If you'd asked me back in 2017 if I was confident in myself, I would have hesitated.
I had just endured a challenging season in my personal life, and it hit me hard. My sense of self-worth was diminishing and my work/life balance leaned on the side of an overwhelmingly unbalanced. I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2009 with hopes of one day returning as a hired staff member. But I ended up on a different path, moving from company to company, receiving favorable promotions but still feeling unfulfilled.
Fast-forward to September, 2019. While at work, I was emailing my sister about my frustrations with my uninspiring career. She replied with a link to the upcoming U-M Alumni Career Change Fellowship. Unlike the many other career development programs I had researched in the past, this program was geared specifically towards Michigan alumni who were looking to make a significant career change, or at least explore their options more intentionally. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I took a chance and enrolled. To be honest, I had lost faith in the idea that I could achieve my "dream job," but I decided to put my doubts aside and wish for the best.
I completed the helpful assignments but the most impactful portions of the program for me were the weekly team and accountability partner calls. It was incredibly energizing to be supported by other professionals who were going through the same process as me but could also provide different perspectives.
During one of my team calls, my teammate said to me "Jemika, you need to expand your thinking about where you could end up professionally. You could become the VP of a department! Have you ever let yourself dream about something like that?" Hearing my teammate say this made something shift inside of me. Here I was, doubting myself, when someone else I'd only just met could so clearly see my potential.
In that moment, I realized that I should be confident in what I have to offer. I am worthy and I have the right to dream big! Long story short, I completed the Fellowship, gained a wealth of tools and knowledge from the experience, and decided exactly what I wanted to do next. I found the perfect job opening, an Assistant Director's position at U-M with the job description of my dreams! I confidently applied, and soon enough I found out that I'd gotten the job!
I credit the Career Change Fellowship and my renewed self-confidence for helping me secure this new role. Without those affirming words from my teammate or the practical tools and frameworks from the curriculum, I probably wouldn't have made it here. I'm several weeks into this new role, and I can confirm that this truly is a dream job! Be confident, keep going, and never give on yourself - because you can do it too!
Jemika Ferguson is the Assistant Director of Talent Pipeline Programs at the University of Michigan. She is an '09 graduate of U-M, and a 2019 Mission Collaborative alumni.