The Drive to Succeed


Three Chicagoans land their dream job.

Many students following their heart down a desired career path often hear the phrase, “You’ll never make it.” But it doesn’t faze them.

Kevin Wood, a former wedding DJ/karaoke host for Alsip-based A.S.A.P. Entertainment attended the Illinois Center for Broadcasting (ICB) in 2010, at age 28, to further his career in the entertainment industry, and he didn’t listen to the naysayers.

“People who say, ‘You’ll never make it’ are naive,” explains the now 30-year-old, who earned a Radio & TV Broadcasting certificate from ICB and became on-air talent for WERV 95.9 The River in Aurora. “Anyone who puts in the effort to get an education can do whatever they want in any field. As long as you learn, study, make connections and prove your worth, you can make it in any business.”

When 27-year-old Jillian Rutter left her job as a magazine editor to pursue a master’s degree in education, some of her peers were less than enthused about the career switch. “A few people expressed displeasure, but I learned it can be destructive to base your personal and career decisions on others’ opinions,” she says. “Some were shocked I’d leave a ‘glamorous’ field; however, being personally fulfilled by my profession means more to me than being solely financially successful. I was looking for a field that would help me make a positive impact in the community. And after graduating from Loyola University Chicago in 2011, working in education could help me achieve those goals. Being an educator makes me feel like I’m making small-scale changes in my community, and I can readily see the impact when students improve their fluency, reading comprehension or critical thinking skills.”

Aside from the logistics of entering your new profession with degree in hand, it’s also important to remember the skills you’ve learned along the way in other jobs, as they may often transfer from one position to another. “My experience as a DJ/karaoke host was very useful as far as being comfortable on the mic and being able to work certain types of equipment,” shares Mr Wood. “The skills were interchangeable, and the certificate gave me the extra advantage when it came to landing a job in radio.”

Finding mentors is another big part of pursuing your dream job. “My former professor and now boss is Mark Zander at The River,” says Mr. Wood. “He was a big help throughout the whole program at ICB and afterward. Even when I was hunting for jobs he inspired me and told me I had what it took and that I shouldn’t stop. And when came into a position of power, he helped me get a job.”

Angela Wisniewski, who’s worked in visual merchandising for Adidas, Forever 21 and now Tory Burch, was fortunate to pursue her dream job early, attending Columbia College after high school and graduating in 2007. But Ms. Wisniewski agrees with Mr. Wood and says it’s important to build lasting relationships with mentors in your field once you’re in school, no matter when you decide to go.

“My former professor Dana Connell helped me realize my strong suit was in visual merchandising,” explains the 28 year old. She gave me a lot of real-world advice and cleared up a lot of misconceptions about how ‘glamorous’ the fashion industry is. There’s a lot of hard work involved. Also, spend a lot of time networking and meeting professionals in your field and try starting out with an internship or part-time job that will expose you to the work environment and actual day-to-day job responsibilities.”

Ms. Rutter adds, “Do your research to find out if you need any additional education or training in order to get your dream job. Make a plan for how to take classes, and don’t feel like you ‘wasted time’ in your previous career field.” Mr. Wood agrees: “Don’t second-guess yourself. If it’s something you really want to do, you’ll find the drive within yourself to get the education and move forward.”


About Carrie Williams

Carrie Williams is TCW's managing/digital editor. She manages day-to-day editorial operations of the monthly print publication, website and social media outlets, contributes to a variety of feature articles and directs a team of interns, freelance writers and bloggers. In early 2013, she led the redesign of of TCW's brand strategy. Her blog, "Carrie On," is a blog of reflection and discovery, discussing how to push through life when you’re handed one too many curveballs. And finally, Ms. Williams is also executive director of the TCW Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit supporting underfunded women's and children's organizations.