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Been There—Advice from The Trenches Career 

Been There—Advice from The Trenches

William “Will” Akins, 25

Hometown: Merrillville, Indiana

High School Career Plan: I wanted to be a professional performer on Broadway. I assumed I would leave college and book a touring show around the country.

Current Career: I am a music educator. I am still in the field of music, but not the same way I intended. I still perform and get just as much gratification—just not as much pay. A few nights a week I bartend, just for the fun of meeting new people!

How it changed: In college I started working with a group called Community School of the Arts. CSA gave creative, visual, and performing arts classes to youth in the Terra Haute area. I also taught private voice, piano, and magic classes. My passion for helping others started to trump my desire to fulfill what seemed to be a selfish need to “be famous.” Once I graduated, I filled in for a good friend, who was a middle school choral director going on maternity leave. That experience was grounding and made the choice for me. I currently run a music and theatre program giving private lessons and hosting a home school program.

The reward: Getting to be a constant support system to the kids around me is extremely rewarding.  Listening to kids grow as performers is gratifying as a coach and teacher. I have also grown as a vocalist and pianist myself just by finding new ways to teach.

Best Advice: Never stop chasing your dreams. Take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. Network and meet people in the field you want to be in—you can never know too many people. And above all, never stop learning. Learn as much as you can for as long as you can.


Ally Bacon, 22

Hometown: Fishers, Indiana

High School Career Plan: Throughout high school I wanted to become a dentist and worked at my dentist’s office for an entire year. I enjoyed taking science classes and felt that I excelled in this area of study.

Current Plan: I will graduate from IU in May 2021 with an Apparel Merchandising major and a Business Marketing minor. Finding a job during a pandemic was not easy to say the least, but I landed a merchandising internship at Coach in New York City. This opportunity is completely aligned with where I want to build my ultimate fashion career.

How it changed: I went into college with a Biology major but quickly realized after my first semester at Indiana University that this major was not for me.  I made excellent grades, but my heart was not in it. I told my family I didn’t want to waste another second in my Biology major because ultimately, I just was not happy.  We started discussing alternative majors and one of the first suggestions was something in fashion.  Since I was young, I have always loved fashion trends, fashion companies, and having a unique style of my own.

Bonus: COVID caused the cancelation of my summer 2020 fashion internship in New York City.  After feeling sorry for myself for one week, I decided to create my own opportunity.  With very little knowledge, I designed and launched my own clothing brand. I have learned and gained an abundance of knowledge in this process.


Andre Hicks, 20

Hometown: Evansville, Indiana

High School Career Plan: I went through phases in high school. I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon and then switched to physician assistant. I completed the Deaconess Health Science Institute over the summer prior to my senior year and really thought medicine was for me.

Current Plan: When I got to college, I started my pre-requisites and did not enjoy them too much, along with realizing that I could not see myself doing medicine forever. Therefore, I changed my major at the end of my freshman year. Now I am studying Business Administration with a concentration in Small Business & Entrepreneurship, and I think that was the best thing for me. I enjoy my classes and have made so many connections.


Hannah Junod, 23

Hometown: Vincennes, Indiana

Career: I decided on Elementary Education during my senior year of high school and am a second-grade teacher. I always knew I wanted to work with children and was constantly hit with questions like, “Are you sure you want to be a teacher?,” “Teachers don’t make a lot of money,” and “That is all you want to do?” Those comments made me want to become a teacher even more. I alway thought “Why shouldn’t children have caring, smart, and passionate teachers like myself?” My parents always encouraged me to chase my dreams and become that teacher.

The Reward: My favorite thing about my job is being able to help shape the youngest learners’ minds and hearts. Even the youngest of learners are able to do anything they put their mind to. I am lucky enough to be an advocate for my students when they can’t advocate for themselves.

Best Advice: The advice I would give to a junior or senior in high school is find something you are truly passionate about. Spend time before college shadowing a career that you would like to pursue. This is the best way to see if it is something you could enjoy doing in the future.


Jaqueline Kennedy, 22

Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

High School Career Plan: When I graduated from high school, I wasn’t exactly sure what path to follow. I wanted to work in the US Navy for a few years, then work as a biomedical engineer, and then get an MBA.

Current Plan: I just finished my B.S. in biomedical engineering and am pursuing my MBA while working as a validation engineer at Catalent Biologics, a pharmaceutical manufacturer in Indiana.

How it changed: I had a heavy military family influence, and I think that’s what convinced me to at least try the military. But I changed my mind after participating in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps at Purdue. Although I enjoyed the rigor and discipline of the military, I found that I was a homebody and could not bear the thought of being deployed. Besides removing the military from my original plan, I have mostly followed the other components of my original plan.

Bonus: In college, I found that I enjoy working in labs but also doing work at a desk. I really enjoy that my job is a blend of a little lab work and a good amount of desk work. I also like interacting and working with others, which is absolutely necessary in this industry.


