Right now I manage social media for the United States Olympic Committee and have a clearer picture of where I want to be however four years after graduating from college, I am still striving to have that picture come into focus.

My path after college was anything but a straight one. I graduated with a degree in Communications and Behavior and the notion that I wanted to move away from Philadelphia. With no job offer and my desire to move guiding me, I set my sights on Chicago. I contacted the agency I previously interned with to see if they had a need for an intern in their Chicago office – luckily they did. While an internship after four years in school was less than ideal, I used that opportunity to gain invaluable experience about the working world and to further determine what it was I wanted to (and didn’t want to do) in my career.

At the end of my internship, they weren’t able to offer a full-time job and I wasn’t compelled to push for more opportunities within the company. Instead, I took that as an opportunity to satisfy my wanderlust and traveled to Australia and New Zealand for one month.

Admittedly, when I landed in Australia I wasn’t as sure of myself as I’d like to pretend. I spent the mornings looking for and applying to jobs with the hope that when I returned I would have interviews and job offers lined up. Things didn’t quite go as planned. I came back from Australia unsure of my next move but continued to focus on the fact that I wanted to be in Chicago. After countless informational interviews I landed yet another internship – this time at a social media marketing agency.

Again, while I ideally wanted a full-time job, I accepted this internship because I pictured longevity in the industry. To make up for the pay cut I was taking I found freelance work in social media. This allowed me to generate additional income and gain the autonomy I needed to learn and grow in the areas I wasn’t growing with the more traditional company in which I was working.

After 2 years at the agency, I moved back east and completed a post-graduate certificate program at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. This move was again partially fueled by my desire to be in a new city however on the other hand, this time I knew I wanted to learn about the publishing industry. After completing the Columbia program I accepted a full-time freelance position with the New York Knicks, the position I held before my current full-time position with the United States Olympic Committee.

You might be asking what positions with the Knicks and the U.S.O.C. have to do with publishing? At first glance the answer is: nothing. However, the roles in which I joined allowed me to combine my previous work experience with my desire to gain knowledge of the editorial space. With the Knicks I managed the editorial process from start to finish in a breaking news environment. I wrote for and published to the website in addition to the social media sites. At a more traditional publishing company, that kind of experience would have taken 5+ years to acquire.

In saying all of this, I encourage upcoming graduates to think outside of the box in terms of the companies they are applying to. Think of companies and brands you respect and would want to be associated with and then see if there are roles to fulfill which can later place you in a position to succeed in your desired industry further down the line.

There is no one right path you can take. Think outside of the box and focus on making one goal at a time a reality.

Maura Cheeks manages social media for the United States Olympic Committee.
You can follow her on Twitter, @mauracheeks