Last spring, with one term left at Central Connecticut State University, I knew I had a strong passion for writing but an unfocused career outlook. An internship at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, which began in May, gave me a chance to test-drive my career and showed me opportunities a lot closer to home than I had ever imagined.
The museum's marketing and public relations department was smaller than I expected and I was given a great deal of responsibility. I was writing proposals, press releases, invitation letters and exhibition descriptions for the website and handling other assignments. I even helped plan the museum's first major social media event. I loved it!
What I enjoyed even more was the amount of independence I was given to complete my tasks. Although my supervisor was available when I had questions, she ultimately let my creativity and decisions guide me through assignments, which allowed me to develop a unique and personal perspective of how the work I was doing could fit into my life.
Perhaps the most life-changing assignment she gave me turned out to be the most basic of all — distributing marketing materials. My first week, she called me into her office.
"Are you familiar with downtown Hartford?" she asked. I flinched, caught off-guard. Though I live a mere three minutes away, it was as foreign to me as another country. I shook my head.
"Well, you're about to become very acquainted with it," she said. She pushed forward a box filled with more than 1,000 postcards. "I would like you to distribute these to all the local businesses and organizations in the downtown area."
I was wearing heels and a dress, but it didn't matter. I had a job to do. And so, with the help of another intern and a tourist's map, I set out into the city.
Like many students who live outside of Hartford, I had preconceived notions about the city, formed mainly by hearsay, media and tall tales. I hadn't considered the city as a place to work or live. I figured that because I want to work in the entertainment field and lived near the insurance capital of the U.S., there was nothing for me here. I planned to leave the Nutmeg State as soon as possible. However, one small but important assignment changed my attitude.
Every few weeks, my supervisor handed me another box of postcards promoting events and activities at the museum, which were to be distributed as widely as possible. I began to see all sides of Hartford and became better acquainted with what it can offer me. I noticed the small businesses, the local entertainment and pubs, the swanky sushi restaurants (I love sushi!), and the beautiful architecture. The city's ease of access and the bustling activity became increasingly appealing. My negative perceptions were replaced by excitement and curiosity.
I began to ask myself, why not Hartford?
There is so much culture, history, art and entertainment packed into this sleepy city nestled between New York and Boston that to bypass it in my job search would be a mistake. As my attitude toward my environment changed, so did my attitude toward my career. I suddenly had the desire to tell everyone how great our cities are, to point out the hidden treasures within our businesses and to let them all know that we really live in the heart of a jewel. A jewel that many unwittingly toss behind and forever forget.
The museum work taught me many things. Perhaps the greatest lesson of all is to quiet the external and truly listen to what's within you. It was here I found my niche, my passion and my calling — the need to help others through the promotion of community programs and institutions. I have developed a confidence and security of purpose that I had sought through others my entire life.
I always assumed that changing my life required major shifts, such as leaving the state or switching my college major. Through this internship and the support of wonderful mentors, I realized that the greatest changes occur within you.
You don't have to run away to find your dreams; if you open your eyes, you'll realize they were in front of you all along. Just make sure you bring comfortable shoes, because it may take a bit of walking to get there.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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