OyChicago blog

Leading down a whole new path

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12/12/2012

Lauren Schmidt photo

This week marks my tenth week at my first full time job after college. It is honestly remarkable to me that it has only been 10 weeks because I feel as though I have been here for so much longer. My position is at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which in their mission statement is described as a “global Jewish human rights organization that confronts anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, promotes human rights and dignity, stands with Israel, defends the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaches the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations.” In my new role, I act as an event coordinator in addition to the administrative assistant to the Midwest Director. As you can imagine, this is a very inspiring place to work. My boss’ office is covered with photographs of Simon Wiesenthal, Winston Churchill, Anne Frank, and Theodor Herzl. Hard to not feel inspired each and every day. 

The Midwest office that I work for actually just opened at the very end of the summer. Because this arm of the center is relatively new, I definitely feel as though I have an opportunity to get more hands on experience than if I were to be working for an office that had been established for years before my arrival. It is really flattering and interesting to be able to provide your opinion on major event details and decisions for the office after only spending a short time with the company. The only reason I am even communicating these feelings of content is because this all became quite apparent to me last week. 

During that time, we hosted two events that premiered the movie It is No Dream: The Life of Theodor Herzl, a film produced through the filmmaking arm of the center called Moriah. These events combined hosted over 200 people and were both fun and, at times, stressful to plan. In the end, the outcome was successful in achieving the centers mission and in my opinion, events that were enjoyed by all of our guests.

It also led to some personal feelings of accomplishment and led to reflect as to how I became an event coordinator. I majored in Journalism in college, which will always be one of my greatest passions. I always will find writing to be a release for any sort of anxieties in my life and I love telling stories, updating people on events and trends, and interviewing individuals about their lives and passions. However, the culmination of my college experience led me to work for a Jewish non-profit—not exactly what you learn about in the School of Media and Public Affairs.

What I realized over the past week is that probably less than five percent of the work I do is anything I learned from sitting in class. My first thought was oy! (pun most definitely intended), but I then realized that it doesn’t really matter where you learn the life skills you use on a daily basis. I am not disvaluing my education in the slightest, but rather pointing out that organized coursework isn’t always what teaches you the most.

I was explaining to some of my friends that most of the responsibilities I have in my position are things I only know how to do from working at overnight camp, pretty much living at Hillel, and being in a sorority. Sure, some basic tricks of the trade in Microsoft Office are skills I picked up during a semester long internships and I probably can write a more eloquent email after taking what seemed like 100 plus journalism courses, but the main day-to-day organizational skills, people skills, and communication skills are all thanks to four years in a sorority and at Hillel, and six years on staff at overnight camp. 

Strangely (or maybe not so much so) this is something that many people I have talked to agree with me about. Many of my friends use skills from outside extra-curricular experiences in order to advance in their careers and maybe less so information they learned in class. Of course, there are many exceptions to this, but it is extremely fascinating to think that the most important things you learn in school may not be from class at all. This isn’t exactly the direction I intended on going when I thought about reflecting on my first job, just as when I applied to major in Journalism during my senior year in high school, I wasn’t thinking that I would end up here. I guess this shows that even when you have a plan or think you know the course that you hope your life goes, things can gradually change, leading you on a whole new path. Maybe in four years my life will be similar to how I imagine or it could be completely different than I could even envision. Just when you think the whirlwind part of your early 20s is over with the end of college, it might only just be beginning.

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