College students in today’s rough economic climate often feel pushed toward educational paths that don’t interest them, that they’d rather not take. Many others feel constrained by their field of study, believing their career options are limited by the classes they’ve chosen to take. We spoke with a SUNY alumna in the workforce who blew all those assumptions out of the water.
From University at Buffalo to Life Storage, Inc., SUNY alumna Lauren Thomann (2007) uses her broad base of knowledge and skills to manage marketing efforts and social media for a national storage company in Williamsville, New York.
Thomann didn’t always see herself doing this type of work. She wanted to be a teacher until midway through college, when she delved into the business world. She took classes in business and web development (an online class that introduced her to XHTML and CSS was especially helpful), completed an internship managing an antique shop’s website and online business, and even ran her own business for nine years. “I couldn’t have done that without UB’s help and guidance,” she said.
At the time she entered school, UB was undergoing a lot of change—so much so that incoming freshmen had to stay in nearby hotels instead of dorms. But this time of transformation was critical; Thomann said, “Buffalo finally started to act on the potential I saw it having all along.”
Thomann herself went through a similar change in college. As she changed her mind about her career choice and as her educational path led her to unexpected places, Thomann appreciated the flexibility in her life that allowed her to stand true to her passions. She cited her degree in English and linguistics as an important aspect of this.
“Some people joke about English majors and the uncertainty of a direct career path after you get your degree. It’s general and unspecialized, and my required coursework didn’t incorporate technology, business or marketing,” Thomann said. “In hindsight, I still would have made the same decision.”
Thomann said the English major gave her a strong sense of self, a better understanding of her skills, and the ability to articulate both of those to others. Choosing the topic of her honor’s thesis was a particularly formative experience—as a lover of antique jewelry, she wanted to write it on Victorian literature. “Victorian literature wasn’t a unique or cutting edge choice, and not many people were writing essays about their love of Charles Dickens,” she said.
After looking for an adviser to help, she finally found a professor who supported her idea, who believed just as Thomann did that she could bring fresh and new ideas to the topic.
“This process nurtured my confidence to stand up for my passions even when it wasn’t the obvious or recommended choice,” she said of the experience.
Still, students may feel like their passions can’t or won’t lead them to a lucrative or fulfilling career. Thomann’s advice? “Know who you are. That seems cheesy to say, but without knowing who you are, what you stand for and what drives you, it will be difficult to find a degree that can nurture your success. Take random classes that have nothing to do with your current major because that choice may lead you down a worthwhile path. Don’t be scared to stray from what is expected or normal.”
In an upcoming blog, Lauren will provide us and all college students with professional tips on how to maximize the storage options in your residence so you can have all of the comfort items you need without overtaking the limited space that is available. Stay tuned.
Jenna was a student assistant with the SUNY Office of New Media when an undergraduate student at SUNY Geneseo studying English literature.