Hollins University students were provided with some of the important tools they’ll need to find their way along “The Winding Path” at the university’s 2022 Career Connection Conference (C3), held September 30.
As this year’s conference theme, “The Winding Path” reflected the reality that a career track is no longer linear but rather an accumulation of skills and life experiences. In virtual sessions (C3 transitioned to an online conference this year due to the threat of inclement weather from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Ian), more than 50 Hollins alumnae/i demonstrated the lifelong power of a liberal arts education, sharing their insights on life and work and helping students connect with others in their networks.
For 2022, each C3 session encompassed one of three themes:
- Insights from the Field: Industry-based discussions featuring various roles within a given field.
- Driven by Mission: Conversations around mission, personal values, and purpose.
- Navigating the Process: How-to guides for career exploration and transition.
The curriculum was designed to showcase the versatility of the liberal arts with a cross-sector, interdisciplinary approach to each session topic. Program dialogues were expansive in scope and offered points of access for all students, including those who are still developing their career or academic goals.
C3 covered a range of career fields, including environment and sustainability; film; galleries, libraries, archives, and museums; government and public policy; health care; international affairs; performing arts; pre-veterinary; psychology; publishing; and technology and innovation/government contracting. The conference also featured issue-oriented sessions covering purpose-based work and how one can create change and maintain coherency between work, life, and beyond. Among these sessions were “Leading EDJ: Careers in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”; “Work and Life Balance”; and “Creating Impact: Working in Nonprofits.”
Sarina Saturn, a scientist, educator, and activist, was the keynote speaker for C3 2022. A community scientist at Program Design and Evaluation Services, which is a part of the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division and the Multnomah County (Oregon) Health Department, Saturn focuses on addressing health inequities and disparities in marginalized communities.
Saturn’s address, “Resisting Straight and Narrow Paths: Embracing a Future of Winding Career Journeys,” offered students five ways to successfully handle the many challenges that might come their way in the years ahead.
“I think it’s really important to understand that nothing is wasted. Even if you make what seems to be a bad decision, every single experience you have – your career choices, your academic choices, even things relational – can contribute to your development no matter where you go in life. There are so many lessons to be learned.”
Saturn cited the importance of celebrating winding paths. “You should definitely feel empowered to be your best advocate for yourself, Even if you end up in a position or path that is not serving you, there are many, many gifts that can come from that.”
These include what Saturn described as “foul-weather gifts. I come from a background of neuroscience and trauma, and now I try to convey to all my audiences the power of harnessing post-traumatic growth and the psychology of wisdom, compassion, and self-care, so that even in the midst of coping with really difficult experiences, there are some wonderful things to be had, even from the most painful and difficult things we might encounter.”
Saturn also told students to “seek connection wherever you go. By being relational, you will be able to have lots of people looking out for you during your career journey.” She urged them to establish a basis for networking through Hollins’ Career Development and Life Design Center (CDLD). “I think the career center you have is extraordinary, so take advantage of all they offer.”
Reminding students to always take care of their own well-being and others was Saturn’s fifth tip. “You simply cannot go wrong if you lead with kindness and compassion and advocate for yourself and for others who are the most vulnerable among us.”
Throughout their career journeys, Saturn encouraged students to continually ask themselves one key question. “What really matters to you? Distilling your values really contributes to a growth mindset. I think oftentimes we do what we can…just to make more money or become famous. We now know through all of the data that being rich and famous is not the path to happiness and contentment. It’s really about finding your joy and discovering what is impactful. It’s honoring your gifts instead of trying to shoehorn in what you might not be so good at. That can also be a humbling experience when you’re in a job or even in a relationship that isn’t serving you. Harness those gifts – ‘What am I good at? What makes me happy?’ – rather than force yourself into something that might not be aligned with your values, your skill set, or your talents.”
Saturn emphasized that even in less-than-ideal career or relational situations, anyone can identify benefits “that you can apply to wherever you want to go. If where you are is not quite feeling good, there are ways to make it magical, or ways to learn about what you don’t like. This allows you to pick another path that might be great.”
Now in its 11th year, C3 is intended to provide advice and guidance to all Hollins students. “Whether you are a first year or a senior, a double major or undecided, career-ambitious or career-confused, there is a place for you at C3,” said Jeffrey White, director of the university’s CDLD.