Say “Yes” to Serendipity

Feb 9, 2024

Some of the most important forks in the road for me have been a result of pure serendipity. Serendipity is a great word, meaning good luck in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries. Serendipity in your college years can come from being open to possibilities. Take electives just for the fun of it. Get off your phone and talk to people. Study abroad if you can. Life is a journey and you have to throw yourself in the river and see where the current takes you. You want it to be as big a river as possible.

Value Electives – find your passion

Take a wide variety of electives to branch out and broaden your horizons.  One in three college students change their major at least once. It’s normal and common, even if it gives your parents apoplexy.  Learn about subjects you have an interest in but know little about. You may well find a different calling. A young woman I know went to space camp for years in high school and was admitted to a prestigious aerospace engineering program, only to realize she wanted to solve problems on earth before tackling those in space. She became a sustainability major after her first semester.

I signed up for macroeconomics and absolutely hated it, military history and found it fascinating, and art history and found my passion. I ended up changing my major to art history. Many people change their majors based on an elective they took by chance and found compelling.

Get your nose out of the phone and talk to people

Network, network, network. Talk to your seatmate on a plane. Talk to the person behind you in line. Be interested in other people. Be open to meeting and talking to those people your friends and relatives want to introduce you to. You’ll groan and roll your eyes, but they can give you fresh ideas and new perspectives.  Most people are more than willing to share their stories with an interested audience.

Keep notes on who you meet, why they were interesting and how to reach out in the future. While I was interning at a museum during grad school, the College Art Association convention was in town. Instead of listening to the lectures, I was intrigued by the exhibit hall where art book publishers were displaying gorgeous coffee table books. (An early indication I was not an academic but more of an extravert.) I wandered around, talking to sales people and taking their cards. When I was job hunting, I called Rizzoli publishing, and they had a position open in the publicity department. I spent a couple of happy years there and it got me started in public relations.

Informational Interviewing – explore the possibilities

When I was job hunting again, having realized that I’d eventually starve if I stayed in art book publishing, I did some informational interviewing with alumni from my school. They worked in a variety of industries. I really didn’t know what direction to go in and I learned about some interesting fields I had no idea existed. One alumni was an executive at a major Public Relations firm and he hired me to join his health care group. I hadn’t taken a science class since a miserable time in chemistry my junior year in high school. I faced a steep learning curve and I wasn’t at all sure of the move. But I took a chance and ended up loving it. I spent 20 years in pharmaceutical communications, working on any number of fascinating, breakthrough products.

Interning – even the worst job teaches you something

The beauty of interning is that you get to try something out without making a major commitment. Hopefully an internship gives you good experience toward your career. Not always. Sometimes you learn what you hate. That you can’t stand working in an office environment.  Or for a large bureaucratic company. Or the insecurity of a startup. Whatever it is, you’ve learned something about yourself. That’s valuable too.

Study abroad – expand your world view

Studing abroad opens up your world and broadens your horizons in ways you can’t imagine. If you possibly can, find a way to do it! Pick a country and GO!

Regina Cleary Moran, Board of Advisors , Retired Morris Arts

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