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Rising Stars: Taking a Chance to Find Meaning in Career

By Erdin Beshimov

Starting out as an intern at People Magazine, Jacki would have laughed if someone told her she'd be working for nonprofits for the next three years. Now she feels she would not be able to walk away from a career path focused on social justice.

Name: Jacki Chou
School: Harvard College
Major: History and Science
Years Out of College: 0-2
Title: Volunteer and Advocate


First Steps

Jacki's first inspiration to work for social justice came from a speaker in one of her classes. "During my first-year, I participated in an extra-curricular class called Education for Social Action. One of the speakers that they brought in for my class was Ali Noorani, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. He was very engaging and thought-provoking and I grew more curious about his organization. I went home, poked around online, and thought to myself, "Why not take a chance?" Ali had given all of us his contact information, so I sent him an e-mail with my resume attached asking if they had any openings for summer internships. After that summer, I knew that I would not be able to walk away from a career path focused on social justice."

From Then to Now

"Thus far, I have been engaged in the non-profit sector primarily in Massachusetts. I am hoping to gain a better idea of issues on a federal level as well as getting a fuller perspective of the public sector and to develop a wider range of skills that would enable me to be more effective in producing social change."

Did I Ever Think I'd End Up Here?

The summer before Jacki started her first-year in college , she was a reporting intern at the Los Angeles bureau of?People Magazine. "It was an amazing job and a ton of fun. I could definitely imagine myself working in journalism for the rest of my life. But the more time I spent learning about the different social problems that exist and the more time I spent working with different non-profits and advocacy organizations, I realized that this is what I should be doing. If you had asked me at the end of my internship with?People Magazine?if I thought I would be working with non-profits for the next three years, I would have laughed. Now, I can't imagine having done anything else."

Advice for Others

"Trying to embark on a career in the public sector is scary and daunting, especially because it is hard to see what the end is. You often don't know what the end is for you or how you are going to get there. I started having a lot of conversations with people who had worked in the public sector and the one thing that I kept hearing over and over again is that you no matter what you do, you cannot make a mistake. You never know what your career trajectory is going to be and how you are going to get to where you are going. But along your path, you will eventually figure out how to make what you are passionate about resonate with what you do well. Don't worry too much about what you can't predict. Trust that you will eventually get there."

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