Changing Career Paths: Erica Kryst’s Career Journey and Wisdom

During her undergraduate career, Erica Kryst changed her major six times! Although her career exploration was a lengthy process, she was ultimately able to find a fulfilling career in student affairs. Here, Erica shares her career exploration journey and some of the strategies that helped her determine which path was right for her.

Choosing a Major

Growing up, I never really had a solid answer for the “what do you want to be when you grow up” question. I had a talent for singing and had participated in competitions, choral activities, and voice lessons throughout high school. At the time, a career related to music seemed like the most logical path, so I enrolled as a BA in Music major, with a concentration in voice. I changed my major the first day of classes. I would flip flop between the same three majors several times before finally committing to a double major in mass communications and musical theatre in my junior year. I participated in a summer theatre production program, completed an internship at a local TV station, and spent a summer abroad; all high impact experiences that provided me with skills directly related to my majors. As I approached the middle of my senior year, however, I was unsure about my career path. I was open to a career in communications but I wasn’t confident that this was my path. 


Changing Paths 

Still, as graduation swiftly approached, I started applying for a few jobs. Someone in my network shared with me that my undergraduate university was looking for someone to coordinate music admissions and co-curricular activities for the music department. Intrigued, I reviewed the job description and, for the first time, felt really excited about a role. Shortly after the interview, I received a call from a mentor of mine who had heard I applied for the position. He told me that, if I was interested in pursuing a career in higher education, I should get a master’s degree in student affairs. It was really the first time I learned about student affairs as a profession and something clicked. I had always been passionate about education, but wasn’t interested in teaching at the K-12 level. As a first-generation college student, I wasn’t familiar with the institution of higher education and the roles available in that field. It was a pivotal moment. I didn’t get the job in music admissions, so I applied to one graduate program and worked for the next year at a local television station. Then I left that role to pursue my master’s. As I sat in my first student development theory class, I knew that I had made the right decision. 


Finding Mentors

As I finished my graduate program, having completed several internships and worked in various units across campus, I entered the job market. Again, I relied on a mentor to help me navigate the application process and find career direction. Mentors played an important role in my career development. They showed me career options that I wasn’t aware existed and guided me in steps I could take to successfully reach my goal. They also got to know me and shared career options with me that they knew would be a good fit for my interests and values. I will be forever grateful for their guidance. I found my mentors by participating in student organizations, as a student employee, and through internships. 


Gaining Experience

My internship experiences both as an undergraduate and as a graduate student also played a role in helping me figure out my path, while providing me with skills and options. I can attribute being offered my first job to my prior internship at a TV-station. They were looking for someone with interpersonal skills and basic knowledge of television production, and I had both. My internship experiences in graduate school helped solidify functional areas within student affairs that I was (or wasn’t) interested in. I also had the opportunity to conduct research, someone I discovered I really enjoy and continue to do now as a doctoral student. 


By Erica Kryst, PhD
Erica Kryst, PhD Senior Associate Director, Career Experiences and Education