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Building an Empowered Career

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Guest blog by Justine Patterson, a cohort member with Rung for Women, a nonprofit organization based in St. Louis, Missouri that helps women advance their careers. In her reflection, Justine shares her lived experience building her career with career literacy and network strength to reach her goals. 

When I was first launching my career, I dreamed of becoming an academic advisor in higher education; I loved the idea of helping others explore possibilities and create a plan to achieve a big life goal. Landing my first role was pretty straightforward – I applied to entry-level positions with direct education and internship experience, and I began my career in higher education! I grew, contributed, and learned a lot over the following eight years. 

Pivoting my career

Like many people, 2020 revealed many things to me. Here are a few: 

  1. how helpful it was to me to work remotely 
  2. how much I loved to work in new, innovative ways with my team 
  3. I needed to build more financial stability for myself in the coming seasons 
  4. I wanted to help solve other problems in our world

After these realizations, my role in higher education no longer aligned with where I wanted to go personally and professionally. And, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to the way things were. (I know that feeling resonates deeply with many of my peers!) It was time for a career change. 

Figuring out what’s next

So, there I was, with a master’s degree, eight years of higher education experience, and a pretty serious case of burnout. I needed direction and I needed support. 

I had toyed with the idea of getting a Ph.D. for YEARS: my network at the time could have made that a smooth transition, and it felt like a logical next step. However, during a conversation with a friend who knows me as well I know myself, she said, “If you really wanted to do that, you would have done it already.” She was so right. I knew, deep down, it was time for a big change. I wanted to pivot to a role in technology, but I had no clue where to even begin making a transition into a completely different field.

In the fall of 2021, I found Rung for Women, a nonprofit organization that helps women who are elevating their lives. To be honest, I thought the program sounded too good to be true. In short, they gave me everything I needed to level up my career. Let me tell you how.  

I built my career literacy 

As soon as I joined the cohort at Rung, I had coaches helping me explore my options and get clear on my goals for the future. They gave me assessments that helped me get a deeper understanding of my strengths, weaknesses, values, and professional interests. 

They connected me to LaunchCode, a nonprofit organization that helps people learn to code, and I landed a spot in their tech boot camp and was able to gain new skills while getting an introduction to the tech industry.  

Soon after, a friend tagged me in a job post on LinkedIn; I applied, and the next thing I knew I had landed a first-round interview! 

Before Rung, I never made it past the first or second-round interview. This time, I emailed my coaches at Rung and within a few hours, I had a meeting set up with a career coach. Together, we prepared for the most important interview questions; my career coach helped me write my talking points out and then practice saying them in a way that sounded natural. This sort of assistance is invaluable! It was the first time in a while I felt sure of what I was saying and that I could handle whatever this interview would throw my way.

I expanded, strengthened, and diversified my network: 

Meanwhile, I was going through this process alongside a group of women from ALL walks of life and ALL professional backgrounds. We shared one common goal: we all needed to make a big change in our life. We just needed a few resources to get there, and we did it, together. We pushed each other, supported each other, met up with each other at coffee shops on the weekends, and cheered each other toward our career goals. 

In a short time, my network had expanded greatly – from Rung staff, to my cohort, to new tech contacts via LaunchCode.

My Career Today

I’m thrilled to share that the momentum, confidence, and skills I gained throughout this process helped me land my new job in education technology. 

This experience allowed me to not only see what I am capable of, but to actually believe I CAN level up professionally. I DO have access to jobs paying double what I was making before and I have a network of people ready to help if I do find myself wanting to make a change. 

I can truly say this is the first time in my life I have OPTIONS professionally and I am qualified and equipped with skills that would allow me to be successful in a booming industry. 

I can absolutely attribute this professional win and personal growth to the strength of my network and a couple of nonprofits that really helped me truly understand the meaning of career literacy.  

I can’t begin to tell you how different my life is today; my life has become something I never could have imagined a year ago, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Want to learn more about building career literacy and network strength for an empowered career?

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