true when it comes to your time.”
-Yom Odamtten Fox, World History Teacher and Global Initiatives Director
Health Care: “Do it, do it, do it. If I can do it, you can too. Ask anyone who knows me and they’d tell you they were worried about me and didn’t think I could do it. And I did. It took all the strength and brainpower I had. Lots of nights studying and ‘missing out.’ It was 100% the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and it has been 5 years. I know what I want, I know what I need to feel confident at work, and all I can tell you is that tomorrow is a new day. You’ll want to quit almost every day but then you wake up and do it again. Plus, once you’re there, it’s secure. You’re a wanted person with these set of skills, and the people you will treat will make you a better human being. They teach you how to be this compassionate person that you never thought you were..”
-Melissa Ayala, Physician Assistant
Illustration: “Go for it. Go for it. Go for it. Stay confident. Do what you love. Follow your dreams. Take criticism as fuel to push harder. Prove them wrong. Be different. Be true to yourself. Be true to who you are. In the end you will be happy that you did. Being genuine will shine through to others, and even give them the inspiration to be true to themselves. BE A BADASS.”
-Priscilla Witte, Illustrator
Law: “Same advice I would give anyone: it can be a great career, but please do research before going to law school, and more than idly searching some message boards online and talking to your Uncle Roger who is a local family lawyer. Do an internship at a law firm. Take practicing lawyers out to coffee (they’ll pay), and ask them what they actually do day to day. Make them answer that question. There are too many unhappy lawyers out there, and 90% of people who go to law school will wish they had done something else.
Also, don’t pay too much for law school unless it’s in the top 14, preferably top 5. Sorry, just don’t.”
-Erika Payne, Legal Director
Music: “Figure out your values. It doesn’t matter how you were raised or who’s around you now. What matter is what resonates with you. Figure out what YOU value and what’s important to you and what will build the kind of life you want. I want to be healthy and live past 100. So, I go to the gym. I have to watch my drinking and can’t make smoking anything a habit. I value my friends. I put time aside of the people I love. Whether it’s brunch or a dinner, I take time for them. I value my romantic partner. I take time to give him the kind of love he needs. I value my word. I work at following through on what I say I’ll do, and I try not to over commit. Importantly, I try to let my ‘yes’ actually mean ‘yes.'”
-Erin Austin, Frontwoman of OK Sweetheart
Novelist: “Read as much as humanly possible. Figure out your own tastes and respect them, even if nobody else does. Write books that you yourself would want to read, featuring characters you’d want to read about. It’s hard to get published and it’s impossible not to get at least a couple of bad reviews, but all of the rejection and criticism is a lot easier to bear when you’re writing stories you love and believe in.”
-Katie Coyle, Author: Vivian Apple Series
Public Health: “Do it! Public health is a wonderful field to be involved in. It offers both social service and employability. There are so many opportunities within public health ranging from infectious disease control to food-borne illness outbreak investigations to environmental health and beyond. A Masters in Public Health prepares you work in all of these fields, which can be especially useful if a young person doesn’t have clear long terms goals like I did. The potential to help people in this field is immense, and that is precisely what drew me to it.
During my three years at Planned Parenthood of North Florida, I personally taught over 12,000 people how to stay safe and healthy. And now at the Florida School of Traditional Midwifery, each year I get to help train a new class of midwives who will go on to help more women have access to safe and affordable reproductive health care. This year, on International Midwifery Day, the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) released a statement that well trained midwives worldwide could prevent 2 out of 3 maternal deaths. I am so proud to be part of that very important work.”
-Gaia Zori, Executive Director
Publishing: “1) Explore various aspects of the industry; so many people come into publishing wanted to be an editor or literary agent. There are tons of other interesting, creative opportunities that you might actually be more interested in.
2) Never underestimate the power of informational interviews! Reach out to people whose jobs seem interesting to you and politely request advice about a few career questions. Publishing has a very pay-it-forward attitude when it comes to offering help and insights to newcomers. Your network will be your best ally for your career no matter what you do, so you might as well start now.
3) Read contemporary books. You cannot go into a publishing interview and say the most recent book you read is a Dickens novel. Look at the NYT Bestseller list or the front table of your local bookstore, get familiar with popular titles, and read a few.”
-Christine Munroe, Author Relations Manager
Surgery: “1) Shadow a surgeon! Most doctors love to teach and they are pumped that you are excited about what they are excited about. They will be happy to show you the ropes. Try to imagine yourself in their shoes doing what they do but with your own personal flair.
2) Find a mentor – someone who has been through the process and can answer your questions.
3) Ignore the nay-sayers. The Debbie-Downers who say “medicine is not like it used to be” and “insurance premiums are at an all time high!” Waaaah waaaah. Maintain your idealism, grab the world by the nuggies and do whatever it is you want to do. Take what the Debbie-downers say with a grain of salt and keep your eyes on the prize, girls. No matter what people say, being a doctor is still one of the greatest jobs in the world.
4) Balance. Find it, cherish it. Pick something you love outside of your future work and make it a part of your life, forever.
5) Treat yourself to breaks and don’t be too hard on yourself.
6) Find humor in everything and practice happiness every day. You cannot always control what happens, but how you perceive what happens is your choice. Teach yourself how to see the good in things and your experience will be colorful and fun.”
-Dr. Katie Fuchs, Orthopedic Surgery
Theology: “First of all, if you find that people often tell you that you’re a great listener, pay attention to that! Yes, listening is a skill that can be made into a career. There are a lot of different counseling career options (psychotherapist, social work, pastoral counselor, etc.) so it’s a matter of figuring out what your state requirements are and what kind of population you want to serve or what kind of environment you would prefer. It is also important to address any hurt or emotional pain you may have in your own life, otherwise it can be a challenge to work with people suffering from the same sort of thing. Working through your own hurt and pain will make you a better counselor or chaplain. I think it’s a good idea for everyone at some point to find a therapist if at all possible. We are often so hard on ourselves and working with a therapist can help us get out of unhealthy thought patterns..”
-Joo Young Hong, Hospital Chaplain
Web Design: “I would tell them to build things! I made probably about five or six websites (really not that great) when I was in middle and high school. But that taught me how to move within softwares and codes. The next part is learning the design– where your eye goes first on a website, principles of font, that kind of thing.
I would also say to read everything. So much about doing web stuff is about reading: the instructions, what other people are doing, and the latest trends. I read all the time, and it allows me to learn new functions of software I use every day, but didn’t realize were there.”
-Caitlin Garzi, Web Designer
Writing: “I want to say do it, but I say that as someone who had her parents’ financial support as an undergraduate. I got myself through my masters and PhD, but I recognize that being able to spend as much time studying writing as I have has been a luxury, and not one I earned. I would love for art and humanities to be as valuable as STEM fields, but they aren’t, and for that reason, I think every girl has to consider what she’s willing to sacrifice to do what she loves.”
-Sara Erdmann, English Teacher