Anthony J. Manzi ’17, M.A. Corporate Recruiter
Hounds with Purpose is a space for alumni to share their stories of purpose and vocational engagement beyond their years at Assumption. This blog is created by the Center for Purpose and Vocation and the Career Development and Internship Center (CDIC) to better connect students and alumni through experiential storytelling.
Finding Your Team: From Education Administrator to Corporate Recruiter
By Anthony J. Manzi, Class of 2017
It has taken me a while to write this. Maybe it’s because I have bounced around a few different positions since graduating from Assumption University and in each one, I have learned what makes me feel fulfilled, or in some instances, unfulfilled. Or, maybe it’s because I feel like I should have a more concrete answer at this point in my life than I do. But alas, my journey has been anything but directional, straightforward, and clear.
Arriving on campus to start my four years at Assumption in the fall of 2013, I was ready for all things Biology. That was the path I had laid out for myself. Looking back almost ten years later, I am not sure what about Biology was a calling for me, but I had convinced myself it was the path that I was meant to follow. I spend my first two years at Assumption pretending that I wanted to do something in the medical field. The truth is, I never felt an ounce of passion when I was studying science with the intention to go into the medical field. My solution to this was to not change my major, but rather distract myself and become so entrenched in campus life that my academic journey was a mere fraction of how I was spending my time at Assumption. Going into my second year, I would put more energy and effort into making bulletin boards as a Resident Assistant than I would studying for an Organic Chemistry test. I would spend more time reading Orientation Leader applications than I would reading for any of my classes combined. I spent more time in the library giving tours to prospective students than I did studying there.
The end of my sophomore year was tumultuous to say the least. My academic performance was abysmal and not at all representative of my best work. I was on the brink of losing a scholarship and my GPA was barely high enough to allow me to continue in my student leader positions. It took several conversations with a variety of staff and professors for me to realize something: I was never going to be successful academically if I was not passionate about what I was learning. Thanks to the SOPHIA program and Professor Loustaunau, I was given additional space to process what I was struggling with and was challenged to take intentional time to unlock a deeper, more fulfilling passion. It was this program that also gave me the confidence I needed to vocalize that I was unhappy, struggling, and all-around very confused. I was not passionate about science in the context I was learning it. I was passionate about helping people, about working with people, about fostering growth in the people around me.
It was with this realization that I veered onto a new path for the first time in my college career, switched my major, and adjusted my course and direction.
It was the best decision I could have made.
When I finally landed on my major in Human Services and Rehabilitation Studies in the fall of 2015, just two years shy of graduating, I couldn’t have been more positive that I had unpacked and discovered what my vocation was. My vocation, as I would have told you then, was to help people, namely college students during their college journey. I can say that I genuinely loved what I was learning. I found the courses that I was taking in the major captivating. I could apply them to a variety of contexts and I began to develop strong relationships with the faculty in the department who would, for the next two years, continue to challenge me and inspire me, simultaneously.
In fall of 2015, I started the semester as a Head Resident Assistant and had just finished welcoming the Class of 2019 as an Orientation Executive. I also spent most Saturdays in the Admissions House giving prospective students tours of the charming, quaint campus I was honored to call home. But I was also very excited for declaring my major in HSRS and diving head-first into figuring out my path to earning a Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration.
I followed that path ardently.
It paid off.
Some of my favorite days were working open houses with the other Admissions Ambassadors!
By fall of 2016 and into the winter of 2017, acceptance letters to graduate programs started popping up in my inbox. After failing Organic Chemistry II, I couldn’t have imagined ever receiving an acceptance letter to a graduate program. But, thanks to the support and mentorship of professors and staff, I was able to build a resume and an application that allowed me to not only be accepted to graduate school, but have options for where I wanted to study further. All of this told me that I was on the right path; that things were falling into place; that my tumultuous sophomore year in Organic Chemistry wouldn’t define me; that I had discovered what my life purpose was.
I rounded out my Assumption experience with a 400-hour internship in the Orientation program at the College of the Holy Cross – my first taste of working in higher education outside of my roles as a student leader. I found this internship to be so incredibly fun! To say I loved my internship is an understatement. I loved it so much that I drove in a blizzard to be there for Orientation Leader selection (completely on my own accord). I felt like I was in my element. My supervisor was knowledgeable, incredibly supportive, and took the time to help me grow my skill set to be ready for my next chapter. If every job were like this internship, I swear I would never have to job search again. I graduated from Assumption in May of 2017 confident that everything had fallen into its appropriate place.
Not many people can say they get to attend college with their cousin. I am so grateful that I was able to. Here’s my cousin, Gianna Procaccini ‘17, and I on graduation day after spending a memorable four years on Salisbury St.
I moved on to the next chapter, my Master’s in Higher Education Administration at Boston College. If my 2015 self could see my 2017 self – in a master’s program, working as a professional staff member in residence life, leading a team of RAs of his own, facilitating trainings, he would have thought he was living the dream. And I was. My two years in grad school could be summed up by the following: writing papers, working my assistantship in residence life, and drinking way too much coffee with my cohort-mates who quickly became like family.
