#BeenThereLearnedThat: Carve Out Your Own Journey

By Kia Robinson

Graduating college can be one of the most unpredictable experiences of our lives. Often times we’re not sure where the post-graduate road may lead us and that can be nerve-racking. Am I moving back home with my parents? Am I going to graduate school? Am I going to land a job in my field? There are so many unanswered questions that can be overwhelming.

The Life Currency spoke with Jennifer Stybel, executive director at Rent the Runway Foundation where she shared how she was able to carve out her own career journey as an uncertain graduate from Georgetown University.

“When I first graduated college, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I knew I had a passion for the arts, helping others, and building communities but I wasn’t really sure what that looked like,” Stybel explained.

What does your role at Rent the Runway Foundation entail? What do you like about your job?

Rent the Runway Foundation seeks to democratize entrepreneurship much like Rent the Runway has democratized fashion. Our first program, Project Entrepreneur, is specifically focused on supporting and encouraging women to build economically impactful companies. There’s such a need in this space. Women are starting companies at 1.5 times the rate of the national average and yet only 10% of high gross companies are led by women. We’re really looking to move that needle.

 My role includes setting the strategy of the foundation, working with the board to lay out programming, planning and executing entrepreneur events and accelerator programs, and getting the word out about the resources we offer women entrepreneurs.

What I like most? I love that there’s never a dull moment. I love that I’m learning every day. All I have to do is read one of our blog posts or listen to our podcast and I’ll learn something brand new about the world of entrepreneurship. I love that we have these resources free and available to everyone. Overall, I love that the work feels meaningful. We’re helping women build game-changing companies and doing our part to create systemic change.

What was your first job out of college?

Well, immediately after college I interned at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and my first full-time job was at the Shakespeare Theater also in D.C. From there, I went to Lincoln Center in New York and really began my career in non-profit management.

What is a struggle you had when you first graduated college?

I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I was really passionate about the arts and unlike my classmates who knew they were going into banking or consulting, I didn’t have a job lined up after graduation. So I took an internship at the Kennedy Center. That’s something I definitely recommend to college graduates. If you don’t have a job, take an internship in something you think you might be interested in. If you love it, great! In my case, I really loved it and knew I really wanted to go down that path. However, if you hate it, it’s just as valuable to learn what you don’t want to do compared to what you do want to do.

What’s something you’ve learned along the way?

Careers are long and may contain a number of different chapters. Sometimes at graduation you won’t be able to predict where the road will take you but if you stay open to good opportunities when they arise, you can really carve yourself an interesting career and life path.

What is something you wish someone would have told you as a recent college graduate? What’s something you would have told yourself?

While it’s good to have a strong sense of interest, you don’t always have to know exactly what you want to do on the day you get your degree. A piece of advice someone once shared with me that I stand by: when picking your next move, decide whether location, industry, or role is most important for you and let the other decisions fall into place from there. For example, if you know you want to live in San Francisco, a lot of those job opportunities are going to be in tech so it’s good to be open to working in the tech industry. If you know you want to work in the entertainment industry, you’ll most likely want to live in Los Angeles or New York. If you’re focused on a particular role, be flexible on where that industry may lead.

What advice would you give young people embarking on their career journeys?

Life and your career is really about identifying good opportunities. It’s going to require a lot of work and you need to make it happen for yourself. No one is going to do the work for you. Make sure you’re meeting people all the time and not solely when you’re looking for a job. Get out there and make those connections because you never know where those opportunities are going to come from. Additionally, you never know who you’ll be able to help along the way. When you’re aware and in tune, that’s when those magical opportunities will present themselves.

You can follow Jennifer on Twitter and check out all countless resources Rent the Runway Foundation has to offer for women entrepreneurs.

Kia is a recent college graduate that's simply trying to grasp the concept of "adulting". She enjoys hugs, quotes, a good book, and all things motivational. Her favorite book is The Alchemist and she can watch Girlfriends all day long.