by Susan Fiorentino
Post college, finding a supportive group that fit my professional needs was difficult for me to find. I attended a very small college, where all my social and support circles where in one bubble. When I needed help with a paper or advice on applying for internships, my advisor and the Career Development Office was an email or quick walk to campus. I realized that finding support for my big dreams was going to take more than staying in my small bubble because that comfort no longer existed. It has been almost 7 (!!!) years since I graduated from Manhattan College and following these five steps has (over time) helped me get through some difficult personal and professional times.
My hometown friends and college friends were in the same position as me. We were (and still are) trying to find our place in the professional world. We kept in touch for a while but after some time, some friendships just fall apart. This could be simply because of location or interests. Luckily, I have an extremely supportive family who always supported my goals. Friends will slip in and out of your life but family (hopefully) will be in your corner to always support you.
During college, I had an injury that forced me to give up one of my favorite things, cheerleading. Working out was put in the back of my mind after that. After being so tired all the time and feeling unmotivated applying to jobs, I thought working out again could help me. Playing sports my whole life, I knew group fitness was more of a fit for me for long term results versus a regular gym. I stumbled across Kettlebellas and have been hooked ever since. For the past five years, I have been taking classes there sometimes 5 times a week with three of the best trainers and supportive group of women. Being around supportive women is very difficult to find, but this place has saved me so many times from doubting myself, body image issues, and other things that come up day to day. It didn’t take long, I noticed the more I committed myself to getting to the gym, the better I felt and looked. When I am mentally fit, I perform better at work, strive better personally, and am more motivated to handle my busy schedule. It may take time, but finding a supportive fitness group (in person or an online community) will have a huge benefit to helping you complete your goals.
While studying at Manhattan College, I knew I wanted to be a part of the non-profit world. I grew up and live in Staten Island, which is a very tight knit community. It is a small community with an even smaller and overlapping network in the non-profit field. In fundraising, there is a strong emphasis on relationship building so that is something that even today, still sticks with me. Even though I have had a few jobs since graduating, I still keep in touch with volunteers and/or former co-workers. Relationships are ever evolving and we have been able to help each other reach our goals even after we parted ways at other jobs. Changing jobs in a small community, but in the same field, taught me some valuable lessons such as not building bridges and keeping positive even in difficult work conditions.
Friends come into your life for specific reasons and those who meant to stay will remain. In my late 20s, I have found it harder to connect with new friends, but going back to my previous support groups has always lead me to ways to find new friends that I can build relationships with. I have reconnected with friends that I have known since pre-school, through the gym, attending fundraising and networking events, and just being in a small town.
However, the most important person in your support group is YOU! Your support group can motivate you daily, but without confidence and drive within yourself, then it means absolutely nothing. As a recent college graduate, I knew I had the skillset to make it in the “Real World” but hearing no (or no response at all) after job applications or interviews, hit my confidence. I constantly pushed myself forward and kept my goals in mind. If it had not been for my support group reminding me that I have the skills needed to succeed, then I pushed myself even more. It has taken some time, but I am finally at a job where I am also to combine three of my (and very different) interests and then freelance and volunteer on the side. I am glad for the struggle I had after college because it makes me appreciate this success so much more. Celebrating my mini victories over the years has rebuilt the confidence I did not have when first applying to jobs.