Jennifer Couldrey on the Importance of Curiosity in your Career Search
Updated: Feb 25
Remember that horrendous Career Cruising website they made us go through in high school that was supposed to help us determine potential career paths? Let me jog your memory: the people modelled on the site were all dressed like 90s funk singers wearing denim on denim with bad haircuts. It also provided our still-developing minds with career prospects that were equal parts random and trash. I think if I had followed its advice, I think I would have become a magician’s assistant at the age of 16.
Luckily for Jennifer Couldrey, she found a way to make her future her own.
While the rest of us were cruising through hilariously ridiculous career profiles, Jennifer got heavily involved in extra curriculars in high school, which exposed her to new types of people and the things that she truly enjoyed.
“When you’re young,” she says, “there’s so few options presented to you. People tell you ‘you can do whatever you want’ but if you look at careers, it’s like you can be a doctor or a nurse or a teacher, and you don’t understand what is available to you in the world.”
So how in the world can you begin to find your ‘thing’? You’ve got to explore your options, get to know your likes and dislikes, what you’re good at and - as difficult as it may be - accept what you’re not so good at.
For Jennifer, this meant extra curriculars at school. It can also mean taking on leadership roles within the communities that you’re part of, travelling, enrolling in courses and subjects that you find interesting, and surrounding yourself with other like-minded people who also want to leave the world better off than the way they found it.
For the record; Jennifer did all of these things and it seems like life has worked out pretty well for her.
After realizing the levels of privilege that she had been born with, Jennifer decided that she wanted to focus her future on making positive social impact on the world around her. “I feel like it’s my obligation - all of our obligations - to spend our time on Earth making the world a better place,” she says.
With the goal of making positive impact in mind, she began to explore career ideas in university. Despite the fact that she was in a Business program, during her first two years, Jennifer studied things like philosophy, psychology and political science – topics that she didn’t necessarily want to pursue as a career, but that she enjoyed learning about and still had great interest in.
Is anyone else experiencing flashbacks to first year university when everyone took random electives like astronomy and Greek mythology because we all thought they’d be bird courses? Turns out it is indeed difficult to differentiate between a skyphos and a stamnos. Both are apparently types of Greek vases FYI.
Lesson learned a few semesters too late: choose random courses because you genuinely want to learn and narrow down your interests, not because you think it’s an easy A. It won’t be.
Back to Jennifer, who was not a degenerate and actually used her natural curiosity to her advantage in forging her career path, quickly discovering that it would not be a linear road to wherever she was headed.
Jennifer got rejected by the same consulting firm two years in a row during university, but remembers the experience for the new doors that it opened up for her. Being told ‘no’ by one company allowed her to continue to work hard, hone her skills and navigate her interests at another job.
Also, lo and behold, she ended up working for the initial corporation anyways just a few months later. Karma is real people.
But even after she landed the job that she thought was her perfect fit, she eventually knew she had to move on.
“There is no such thing as theanswer; there’s ananswerthat’s right for now, and that will serve you for a period of time and then it’s okay to want to move on from that.”
Again, I don’t think that magician’s assistant was ever even ananswer for me, but her point is taken nevertheless. When you hear about a cool job that seemingly pays well, it’s not difficult to convince yourself that it’s your new ‘dream job’. But be careful about that phrase. Remember how you once thought you had found your ‘dream guy’ and then he ended up having no emotional intelligence and even less ambition? Dreams can be tricky little bastards, and they will change as you do.
It’s easy to be convinced that there’s a perfect job out there for you - and that can be so exciting - but what’s key is that you continue to learn, explore your options, branch out and take advantage of opportunities that arise, even if they may not seem like opportunities at the time.
Jennifer explains, “most opportunities are not being recruited for – you have to go out and find them.”
One more time for the people in the back corner of their dull investment firm office: YOU HAVE TO SEEK OUT NEW OPPORTUNITIES OR ELSE YOU CANNOT BE UPSET WHEN THEY DO NOT COME KNOCKING ON YOUR DOOR.
How is it that so many 20-something’s have graduated at the top of their class with prestigious and valuable degrees, yet they’re still stuck in the same job (and rate of pay) that they’ve been doing since their second year co-op term?! We’ve got to be looking harder.
A final piece of advice from Jennifer for the young gals in the midst of the treacherous journey that is the job search: don’t disqualify yourself for a job before you’ve even finished reading through the job posting. Before she started with the Upside Foundation of Canada, Jennifer worked for a small CSR consulting firm where she performed a role that she had almost no prerequisites for.
Not so fun fact: most women won’t apply for a job unless they meet 100% of the criteria. Men will still apply even if they only meet half.
But Jennifer, confident fenom that she is, knew that she possessed the underlying skills that would allow her to be successful in the role. It’s that confidence, along with all of the positive and negative experiences that she has gained over the course of her career, that prepared her to be Executive Director of the Upside Foundation, where she incorporates her business knowledge and consulting expertise into her overall desire to drive social change.
I bet Career Cruising couldn’t have suggested that one.
Watch the video above for Jennifer’s five chapters!
Written by: Hannah Geiser, Head of Storytelling of FLIK