Working Wednesday: Rebecca Melzer ’15

Rebecca Melzner left Columbia in 2015 with her BA in Musical Theatre and a love for kids. Her current position as the as the Assistant Director at the Little Green Tree House began with her on-campus job as a Peer Academic Coach where she learned how to lead and manage as an undergraduate.  We asked her to reflect on her Columbia experience and the skills from Musical Theatre that she draws upon  everyday asa teacher and mentor.
How did an internship or on-campus job help prepare you for your 1st job after graduation?
 In college I had the pleasure of working on campus as a Peer Academic Coach. This job helped me to work with a plethora of different people coming from different levels of education. I got to plan with and give advice to students, in a way it felt as though I was teaching. This job really opened the doors for me, it showed me something that I loved to do and I was good at it. This job prepared me to time manage, stress manage, schedule, prioritize, and most importantly, it taught me to be a leader. My first job out of college was as an assistant teacher for young children. I am now an administrator at the same preschool. All the skills that I learned as a peer coach are not only listed on my resume but I also use them every day at work.
How did your musical theatre studies lead or contribute to your current role?
Musical theater studies gave me confidence and personality. Being in musical theater allows you to be a lot of different characters and along the way, you really get to differentiate who you are versus who you need to become. The theater helped me to know who I am as a human being and it taught me the character to put on for interviews. Being in musical theater actually relaxed me for my interviews after college. I started as a teacher out of college and I used my musical theater background every day, I still do. I work with children and there is no better outlet for learning than music and play, that’s my opinion. I teach a lot of my criteria through music and a lot of my activities involve dramatic play with children. Having so much experience with theater helped me to easily translate those skills into lessons that I could teach and involve children in. Musical theater really shaped my personality which comes in handy when dealing with staff and parents at my current job. It really helped me to break out of my shell.
What’s one thing you wish you had done more of while at Columbia?
I really wish I had applied myself more in my field. It was easy to skate by and not audition for a lot of things but I really didn’t do myself any favors with that. I also wish I had made more friends from my department. It’s nice to have friends but having friends who understand your industry is very different. It’s important to have someone in your support system who understands the ins and outs of what you really go through to succeed and accomplish your dreams.
What advice do you have for Senior students?
The best advice I could give is don’t limit yourself, don’t turn down any opportunities. Everyone in college thinks they know what they want to do, what will make them happy. In the real world it’s very different. Try every job that relates to your field before deciding what path you want to take. Look into other careers, find unique ways into doing what you want. I never thought that I would be working with young children since what I really wanted to do was teach music. I love my job and by 24 I am using my degree to rise into administration. I never thought this is where I would end up, but I can say that I teach music to children every day and I use skills acquired from my degree every single day. My path was strange, but I now get to do what I love and it’s something I just never would have guessed I would enjoy. Be open and continue to let the world surprise you.
Something else Seniors should know is to take advantage of your resources. Use your professors in the field and ask for opinions on your work. Go to the Career Center and get your resume all spruced up. Get your portfolio ready so you can really hit the ground running.
Rebecca, we thank you very much for these great insights and advice!  All the best to you from the Career Center team!