For some students and recent graduates, working nine to five is not the only path to success. By embracing creative and alternative careers, these young people have found a way to keep their passions alive in the “real world”. Untraditional jobs have their highlights and challenges, but the people that have them wouldn’t trade their jobs for anything.
Adrian Hardy is still in school, but he’s already exploring alternative careers. When not studying at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, this member of the class of 2011 moonlights as a DJ. Says Hardy, the most rewarding aspect is “being able to provide great experiences for close friends and complete strangers alike.”
In the near future, Hardy and his friend and business partner, Manny Romano, plan to launch a web site that focuses on the adventures and fun of being a DJ. It will include videos and photos of DJ gigs. Hardy hopes the site will capture the passion and fun-loving attitude he believes all DJs have in common.
Drexel’s co-op program lets Hardy work as a paid intern at a menswear tailor, which provides him with enough income to supplement his other interest: fashion. He’s working on another web site that will offer modern young men advice in etiquette and fashion, all while showing them how to maintain a sense of spontaneity.
Between the jobs, websites and classes, Hardy bemoans the lack of sleep but ultimately calls his lifestyle “a fun and exciting way to work sun-up to sun-down.”
Jackie Ostick, another young professional with a passion for performing, says, “I’ve known since I was little that I wanted to be an actress.” After graduating from DeSales University in 2008, she moved to New York to pursue her dream career. Most recently, Ostick appeared in the play All Shook Up at the Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania. “It’s so rewarding to do what I love.”
Although not having a stable career can be scary, Ostick says she’s lucky to have supportive friends. Like other young creative professionals, Ostick also holds a second job to make ends meet. When she’s not in a show, she works at an after-school program. She likes kids so, even when she’s not acting, she’s fulfilled.
Many young people choose atypical careers to achieve a sense of fulfillment. Ashley Blaire Cook, who graduated from Villanova University in 2004, left her job as a psychotherapist. She wanted to find a different way to help people. As luck would have it, she met the owner of a new women’s magazine who was looking for someone to run it. Cook jumped into the opportunity and is now owner and editor-in-chief of Phlare, a magazine for modern, professional women in the Philadelphia area.
Cook says, “I am still learning how to set realistic expectations and ask for help.” Since she didn’t study publishing or editing in college, she’s learning as she goes along.
She adds, “I am a firm believer that none of us get here on our own. Without the support of my family and close friends, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Christina Hill, a Bryn Mawr College alumna from the class of 2004, was working in the pharmaceutical industry. As she planned her own wedding, she realized she always wanted to be a wedding planner. She says, “I think wedding planning was in my blood since high school. My friends used to joke that I was always planning a wedding without a groom.”
Hill credits her husband with encouraging her even when she doubted herself. She took the leap and started her own wedding planning business, Chill Weddings. Over the past few years, her business has grown into a venture she calls “extremely rewarding.”
Hill loves being her own boss but says the long hours are challenging. Weddings on the weekends cut into her social life. She also works as a pharmaceutical consultant, a job that adds to her busy schedule. Being able to do what she loves makes it all worthwhile.
Hill and Cook opened their own businesses in existing fields, which is scary in itself. But Lauren de los Santos, a 2006 graduate of University of California San Diego, went even further. She launched PineMark.com, the first and only green lifestyle certification available for individuals. The company rates how environmentally friendly people are in their lifestyles and rewards them for high scores.
Until April of 2009, de Los Santos followed a traditional career path, most recently in marketing. She says, “I was motivated to change because I saw a need in the marketplace for this idea, and I wanted to do something I was passionate about, which was merging my interests in business and the environment.”
Despite the risks that go along with being a start-up, like lack of cash flow, de Los Santos still took the leap, saying, “I’m young, so I feel that right now is the perfect time to start a business.” She loves the creativity and flexibility of being a business owner.
These enterprising people prove that desk jobs are not the only path to happiness. They weren’t afraid to take some risks and have been rewarded with satisfying careers.