USC Annenberg / Joel Zink

Expecting the Unexpected After Graduation

In a new series of columns, each week an alum of USC Annenberg will share stories of their time at the school, discuss their career, and offer advice to students.

You’ve turned in your final paper. You’ve accepted that awesome job offer. And on graduation day, you walk across the stage and proudly accept your diploma. Maybe you think you’ve got it all figured it out (I totally did). Or maybe you don’t know what your next steps will be (that’s totally OK too).

Graduating and leaving the place you spent the last four years of your life can be scary, whether you’re jumping right into the workforce or still trying to piece it all together. For me, after graduating this past May, I was excited to join the team at my music industry internship-turned-full-time job.

I had been brought into the company the summer before my junior year by a previous internship supervisor. I spent the second half of my college career going to school full time and working in the office three days a week, straight through school breaks and summer vacation. It was my boss who noticed and appreciated my dedication, and campaigned for me to come on full-time from the very first semester I worked there. I loved the work I did, whether it was writing articles for our website, conducting interviews with musicians or helping our production team on video shoots. After graduation, I was elated to finally become an official member of the team.

But then came the unexpected — my division of the company was shuttered in December. Just months after I accepted my dream job, I was being torn away from the office I loved. The initial blow was tough. It was surprising for almost everyone. But after the initial shock wore off, I knew I was prepared to take on this new challenge I faced.

As a USC Annenberg student, I had been fortunate to hear from highly successful professionals from all different disciplines. But among all the speakers, one thing rang true — everyone faced setbacks in their career. Sometimes a business idea had to pivot. Sometimes the job they thought they wanted was not right for them at all. Sometimes startups failed. These lessons reminded me I was not alone. I may not have expected this situation, but others had been there and successfully pressed onward.

As I journeyed back into the workforce early this year, I again found myself someplace unexpected. With my background in music and content creation, I suddenly found myself in the midst of an exciting and unique opportunity at a USC-based drone startup. USC Annenberg always encouraged me to explore opportunities across a breadth of fields and this notion is what pushed me to become involved with the Viterbi Startup Garage during my college career. Through this connection I found myself at my current company. Although I may not have a background in engineering or robotics, I am constantly reminded that my USC Annenberg education is applicable almost anywhere. A drone company may not be where I pictured myself as I walked across the stage at graduation, but it is where I see myself succeeding right now.

So the most important thing I’ve learned during life after graduation? Expect the unexpected.

That doesn’t necessarily mean prepare for the worst or that a curveball is definitely headed your way. But to me, it means being ready for new challenges, making hard decisions and not setting your path in stone. And I think USC Annenberg did a pretty awesome job preparing us for that.

Alexandra Gurley is a 2014 graduate of USC Annenberg with a degree in Communication. As a student, she was involved in Undergraduate Student Government, Program Board’s Concerts and Marketing Committees and the Viterbi Startup Garage. She worked as a content coordinator at Live Nation Labs, a...

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