By Michelle Doyle, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University
If I told you that Sabrina Silveira is the Alumni Coordinator in the Advancement & Alumni Relations office at Humber College would you have the faintest idea what that means?
As Sabrina told me “I know many people don’t know what alumni means, nor would they know what the role of an Alumni Coordinator would entail. It’s not an insult…it’s one of the many reasons I have a job! For those who are unfamiliar with what ‘alumni’ is, it’s just a fancy Latin word for graduate. In short, I act as the middleman that connects Humber back to our grads.”
Sabrina’s role varies from day-to-day. She describes her daily tasks as a set of on-going projects “from graphic design, social media management, copy writing and editing, to event planning and relationship building”. Sabrina is always “kept on her toes and is able to tap into her creativity” with such a varying, multifaceted job. This is also the reason she cannot pinpoint a favourite part of her job.
Sabrina can, however, identify an essential part of her job - her manager, whose continual support has gotten her to where she is today. She emphasizes the importance of having a superior “who truly cares for you, looks out for you and appreciates all that you do”. She adds that most of us are working for the majority of our lives and would all have mental breakdowns without a strong support system around us. Sabrina feels that without this healthy, supportive relationship that she has with her manager, she wouldn’t be able to do all the things that she loves working on today. So, however “strange” it may seem to have a manager be one of the primary individuals you lean on for support, those relationships may be the most important ones, not only for your career, but for your happiness.
So how did Sabrina get here – to the job of her dreams? Well, her journey started at the University of Guelph-Humber, where she studied media and communications. In her final year of the program, she landed a position with a student travel agency in Toronto as her internship requirement for her program. Sabrina isn’t exaggerating when she says “this is where I really began my career” as after only a month into the internship, she was offered a full-time position as a Production Designer! “In this role I focused largely on designing collateral for the company, as well as writing blogs, monitoring social media, and - one of my favourite projects - designing our destination staff uniforms!” Needless to say, Sabrina really enjoyed working at this agency and felt that she was really excelling at her career.
However, a year and a half into the new job, she was “faced with one of life’s upsets”. This influenced her decision to get a new job. She wanted to work close to home which made job hunting even more of a challenge than it already was. Sabrina describes the job search process as “possibly the worst thing a new graduate can go through”. She explains that she felt worthless and felt that everything she had worked for was all for nothing in the eyes of potential employers. She wasn’t even getting callbacks for jobs for which she was sure she was over-qualified. After over a hundred job applications, Sabrina finally heard back from one. It was nothing fancy, but it was a paid position related to her field.
“Whether you believe it or not, there will always be one specific experience in your life (if not more!) that will change your perspective completely. This job was it for me. To say accepting this position was the worst thing I could have done is an understatement. I will tell this story again and again until I lose my voice, because I know there are others out there that may be in the same situation I was in, and I only wish I can provide some hope and encouragement to them.” Her first week on the job consisted of coffee runs and cleaning up the lunchroom after people ate - all without the presence of her mysterious manager. To make matters worse, she caught a cold after the first few days but - although feeling horrible- she forced herself to come to work. But that’s not all. Her HR manager actually phoned her explaining how she was disrupting her colleagues by coughing and sneezing. They feared she was contagious, making her feel alienated and as if she “should have been quarantined”. This dreadful first week was followed by months of crying alone in the car during lunch breaks and feeling “completely disregarded as a human being”. So why did she go through this? Well, she didn’t want to quit. She felt that she owed it to herself to push through it. In fact, it wasn’t until her parents begged her to quit that she really took a step back and analyzed her life.
On a Tuesday morning last year, Sabrina received an email from her past manager, blaming her for something she had nothing to do with. His words made her choke up until she couldn’t even breathe. She scheduled an emergency meeting with her HR manager who said there was nothing she could do for Sabrina and that the way she was being treated was her own problem. Sabrina quit right then and there. I know, I know. Good for her!!
After that experience, Sabrina started seeing life very differently. “I started to realize that there are two types of people in this world – the type of person who will respect you and the type of person who never will. We’re only on this earth for a finite period of time – why sacrifice your life and mental health working for people who – no matter what – only look down on you? I value my life too much to ever let that happen again.”
This time around on the job search, Sabrina was smart about where she applied. She nailed down the positions that she knew she would be happy in, rather than applying everywhere. Of course, still no replies. So, she reached out to her professors, deans, old managers, her mentors (“which is probably the best piece of advice I can give anyone”, she says). She explains that she finally didn’t feel alone and had a lot of support from these individuals. Luckily, a position had opened up in her old department - a position that mimicked exactly what she wanted in a career. “It was fate! My previous manager called me in for an interview and here I am today. I’ve never been happier”
If you’re gong to take anything away from Sabrina’s story, it’s that you should listen to yourself and make sure you are doing what makes you happy.
Also, keep in contact with your mentors!