Giving up a promising career in one industry to start over in a new one


“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” —Gilda Radner

When I graduated from university in 2002, I thought I had it all figured out. A job would magically fall into my lap and I would spend the rest of my life chugging away like the little engine that could.

In our parents’ day and age, you went to school, you graduated and then you worked. Now, it is not that simple.

I was a liberal arts student with a passion for writing and a dream of being a journalist. However, when convocation was staring me in the face, I lost confidence. I was terrified about the colossal jungle of possibilities ahead of me without the slightest comprehension of how to navigate through.

So, I abandoned my ambitions in favour of working in Montreal’s seedy garment industry. I had done an internship the summer before my last year, and was curious to see what the world of fashion could offer me. I enjoyed my experience, so I applied to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

I graduated Summa Cum Laude after completing two competitive study abroad programs. But when my Visa fell through a year later, I decided to come back to Canada.

When I set foot on Canadian soil, it was like the heavens parted to accept me.  I was accepted into a highly prestigious training program with Winners, one of the biggest retailers in Canada. In addition to the PASE program, the company had the values that were most important to me, such as a work/life balance and opportunity for growth.

Almost two years later, I was promoted. Everything was running smoothly, yet something kept tugging at me. It was like I had an itch I could not scratch.

It was simple. During the two and a half years I worked at Winners, I could not write. My mind was crowded with numbers and allocation strategies, so there was no room left for creativity.

I started to realize I could not bear the thought of spending the rest of my life staring at an Excel screen and crunching numbers for a living.

Much to the shock of my peers and management, I quit my job a few months after my promotion and took the plunge back into writing and journalism.

Eight years later, I was back where I started but with more wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

I know now that possessing a skill can mean it’s your life’s calling and that sometimes you change your mind. Nothing is forever. There are people that go back to school much later than I, and have just as successful a career as someone who starts at 22.

It’s a different world out there today and it’s more common than not to graduate without a plan. As long as you work hard and are not afraid to try new things, you will find your way.

About the author

Mira Saraf studied psychology and English at McGill University. When she graduated, she wanted to pursue journalism but somehow ended up working in Montreal's garment industry. From there, she moved to New York to attend FIT. She worked there for a year before moving back to Toronto to work for Winners. Two and a half years in she took over a year off to pursue writing education and a career in freelance writing. She has since returned to the industry and now works for Loblaw/Joe Fresh. She continues to write on a part time basis.