'I realized it’s important to follow what you love … and it’s OK to try something else, pivot and take risks and even pivot back'
The first three semesters as a psychology major at the University of Colorado Boulder couldn’t have been better for Caroline Lynch (Psych’07). The classes were stimulating and gratifying—even fun. And her grades were high.
“I’ve always had a passion for psychology and so I applied to CU as a psych major,” Lynch says. “What drew me in was the diversity … I was studying everything from organizational development to learning processes, and I really found all of it applicable to everyday life.”
But then, in the middle of her sophomore year, she had what she called her “major identity crisis,” not a crisis of identity, but a crisis of major, as in which one to choose for a career.
“I began feeling pressure about what I wanted to do when I graduated, and I started to question if my psych degree would get me there,” she says.
She wasn’t even sure what “there” was. She did know she didn’t want to be a psychologist, so she considered switching majors or at least adding a minor in marketing or communications.
Psychology helped build a foundation to evaluate raw data, organize it in clear, concise ways and make reasoned, rational decisions. It taught me to think critically, manage complexity, communicate clearly and solve complex problems."
She had a marketing internship lined up for the coming summer with a Boulder startup, so she decided to take some communications courses in her second sophomore semester. A few weeks in, she was miserable. “The content wasn’t as interesting or fulfilling as psych classes,” Lynch says.
After more soul searching she returned to psychology. The experience—as prickly as it was—has become a valuable life lesson. “I realized it’s important to follow what you love … and it’s OK to try something else, pivot and take risks and even pivot back. Curiosity, exposure to many diverse experiences, and being open all serve me well.”
Today, Lynch will tell you she has zero regrets sticking with liberal arts.
Right out of Boulder, Lynch landed a job with the top beauty company in the world, L’Oreal.And over the next 10 years, she rose through the ranks from entry management to an assistant vice president’s post. Last fall she left L’Oreal, where she was managing a team to being the team—of one—as director of sales planning in personal care at Method Products, PBC, a pioneer in green consumables.
She says both companies have helped her build her career and skills—skills she first discovered at CU Boulder, and skills that have proved essential every step along her path.
“Psychology helped build a foundation to evaluate raw data, organize it in clear, concise ways and make reasoned, rational decisions. It taught me to think critically, manage complexity, communicate clearly and solve complex problems."
Like many in the working world, Lynch says change is the constant in her life, and her time at CU Boulder taught her to make change work for her. “The mental muscle I developed studying psychology let me adapt, pivot, manage and excel amid all the change. Going from a statistics class, to organizational psych course, to a philosophy course all in one day helped me approach situations, challenges and experiences from different frameworks.”
Her career advice to newly employed CU Boulder alumni: Say yes. Get involved. Try new things. Get diverse experience—all of which she says helped her discover careers she didn’t even know existed but that now she enjoys.
“And finally, challenge yourself. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Always stretch yourself, and don’t be afraid to apply for positions that sound like they’re a stretch for you.”
As for skills employers want, Lynch says creativity along with entrepreneurial and innovative thinking top the list.
She adds: “A liberal arts degree sets a strong foundation for all of these skills.”