Face Your Fears and Find Fulfillment at Work

Kathleen O’Donnell

A year and a half after graduating college in New York City, I felt stuck. I was starting to feel stifled by the infamous “grind” of commuting in the city and working long hours at a company I wasn’t quite passionate about. While my job and life in New York were wonderful in many ways, I was ready for a change. But as we all know, change can be scary. I had decided I wanted to leave the city, but where would I go next? Would I have any decent options career-wise? Would I make new friends?

After doing some very serious soul-searching, I realized I wanted to get back to my roots and work in the world of architecture. But my skills were in communications and management, not design. So I looked to the nonprofit sector. I applied and interviewed for a position with the American Institute of Architects here in DC. and the fit was so perfect, that making the choice to accept the offer was easy. The hard part was taking a big risk. I didn’t have a single friend here. I didn’t know if it the job would end up being what I wanted it to be. I didn’t know if I’d be happy. But I took leant into the opportunity and nearly four years later, I’ve grown into a career and I’m really proud of.

I wanted to hear from other YNPNdc members who faced similar fears. I talked with two volunteers, Megan and Pat, who shared stories that resonate with me and many other young professionals.

Megan Coyle: Purchasing and Contracts Counsel at National 4-H Council and YNPNdc Board Secretary

Before I took this role, I was working in a role that didn’t require me to be a licensed attorney. I had worked hard for my license, and knew I needed to find a role that utilized it. I was comfortable, but scared to make a change that would take me out of my comfort zone. I applied for a job that would require me moving away from my hometown, one that I did not think I would even get an interview for, and I got the job! I kept telling myself that growth isn’t comfortable and that I deserved to be challenged and fulfilled in my career. Keeping that in mind helped me to push forward through the tough times.

Pat Cash: Associate, Government Relations at The Pew Charitable Trusts and YNPNdc Social Media Manager

After graduating from college in Washington DC, my fear, like many graduating seniors, was finding a position using my degree that I had just spent so much money earning. Thanks to internship experience during my college career, after graduating I leveraged every professional connection I had and discussed potential future roles with staffing agencies to find a position that fit my skills to avoid impersonal applications to online job openings. As a result of this outreach, I found a great entry level position with opportunity for advancement into new opportunities I had not imagined!