Five Questions with Camille Mason

Camille Mason tells students ‘a career is like a winding road.’

Name: Camille Mason
Position: Career services coordinator, Office of Student Affairs
Time at the Gillings School: Two months

 

Camille (middle) celebrates the graduation of her son (right).

Camille (middle) celebrates the graduation of her son (right).

What I do at UNC Gillings (and why I love it): I work with our students to identify which careers are right for them. I also help them ID their own personal strengths and desires. With one individual, I might work with them through the entire process of finding a job, getting settled during the first 90 days, seeking out a mentor, and learning how to manage up, down and across at their new organization.

The best part of my job is that I get to watch students transform from inexperienced and unsure to confident. Gillings School students truly are amazing, and many times the huge accomplishments they achieve at such a young age make me stop and think to myself, “What am I even doing with my life?!” I feel like I’m mingling with greatness every day I work here. That’s why I always address our students as “Mr.” or “Ms.” – one day, they’re going to win awards and save lives and write books, and I’m just honoring that future.

Before getting into this line of work, I was an accountant for 10 years. I find it extremely fulfilling now to work with people, rather than sitting in isolation behind a desk all day! I want to be honest, though – my career switch was rough. Careers really aren’t the straight upward ladder that some people think they are. They’re more of a winding road with many branches where your life circumstances and evolving career values come into play. Your needs and wants will likely change over time; in my case, I “woke up” in my late twenties with the thought, “I have all the material goods I could want, and I have an important title… so why am I so unhappy?”

Our society tends to promote one image of success, but I tell students to listen to their hearts. It takes hard internal work to be truly honest with yourself about who you want to become and what kind of life you want to live. Since I’ve been through that journey myself, I feel like I’m well-qualified to advise others about how to traveling the winding road a little more smoothly.

 

Something most people wouldn’t guess about me: is that I have a degree in fashion design and used to work for BCBG. Let me tell you, it was exactly like “The Devil Wears Prada!” This all happened years ago, when I lived in Los Angeles. As a fabric sourcer, it was my job to locate appropriate fabrics based off the design and performance required by a specific garment. I went to a lot of trade shows to meet new distributors. It sounds glamorous, but it was a very cold industry and I spent a lot of time alone, traveling and eating by myself. The problem was, I didn’t do any research on that industry before I dove into it. Now, I always tell my students to speak to people who currently are working in the industry so they can get a sense of what it’s really like before they commit.

I still love everything design-related, though, which is reflected in some of the small businesses I’ve started over the years. I sew pillows and curtains on the side, I have a professional clothing rental business and I work at Anne Taylor – come see me for styling ideas! I’m also hoping to get my real estate license by next summer, which is a continuation of investing in commercial properties – something I’ve been doing since my twenties.

 

If I could have dinner with anyone in the world: I’d have two amazing women over. One would be Ava DuVernay, so I could learn about how she got involved in filmmaking and what her creative thought processes are. The other would be Dita Von Teese, because she’s my spirit animal when it comes to being over-the-top glamorous and elegant!

 

When I was little, I wanted to grow up and be: an Egyptologist. I was obsessed with all things Egypt! I mean, they had tombs full of treasure and burial rituals and a fascinating mythology… Ever since I heard about the topic at school, I found it so intriguing that I was always asking my parents for more books about Egypt.

 

If I had $5 million, I would: keep working! But I would also invest in two high-rise apartment buildings – maybe in Miami, L.A. or Seattle – and I’d purchase myself a home in another country just for my own enjoyment.

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