Laurier alumna, Laura Douglas, discusses finding fulfilling careers after your diploma

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Unless you’re in a major like accounting or engineering, your future career goals aren’t usually announced in the title of your degree, leaving a world of possibility and opportunity for the frightening world beyond your diploma.
We’re told that degrees open up multitudes of doors, but I think it’s important to note that they also show you doors that you didn’t even consider or think of in the first place. Not every business major will end up on Wall Street, but the skills you learn will pave pathways to new opportunities.
That is exactly what happened to Laura Douglas, who received her bachelor of business administration from Wilfrid Laurier University in Fall 2015. Douglas recently moved to London, United Kingdom, for her latest opportunity with Unilever, the parent company responsible for Vaseline, Q-Tips, Lipton chicken noodle soup, Red Rose tea, Klondike bars, Axe body spray as well as 400 other brands and all of their products around the world.
More specifically, Douglas has found her home in the Dove Beauty Campaign, where she is the Dove social mission associate brand manager. This job takes Douglas to a global stage with the Dove Self Esteem campaign.
Though Douglas never pictured herself directly in this role, she remembers growing up with the Dove campaign for beauty. She told me a touching story about going to a book signing with some of the executives in the campaign when she was younger, and now she keeps that book on her desk as a reminder of how far she’s come.
“I was a little girl with a dream and now I feel like I’m a woman with a vision who gets to do this and activate this globally,” she said. However, it seems to me that a fulfilling career was always in the cards for Douglas based on her goals and work ethic.
What really stuck with me from my conversation with Douglas, especially for those of us who are currently having meltdowns about what we’re going to do with our degrees when our Laurier tenures are over, was her explanation of her life’s purpose and how that led her to the fulfilling role she’s in now.
“Find and follow your purpose, not your passion,” she explained. “To me, passion is very much a feeling, and when you can take the time to sit down and think about what you want your life purpose to be, that purpose becomes your north star, the direction you’re going to take your life in and, overall, your commitment to the life you’re going to live.”
For Douglas, that purpose is “with energy, empower others through service and impact.” She also said that when she didn’t feel she was meeting this goal through her employment, she turned elsewhere in an attempt to empower others.
That’s something that we can all learn from. The best advice I ever heard was from Chris Hadfield when I went to a talk he gave when I was in high school. He said that you should go for the position you want, no matter what it is, because even if you don’t get to that specific position, you’ll end up somewhere around it, and you’ll be happy there anyway.
I think that’s exactly what Douglas is saying too. Even if you end up in a job you never anticipated or a position that you never pictured yourself in throughout university, if you’re satisfied and you’re happy with how that work fulfills your life, that’s where you belong.
“I try to live life without regrets and want to make only positive improvements in my life, so if there’s an opportunity that I did or didn’t do that didn’t go well, I just take it as a learning [experience] and continue to look at it in a positive way.”

“I try to live life without regrets and want to make only positive improvements in my life, so if there’s an opportunity that I did or didn’t do that didn’t go well, I just take it as a learning [experience] and continue to look at it in a positive way.”

As for what prepared Douglas for this role, she really threw herself into life at Laurier. In her four years, she was involved with Five Days for the Homeless, Enactus Laurier, and what is now LazSoc, among various other opportunities.
“Volunteering and being really involved at Laurier was my way of giving, but it also reinforced to me that it was the way of living and the way I wanted to continue to live my life,” Douglas said.
In addition to these aspects that affected her outlook, she cited that getting involved helped with her leadership, communication and gave her a network of likeminded friends, all while advocating for causes she believes in.
Douglas got her foot in the door at Unilever through the co-op program at Laurier, where she started as an intern, then continued through to the future young leaders program, the sales team, to marketing and in the Dove Self Esteem program in Canada before landing this job in London.
The vision of the program is one that Douglas believes in, so she’s able to throw all of her passion behind it. She was also responsible for helping the program into the curriculum of Ontario’s schools in an attempt to encourage girls to live their lives to their fullest potential.
“It’s great, and we should all be telling each other that we’re beautiful, but we should be empowering young girls and older women that you are also smart, and you’re talented, and you’re funny. There’s more to you than your beauty.”
She stressed that it wasn’t the share value of the company that was important to her in looking for a job, but rather the work that the company was doing to give back to people.
“[Unilever] was a company that I knew was trying to do good in the world,” Douglas said. “Through my time with Enactus, that’s when I realized what I wanted to do with my business degree.”
Right now, Unilever is focused on sustainable living, and the company has a ten-year plan for this mission. Furthermore, the brands within the company are looking to develop “social missions,” an internal term referring to how the brand makes an impact beyond the products that it sells. Dove has the beauty project, and other brands are trying to make a positive impact as well.
I don’t know about you, but I never really picture this from big companies. When I think of fulfilling jobs that help people, I think of doctors and social workers. This really showed me that you can help people no matter your position if you have a vision and you’re trying.
Our years at Laurier aren’t the end of the world, either. There’s a lot that each of us wants to pack into our tenures, but our lives are ahead of us and there are so many more opportunities to learn, grow and experience.
“I wanted to go and eventually work in another country, just to have that experience of learning a new culture,” Douglas explained. “I didn’t do it at Laurier, but I knew I would eventually do it and I was really happy that Unilever gave me the opportunity to be able to do that kind of thing.”
So there you have it. There’s a world outside Laurier that is waiting for each of us. There are exciting things to come, even if we can’t see exactly what that is all of the time.
Following her story and watching it come full circle, it’s easy for me to be inspired by Douglas. In the same way that she didn’t know she’d end up working for the company that helped shape her adolescence, there’s a world of things that each of us enjoys that we probably haven’t even considered for careers.
“It’s just such a blessing to see that, with hard work and perseverance, your dreams really can come true, as corny as that sounds.”
If we, like Douglas, take each of our life purposes with us out into that world and do the best we can to help others with the opportunities we are given, the future really doesn’t seem so scary after all.

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