Searching for Opportunity

The Anchor alum reflects on national conference

Acacia R.J., Contributor

Washington D.C. was wonderful – beautiful, scorching hot, politically fascinating, all that. But the real attraction was the promise of opportunity.

For those not aware, I won the Al Neuharth Free Spirit Scholarship, earning me a trip to D.C. to communicate with well-known and professional journalists, develop my skills as a writer along with 49 of the brightest journalism students in the United States, and visit the monuments. And now I’m sitting here, thinking of all the great food, good people, and sound advice that I should sift through in writing this article.

In Northern Maine we don’t have the tens-of-people newspaper staff Micah from California has at his school, or even the internal conflicts between principal and student journalists on big, controversial stories I remember hearing about while eating dinner with Emma from Tennessee and Anika from Maryland. So to me (and I’m sure the same thought would occur to many of my fellow students), the most important lesson I gained from this experience was the concept that there’s so much more out there to do.

I met professional journalists who admitted that the majority of their job consisted of calling interview subjects and writing for hours in their pajamas, while others had been to Iraq, completely taken aback by the gritty, hazardous grind of the job. Some former journalists had branched out into new areas such as advertising and political campaigning, thankful for the skills developed as a journalist.

And for those who may not care about journalism, I discovered that there are niche, amorphous careers everywhere. There are people who solely create political ads, or who develop taste formulas for processed food, or who design polls to be pleasing to the eye, or whatever else you can think of. I met college graduates who forsook their number one dream careers and transferred their skills into something new and unexpected after interning and worming their way through a world of careers hidden around and beneath the highly sought after categories of Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer, and Teacher.

If you love Maine, this isn’t a persuasive argument to get you to go down to Washington D.C. and be a sound editor at USA Today. If you dig around, there are lucrative engineering, medical, and financial careers just outside your peripheral vision. Who keeps TAMC’s heating system running properly? Probably an engineer. Who makes sure the Black Bears are healthy enough to go out and bang each other up? Probably a team doctor. Who keeps the numbers for lobstering boats on the coast? Probably an accountant. You’re always needed somewhere, whether it be Maine or California or Germany. Your options aren’t limited.

So yes, Washington was wonderful. I thought the formal dinners and award ceremonies were great. But I learned that there’s a place for everyone. While there was a focus on journalism, our guest speakers branched out into ideas I hadn’t even thought of, whether it was Press Secretary or a city guide for events such as ours. There are too many options to feel trapped. The world is a big place, and even though we’re initially herded into picking something broad to do with our lives, like teaching or biology, there’s always room to take those passions and articulate them into the perfect career.