As the modern job market continues to change, employees like Emily Kirchner learn to adapt their previous education and experience to new roles and challenges
A large number of professionals in today’s ever-changing workplace are employed in careers that aren’t even remotely related to what they studied in college. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, only 27 percent of college graduates have a job that is closely related to their major.
That doesn’t mean those expensive college degrees and previous job experiences are wasted, however. Workers in today’s economy are still managing to find ways to apply their “non-related” college majors and experience to their current roles in unique ways. Take for example, Whirlpool Communications Senior Specialist Emily Kirchner, who holds a B.A. in Theatre from Indiana University, South Bend.
“My primary responsibility is NAR Internal Communications,” said Kirchner, “but because of my atypical skill set, I often find myself invited to participate in projects outside of those parameters. I would also say that I’ve built a reputation on event execution, so while that’s not a formal part of my title, there are probably a lot of people who think of me as ‘the event person.’”
Kirchner’s degree and past experience have come in handy at Whirlpool Corporation in many ways. “Any event or meeting has many similarities to a theatre production,” she said. “So I always feel like I’m directing — writing a script, having a ‘run of show’, blocking, technical elements, and other elements. A few of my meetings or events have literally been theatrical productions, such as gNARly 2016, gNARly 2017 and Spirit of Winning with Integrity (Fettig event).”
There have also been opportunities when she’s used her acting training. “I’ve played characters for training purposes, such as the flapper role for the compliance speakeasy activity,” Kirchner said. “I think it also helps with my comfort level in just getting up and speaking in front of people or presenting information.”
Most importantly, she’s learned that doing things outside of her main job responsibilities where she can apply her past education and experience is fulfilling. It’s even given her a unique skill set not always found in the corporate setting. “By being that person who is a subject matter expert in a strange and unusual area, I set myself apart from the pack,” she said. “I think there’s also an element of having passion and excitement for the work that I get to do. It doesn’t feel like work when the things you’re doing are aligned to your strange and unusual skill set.”
Coming from the theatre has also given Kirchner a “figure it out” work ethic that translates to the corporate world as well. “Once the show is live, you have to keep going,” she said. “Things will inevitably go wrong in some way or somehow and you have to be able to continue to tell the story. You can’t stop and ask for help. You can’t point fingers and assign blame. You just have to figure it out — and that’s a skill I’ve applied not just at Whirlpool, but throughout my life in innumerable ways.”