By Kim Toman

“There are no failures—just experiences and your reactions to them” – Tom Krause

Reflecting back on my mindset during my early years at Michigan State, I am truly amazed at how my story has evolved during these six years at school (not a typo; six full years!). I first entered with wide-eyed ambition to become an English teacher, hoping to impart my idealistic love of classic literature and word-slinging upon seemingly uninterested youth. Now I look forward to moving on from MSU this August with one more degree than I had intended on receiving, a few more years attached to the word “undergraduate,” and an entirely unexpected and fresh new career goal. It took me four years to realize teaching was not where my heart and mind would do their greatest work. I had to start from what felt like scratch. It was terrifying.

The surprise twist? It was the best decision I have ever made. I can realize now that my previous degree’s experiences shape my unique experience and lend such a great deal to my passion for public communication. Admittedly, these transformations did not occur with ease or full confidence, nor were they guided by external sources of wisdom. This whole process is a series of trial and error leading my movement to this fresh, clear-minded plan of starting to write the working-titled chapter, “career.”

I had to stop. I had to take time to dig deep into who I am and who I want to be—those who have experienced this seeming-crisis know all-too-well that this is not the smoothest part of the ride. I toyed with the ideas of earning an MFA, heading out for law school, or shifting into Business, but none felt right. I was forced to follow my gut and watch for the right opportunity to present itself. I even attempted a job I knew was a poor fit because that it what we’re “supposed” to do upon graduation…right? I learned to sense and feel the true passion for the work I was throwing myself into and journey to discover where those passions can take me. I found Professional Writing here at MSU—from the first day of classes, I knew I had found my place. I speak to you, my fellow Spartan alumni, and ask: are you heading for your place?

Many (myself included) become disheartened when dreams didn’t line up with the achievements of friends and fellow students. Possibly you’re struggling with the passing of milestone markers you have set for yourself? This is a futile measurement system. The road blocks are a chance to slow your momentum and take the time to learn the most about who we are. Detours allow us to explore our strengths and resources. The sense of “failure,” if we allow learning to grow from the disappointment, can teach us the most about who we are. One thing is, and my father would say, “for sure and for certain,” we are not our major or our past jobs, we are innovative individuals.

I suggest to you, sit back and take some time for some crucial introspection. Establish your skill set and determine more than what sets you apart from the crowd, determine what inspires and drives you forward with pride. Speak to fellow alumni and those whose work and journey you admire. Wait for your time; wait for your internship; wait for your job to come. We have to break away from what we’re told we should do to discover what we can do. Most importantly: we are all on our own time lines, and sometimes those lines change direction. Your opportunities can not coordinate with your roommate, your spouse, or your best friend. It is simply a physical impossibility—someone has to be the first to land the job. Evaluate who you are once you are apart from those comparisons and expectations of your field of study, seek out your opportunity. Trust yourself to know it when you see it. Trust yourself to take it.

One major difference between now and then, after the six years of ups and downs, I am content. Confidence and excitement fuels my work in a way I never imagined. Living under the “better late than never” mantra and currently in the midst of three simultaneous internships, I feel it necessary to share these pieces of knowledge with fellow alumni and students: don’t believe the supposed to’s and the pre-cut maps to success. Allow your personal timeline to develop and grow with you and your ability, the jobs will follow.  In my case, this job writing for Alumni Career Services came to me solely because I love to write.  Sure, it is only a student job, but I’m being paid to write, and I could not ask for more!


Kim Toman is a Michigan State University alumnae and a senior in the Professional Writing program at MSU. She is from Lansing and writing is her artistic medium of choice; she is passionately in love with both of these things. This summer, she is being paid as the Communications Assistant for MSU Alumni Career Services. In the future she wants to bridge the gap between professional and personal relationships as a public relations guru (or at the very least, she is going to keep writing and maybe even get paid for it.)


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