Graduation from Boston College’s Master’s in Higher Education program. Here I am with my closest friends from my graduate program who have become some of the most special and important people in my life.
After graduating with my Master’s degree, I did what I do best: made an impulsive decision. I accepted a job in San Diego, California to continue my work in college housing as a full-time administrator. In July 2019, I stood on the curb of the San Diego airport with three suitcases unaware that my two years in California would be some of the most wonderful, impactful, and transformative years of my life. These years were also some of the most lonely as the eventual COVID-19 pandemic isolated me even further than the 3000-mile distance between my family, friends, and I. All credit for my ability to survive those two years, and namely the dark and lonely COVID-period, goes to the students and the professionals I was working with.
I moved to San Diego the week of San Diego Pride and was lucky enough to spend my first weekend in a new corner of the country celebrating with my fellow LGBTQ+ community members!
What your heart and mind won’t tell you as a sophomore in college is that your journey to finding your vocation will challenge you, push you to your limits, and test you in just about every way. And that’s what happened to me. After many sleepless nights serving in an emergency on-call rotation and missing a few too many family gatherings and friends’ life milestones, my journey was taking me away from college housing and back East to work at a non-profit supporting first-generation college student success.
Being in California, I missed celebrating the big and small moments with my friends. I was so grateful to be back in time for my dear friend Morgan (Hakala) Horan’s wedding with fellow Hounds!
I thought that leaving the traditional structure of “higher education” was the answer – I could finally move out of a college dorm for the first time in almost eight years. I wouldn’t have to be in an on-call rotation anymore, and my weekends and evenings would be my own. All the while, I would still be working with college students. However, after about a year, I started feeling antsy. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled anymore. In fact, I was feeling just as burnt out as I did in my positions on campus.
The spark of passion that was ignited at Assumption and fanned at Holy Cross and BC wasn’t just dimming, but was completely and absolutely gone. I loved my co-workers, I loved the students I was working with. It wasn’t a right fit, and I had to do what I do best, yet again: make a quick decision.
I leaned into my network and connected with a former supervisor who was now doing corporate recruiting and it sounded like what I needed. A change of pace. A new challenge. A new environment. I went back to my resume template and edited. And edited again, and again.
I submitted more applications than I could count.
I was rejected more times than I can remember.
I was prepping for interviews just about every other day.
Finally, something worked out – and it was the first time since 2015 where my path was covered by leaves, sticks, and dirt. I couldn’t see the path. I was about to sign an offer to become a corporate recruiter at a company I had only learned about a few weeks prior. It was in this moment of uneasiness and panic that I leaned on a saying I leaned on during my time at Assumption: trust the process.
I have been working in corporate recruiting for almost ten months. Do I miss things about higher education? Absolutely! There is nothing more energizing than first-year move-in day where you see hundreds of students and families alike unload their cars, set up their residence hall room, and begin such a transformational chapter.
However, I have discovered so much about my vocation in these last ten months. I have been thrown into new territory my mind has never chartered before, working on teams larger than I have ever worked on with people from an array of backgrounds and interests coming together to solve problems. When I think back on the vocation I was so sure about in 2015: to help people, namely college students on their college journey, I feel aligned to it in a new way. I look at my job as helping people find jobs. I meet with hundreds of people and hear about their professional backgrounds and what they are hoping for in a career change. And I continue to apply everything in my power to set them up for success!
Will I stay in corporate recruiting forever? I have no idea. Is it my vocation? Don’t know!
What I hope you take from my story is this: your vocation, your purpose – won’t stay the same. At its core, maybe it will. However, what I have learned through these last few years is that the path I have taken made the unexpected left turn here or was a little rocky there. I still don’t feel that my path is completely clear. Those leaves, sticks, and dirt are very much there and I am slowly uncovering them step by step.
What has remained consistent, and what I hope you start to find is, at each stop along the way I have encountered people. People who have changed my life more than any vocational reading or reflection could have. My first supervisor at Assumption, Caitlin, showed me that higher education was a career path I could pursue. Dr. Cinzia Pica, one of the most remarkable professors I had at Assumption, gave me the confidence and mentorship to pursue a higher education. Cathleen at Holy Cross showed me first-hand how to invest in and support people on their journeys. Countless folks in San Diego were my home and comfort when COVID prevented me from experiencing that wholly. The list goes on, and the list keeps growing.
A very small sampling of the people along my path.
Find your people. Find your people along your path. Find the people who believe in you, lift you up, challenge you, and will steer you when you need steering. It sounds cheesy, I know, but when we think about something as large and ominous as “finding our purpose,” we need to admit to ourselves we can’t do it alone.
My favorite show of all time is Parks and Recreation. In the series finale, Governor Leslie Knope is giving a speech where she talks about doing work you love, doing work worth doing, and her parting words to the audience are to “Go find your team and get to work.” She said it best.
Anthony Manzi is a corporate recruiter in Boston, MA and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.