Jamie Stamey – When I was 18 years old, I had a plan – to leave my tiny town in Upstate New York and move to Nashville to become the next big star. I had the talent, and the ambition, but my parents said I had to have higher education. So I planned to make us all happy and attend a music school in “Music City.”
I was in school about two weeks when I realized that yes, I did have the talent, but so did a whole lot of other people. As the semester went on, the requirements of a music degree took the fun and creativity out of the craft that I loved. By December, I was left with the realization that my life’s dream was not going to come to fruition and I was absolutely crushed.
I had no idea what to do next; I had no back-up plan. I was at a liberal arts school and there were no flashing yellow signs pointing me down a specific path. Reality set in…I had to figure it out and I had only three years to do it. I was spending a lot of money, and I needed to find the value in my education. What became important to me was graduating and getting a job so I could be self-sufficient. I agonized for months over what to major in. I contemplated transferring schools. I couldn’t envision myself doing any one particular thing.
I consulted my older cousin whom I’d looked to as a mentor for many years. She worked in higher education and strongly urged me to get involved in campus activities and organizations. To help with the bills, I became a Resident Assistant, which led to becoming a full-time Hall Director. I didn’t take that first job because it was my calling – I took it because it was a risk-free transition out of undergrad.
I’ve spent the last 13 years working in higher education. I’ve tried many different roles, from residence life to student activities to adjunct instructor and finally, career development. Each transition occurred on the back of an opportunity. Not necessarily an opportunity to move up – in fact many of my career moves would be considered lateral. Instead, they were opportunities for me to try something new, work with different people, develop and strengthen my natural skills and abilities. Through these transitions, I’ve learned I have other interests like marketing, event planning and graphic design. I’ve also learned that I like order. I am a logical and strategic thinker, and that consistency is very important to me. I’ve learned all of this through trial and error and a lot of situations that required difficult decisions.
By keeping an open-mind early in my career, I never felt pigeon-holed. I intentionally developed skills that will allow me to move outside of higher education if the right opportunity ever comes along. Or maybe I’ll stay in education for the remainder of my career. I’ve never had a solid answer to the question, “Where do you see yourself in x years?” Many of my peers have a specific vision for their career, a coveted job title or status that they are working towards. That just isn’t the case for me. The way I see it, I’m a little less than one-third of the way into my career, so how can I possibly predict how it is going to turn out in the end?
What I enjoy the most about my job is that every day, I get to utilize my natural skills and abilities. Because I get to play to my strengths, I find myself feeling fulfilled at the end of most days. But I could probably find equal fulfillment as an architect or an engineer.
I see myself in a lot of the students that come into the Center for Career Development. They are often lost and confused. They may feel embarrassed because they don’t have an answer to, “Where do you see yourself in x number of years?” Here is my advice to those students:
Explore. Take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves and create your own opportunities when none come along on their own. Seven years ago, I learned I could be happy as an architect or an engineer because of the results of my Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The minute I read the results, a light clicked on and I couldn’t believe I had never thought about those professions. If I had taken advantage of the resources available to me while I was in school, I may have been able to save myself all the stress and agony I felt early on about choosing a major and making career decisions. Overall, I’m grateful to have fallen into higher education because it has taught me to learn about my personal strengths and identify ways to maximize them at every stage along the way. Because of this, I can look forward to a career with limitless possibilities.
Jamie Stamey is the Associate Director for Employer Relations in the Center for Career Development. Contact her at jastamey@ davidson.edu.