20something profile: Caitlin
As a later 20-something, it’s astounding to step back and realize that I’ve spent almost the entire decade in college. I began college at the ripe age of 17 back in 2003 with a heart full of hope, career aspirations, and excitement. I planned on being a clinical or forensic psychologist; I was passionate about working with criminals and victims. After transferring colleges as a sophomore, I completed my Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology in 2008.
Being a first generation college student, there was an absence of real guidance into and through college. Instead, I listened intently to alumni speakers and took hold of their urging: “Don’t wait until you graduate to work in your field.” With dedication and determination, I began working in social services at 18-years-old.
From growing up in a working class family, I was all too familiar with the concept of “climbing the ladder” in your career. Rightly so, I began my career in a residential treatment facility for teenage females with psychiatric conditions. After collecting a year of experience, I took the next step and began working in community outreach for at-risk youth and teenagers.
This work experience eventually led to moving 500 miles away from my hometown to pursue a job in Baltimore, Maryland — a forward-thinking hub for mental health services. For the next several years, I worked in community support programs for adults with psychiatric conditions in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maryland.
Sadly, after 8 years in social services, my passion began wavering. I had witnessed far too many state-led changes that altered the industry negatively. My job went from improving the quality of life for consumers to supplying anyone walking off the street with free state benefits regardless of their mental health status.
Looking over my experiences at that time, I quickly pinpointed a positive theme in my social service work: helping consumers with educational goals. This was an area a difference could still be made! And that’s exactly what I did.
I slowly changed careers into the higher education field. Now, I sit roughly three months away from attaining my Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration, and I work daily with disabled students to help lead them to success.
Starting a career in today’s economy, to put it bluntly, is hard work. I can tell you now, your paycheck won’t match your college loan repayment plans, you’ll struggle to pay all of your bills and find a form of a social life, and you’ll have to pick yourself up off the ground in professional, ethical, and moral dilemmas.
But the beauty of it all is… that’s what being a 20-something is. Figuring out yourself, the world around you, and how you fit into it is the whole purpose of this time frame. Live your passions, let your worries go, and be true to yourself. That’s how to create real success as a 20-something.