Ivan Lozano, 21

Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

High School Career Plan: Originally, I wanted to pursue something in law. I wanted to be an attorney, so going into college I was a criminal justice major, but that did not last long.

Current Plan: I am in my senior year and studying finance at the Kelley School of Business at IUPUI. I had an internship this past summer at Northwestern Mutual as a financial representative. I worked closely with other financial advisors and created financial plans for clients. I have accepted a position with Amazon as an area manager starting in July.

How it changed: I decided to change my major to finance because I realized I wanted to pursue something that I was strong in, and I was very comfortable with analyzing numbers. I had many professors with great advice on pursing something that would make me happy. I wanted a job that I enjoyed—that wouldn’t feel like work.


Lindsay Mergy, 23

Hometown: Columbia City, Indiana

High School Career Plan: I was homeschooled and loved Literature, English, and many other liberal arts classes, so I considered going into one of those, but wasn’t sure what careers I would enjoy in any of those paths.

Career: I have been working full time for a software company in Fort Wayne for the last four years but am now an independent software consultant.  I have worked in many different areas, from content entry to quality testing to building websites.

How it changed: I decided the only way to find what work I enjoyed was to start crossing things off the list. I sat down and thought about every aspect of my day-to-day life that I liked or found relatively easy. This involved everything from hair styling to cooking to gardening to figuring out new features when my phone updated.  Then, I found people in my life who did some of those things for their career and asked if I could job-shadow them. I asked a bunch of questions about what they enjoyed about their job, what was frustrating about it, if they got bored, etc.


Corynne Moody, 20

Hometown: Noblesville, Indiana

High School Career Plan: As many of my peers have experienced, I was exposed to the impact of mental health while in high school. I wanted to learn more about how to combat the negative impacts and registered for the pre-med track at IUPUI to become a psychiatrist.

Current Career Plan: I work as an instructor trainee with Eleven Fifty Academy, and it is the most incredible and rewarding job I have ever had. I get paid to learn, and that is my childhood self’s dream! I get to come up with new ideas and make them real all the time.

How it changed: After dropping out of college, I started working at Eleven Fifty Academy in October of 2019 as an administrative assistant. In December of 2019 I was convinced … to try out the program myself. I started the 6-month-long, part-time course in February of 2020. I immediately fell in love with coding and the world of tech, and after graduating in August I got a job with the same company as a Learning Assistant to continue to learn and help others learn.


Parker Noll, 23

Hometown: Fort Wayne, Indiana

High School Career Plan: In high school I thought I was going to study Political Science in college with a focus in law. My hopes were to become a lawyer at that time.

Current Career: I graduated from Wabash College with a bachelor’s degree in religion. I am a first-year theology teacher at Bishop Dwenger High School, my alma mater.

How it changed: In college, I took a wide variety of classes due to the liberal arts style that Wabash College offers. I took many different classes in different fields, and I had a very good experience with a professor in the religion department. I took a lot of classes with him, and so I switched majors because I kept following my interest in religion.

Rewards: I love my job because I get to teach the information that I love. I want to try to give back to the world what that professor at Wabash gave to me: excitement about school.


Adrian Small, 28

Hometown: Evansville, Indiana

High School Career Plan: I am super indecisive and wanted to be an athletic trainer until I got heavily involved in theatre in high school. From then on, I was passionate about theater.

Current Career Plan: I pursued theater throughout college and got a theater degree, but I also added another degree in public relations/advertising. I am a customer experience manager at IBJ Media.

How it changed: I found my path by being open to other options. Yes, I had a specific degree and a specific goal, but I also wanted to learn tons of other things.


Precious Townsend, 21

Hometown: Kokomo, Indiana

High School Career Plan: I wanted a career in the health field working for the Food & Drug Administration.

Current Career Plan: I’m studying homeland security and public safety at Vincennes University.

How it changed: A friend was enrolled in the homeland program at Vincennes. She talked very highly of the program curriculum and professors and convinced me to schedule a meeting with the chairman of the department. It was in that meeting that I discovered this was the right degree program for me.


Kevin Wiggins, 19

Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

High School Career Plan: Becoming a licensed cosmetologist was something that I had really wanted and been working hard towards, so it was my definite choice.

Current Career: I am a licensed cosmetologist running my own studio/suite space where I serve clients. I also attend virtual hair classes and seminars to learn more. For me hair was always a tool I used to express myself or the headspace I was in. As I got older, I realized that I could be a part of something I found so magical and expressive. My mom helped me find my way and got me exposed to all sorts of different things and people to help me achieve my goal.

Reward: When I go into my suite and start my day I’m always excited. I get to be with clients and be a little bit of a “therapist” in my own right.

Best Advice: Stay calm. Your junior and senior year can seem so stressful, or at least mine did. Don’t stress yourself out with fear of the future, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask for help and guidance.

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