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Time to Get Professional

Ana Purchiaroni, C'23

On the Outside Looking In Blog

Most people think that senior year is a breeze. Sure, you have some big projects and capstone courses to finish, but other than that, people seem to think it is smooth sailing. At the start of the semester, I thought it would be easy. I am only taking some fun creative courses; why would it be difficult. What they don’t tell you is all the career prep and planning you have to do.

First it started with professional headshots. I signed up to get my picture taken with professional attire as well as graduation attire that would be provided upon my arrival. Every time I put business casual or professional outfits on, it feels like an outer body experience. I stare at myself in the mirror wondering, “Who is that? She is not me.” The blazer feels odd, the pants seem too formal, and the shirt is just so off-putting. It also does not help that I have several blue pants, but only two black blazers. I feel a little like I am playing dress up. I am only pretending to be a grown up, but I am not actually anywhere close.

When I finished getting dressed, I walked to the location where the pictures were being taken. Before the semester began, I bought some nice low-heeled shoes to go with my interview outfits, but I hadn’t worn them until this exact day. I have never been in so much pain just walking three minutes to get to a location. Pro tip: bring tennis shoes and change into the heels when you get to your destination.

The photographer took some shots, and I was feeling fine. But then she pulled out the graduation cap and gown. The pictures will not be available for another two weeks so I haven’t seen myself in the robes yet, but it felt weird. Not in the same way as the professional attire, but weird in a good way. The weight of the gown was almost comforting and made me feel proud of myself. I know graduation is next semester, but it felt very close in that moment.

Now let’s flash forward to more professional opportunities. Within the last two weeks I have met with and spoken to professionals in the field that I wish to go into. I met with the head of marketing at the Weinberg Center in Frederick as well as the head of marketing at Way Off Broadway in Frederick. I have narrowed down that I enjoy doing work in advertising and marketing, especially using social media to connect with and influence younger audiences. However, now I have learned that my first passion and love for theatre can be mixed into my professional life as well.

Talking to these professionals and seeing what they do helped me gain a better understanding of my career path. They told me about their own journeys, and it was fascinating to learn that they were not always sure what they wanted to be. These grown adults who I look up to and think “wow, they must have always had it together. They probably knew what they wanted from the very beginning.” Those thoughts could not be more wrong. These people did not always have it figured out or know where they wanted to go, and they certainly did not think they would end up where they are. The path to a job is not a straight one. There are lots of twists and turns and unexpected stops, and you just have to ride with it. I think that was my biggest takeaway from my meetings with these professionals.

Speaking of meetings, I also had the opportunity to do a mock interview with my professor as a class assignment. At first, it seemed simple enough, very low stakes. It’s not like I was interviewing for a job that will really hire me. It is just a fake interview. However, as it got closer and closer to the day of the interview, my mind started to dread it. One, because the interview is for a grade, so there is some sort of stakes to it. And two, this is my first real interview. What if she asks a really hard question? What if I blank out on every job experience I have ever had?

Well, the best advice I can give is to prepare for all those what if’s because they do happen. In fact, they did happen. Did I blank out? Yes. I was able to bounce back and come up with an answer anyways. I was also able to bring a notebook for notetaking, so I wrote some things in there that I wanted to highlight in the interview. In the end, I think it turned out okay. My palms were a little sweaty and my legs were a bit shaky, but I am still in one piece, and it is not the end of the world just because I stumbled on my words or paused for a little longer than I should have.

The last two weeks have been busy and definitely nerve-wracking, but ultimately, I have gained a lot of knowledge and experience from all the hard things I have conquered. And I am sure, when the time comes, you will too. My journey to the inside has taken on a much deeper meaning of going to the inside of the professional world, not just making friends, but making connections and networking. Anywhere you go make sure to connect with people not just as friends, but as someone who can connect you with an opportunity to advance yourself and your career. I know it seems frightening at first, but once you get going, it gets easier.

Ana Purchiaroni, C'23