I was on a student panel today for the Career Center’s Parent’s Weekend presentation. In front of a theater full(ish) of parents, I shared a snippet of my career journey thus far. This is what I learned.
Almost a year ago, I was on 48 Hours, a freshman retreat run by the Office of First Year Experience. On this retreat, one of the activities involved birthdays, and I discovered that I shared a birthday with Biz, the leader of the retreat and Director of FYE. We had a brief conversation that weekend, but afterwards, I sent Biz a thank you email and a brief reflection of my 48 Hours experience.
Two weeks later, I got an email saying that I had been personally nominated for the LeaderShape Institute, a free 6-day leadership development and community building retreat. It turns out, Biz had nominated me. Naturally, I applied and attended. It sounded right up my alley.
LeaderShape turned out to be the highlight of my entire freshman year. It immersed me in a community of like-minded individuals who had greater visions not only for themselves, but also for their communities and the world in general. LeaderShape reminded me that I thrive on one-on-one authentic relationships, which was missing from my first semester. And the notions of living and leading with integrity and having a healthy disregard for the impossible set the tone for the rest of my year.
In fact, the Associate Director of the Career Center was my small group leader on LeaderShape, and it was my relationship with him that got me on the panel in the first place.
During the spring, I also interned for Date My Wardrobe, a fashion tech startup in Boston founded by an amazing female entrepreneur, Amrita Aviyente. Amrita turned out to become a great personal and professional mentor for me to this day, advocating for my growth and exposing me to the intersection between fashion and business. And seeing that I had been interested in fashion since secretly wanting to be a fashion designer when I was eight, this internship was a big step for me towards fashion as a potential career path.
That semester, I also took a course called Courage to Know with Biz as my professor. One of our assignments was to do a vocational interview, in which we reached out to someone with a vocation we aspired to or wanted to learn more about. At this point, I was still flirting with the idea of chemistry or philosophy, but was ultimately undecided with my major and unsure of my direction.
However, ethical fashion was on my mind because of an informational interview I did with Esther Chen Meyers, the founder of bonJOY, over winter break. After stalking the LinkedIn BC Alumni group, I came across Esther and was instantly intrigued by her career path. She was kind enough to respond to me, and we ended up meeting one day to chat about her time in college, her career, and her founding of bonJOY. So to find someone I was interested in the vocation of, I googled “ethical fashion companies in Boston”. One of the first links to pop up was The Good Trade.
The founder of The Good Trade, AmyAnn Cadwell, was also kind enough to respond to me and set up a time to FaceTime (she also knew Esther!). Other than being an all-around inspiring and relatable person, she made a particularly poignant point. She said that although saying yes to one thing might mean saying no to many other things, I have to trust that saying yes will lead to other yeses I can’t possibly foresee or predict. There is something inherently uncomfortable about taking life one step at a time without knowing exactly what you’re walking towards. Nevertheless, my experience at BC has really epitomized that idea of one small moment changing everything.
My conversation with AmyAnn encouraged me to explore ethical fashion, conscious consumerism, and social entrepreneurship as a potential career realm. So I reached out to Esther about interning with bonJOY over the summer. And as I’ve said before, interning for bonJOY was a truly wonderful experience because it convinced me of my genuine passion for ethical fashion, so much so that I see the intersection of international studies, business, fashion, and social good as my potential “end”.
And to think that it all started with sharing a birthday with Biz. Had that connection not been made, I honestly don’t know where I would be. But I am so grateful for all the mentors, experiences, and opportunities in the past year that have fundamentally changed or reassured my direction.
Although the path was very unclear along the way (and still is), everything connects in retrospect. Yet, it required putting myself out there to create opportunities and having the guidance of mentors, formal and informal, who encouraged me to discern my passions and follow my gut.