Kim Caponi
Kim Caponi, Director of Presidential Communications and Operations

I changed my college major three times and transferred once. Eventually, I just picked a major that looked like it would require “easy” classes. When I graduated from college I had no idea what job I wanted much less what career. I would never have predicted that I would spend more than 20 years helping others select a college major and start or change careers nor how valuable my early lack of direction would eventually be in that role.

Just as I graduated from college, unemployment rose steadily for the next two years and landing that first job after college was made even more difficult and uncertain. After a few transitions, I eventually began working for the State of Iowa’s welfare reform program. And every month, for more than ten years, I co-taught a series of workshops designed to assist those on state assistance return to or enter the workforce. During this time, I participated in the exhilarating and draining process of encouraging and supporting individuals to reset their journey – to leave public assistance and become self-sufficient – a process that was easier said than done for most of the program participants. And every month, for more than ten years, I was inspired as I witnessed first-hand the transformation as individuals who arrived, thinking they had nothing to offer, saw themselves with new eyes as I drew out their skills and experiences and wrote their resume.

Moving forward in my own career, I was asked to be the Career Center Director at a community college. In this role, I continued to work with adults but now also with more high school and traditional-aged college students. I administered all those same types of aptitude tests that I had taken in my youth that had not proved helpful in narrowing down my own choice of major or career. My parents helped me persevere, knowing that getting a college degree, with any major, was important. And now, that frustrating and confusing time became helpful as I was able to relate to and provide assurance to many other frustrated and confused students and adults as they sought to set or reset their journey to their first or a new career.

Another advancement in my career and I was now working with undergraduate and graduate students at a large, public university. In this role, I didn’t see the majority of students until they were close to graduation and ready to look for that first job after college. Again, my personal experience of spending nearly a year conducting my initial job search and another two years before landing a job that eventually became a career became a valuable asset as I encouraged others not to give up. I empathized with the post-doctoral student who was no longer interested in working in their field of study. I was proud of the NFL recruit who cheerfully sought other opportunities after not making it past training camp.

And then, I reset my own journey, interviewing and accepting a position still within higher education but outside of the Career Services field. Here is what I have learned over the years about setting or resetting your journey.

  1. Just because something is easy for you doesn’t mean that it is easy for everyone. It may feel easy because you have an unrecognized skill in this area.
  2. Dig a little deeper to discover your full skill set. A successful fast food worker does much more than take your food order. They must have great customer service skills, know how to deal with difficult customers, be accurate, and know health and safety protocols among other skills.
  3. Sometimes, knowing what you don’t want to do is as important as knowing what you do want.
  4. Every experience is a learning experience that can be used along your journey.
  5. You don’t need to feel “stuck in a job.” No matter your education or experience, you can always reset your journey. There are resources available to earn your first or another degree. It might not be easy in the short-term however it can bring long-term rewards.
  6. Be willing to take a chance. So, you don’t have every qualification listed for your dream job, apply anyway, all that can happen is they say, “no.” However, they might just say, “yes.”

January is often a time when individuals think about resetting their journey. And Waubonsee has excellent resources to help. Our Academic and Career Advising team can help you decide on a major or be prepared for your job search. If a certificate or degree is part of the plan, our Financial Aid team can help you identify the resources to make it affordable. And, flexible class schedules mean that you can learn when and where you want. With classes beginning February 14, March 21, March 26, and April 18 there is still time to get started now.

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