Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Story Time!

Hi there!

I have a little story for you today, which has been really fun to write. I hope you enjoy it!

First day of Kindergarten. This is a photo of a photo, in black and white, hence the low quality. Forgive me!


Summers growing up were busy for me. There wasn't a ton of down time. I tried all things extracurricular.

Well, most of the things.

I played sports, took music lessons, dreamed of the theatrical stage and geeked out at academic camps.

I remember playing on two softball teams, basketball camps, volleyball camps, leadership and economic camps (like I said, I geeked out), theater camps and the epitome of my nerdiness: band camp.

Aside from an awesome week-long family vacation and maybe a couple weekend trips to family events in Pittsburgh, my schedule was packed. I loved being in the gym or on a campus learning and doing and having fun with friends.

When the school year came around I was too busy trying to be good at all of the things and studying all of the things that I barely slept. I'm pretty sure that I slept more in college and in grad school, actually. Oh and I tried to be cool, but that was on the back burner. I was better at being a dork.

Needless to say, I didn't have a job when I was in high school. When I tell people this I can feel the judgment as I hear scoffs and witness the sideways glance that makes it seem like I was (or even still am) a privileged brat. I can assure you that wasn't the case. Although, admittedly, I was a brat from time to time.
What? I was a tired teen! Who wasn't a brat?

Anyway, I started to work after high school graduation. By then I knew that my ultimate dream of being on Broadway was ridiculous and that I needed a new dream. I knew I'd figure out that new dream in college. In the meantime I got two jobs: one as a hostess at Bob Evans and another as a concession worker at a local golf course. I kind of loved these jobs and the work kept me busy. Plus, I worked with other youngins and both the restaurant and course closed at a relatively early time so I still got to be social in the evenings. I actually worked at the course throughout college during the summer and Bob Evans year-round. I even graduated to a Bob Evans server. Big stuff, folks. Because tips.

Let me pause for a moment and ask the question you may be wondering:
Why am I talking about my first foray into the working world?
Well, curiously enough, I was introduced to a project TheLadders is currently running asking about bloggers' first jobs and career paths, hence the story today. The picture of me from Kindergarten is just for fun.

Did I pique your interest so far?
Then read on, friends! There's more to the story!

While I was in college I had a couple of internships in DC. I was a Political Science and Broadcasting double major at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, dreaming of one day being on CNN. I have more of a face for radio, though, so I was more involved in radio than TV. Anyway, my internships took more of a political focus than broadcasting. I interned in DC for my hometown congressman and the following summer at a non-profit. Those two internships were shaped by the incredible experiences of the city. Sure I learned some things, like how to fold constituent letters like a BOSS and research boring policies, but mainly I learned that I wanted to call DC home after graduation.

But what to do? CNN sure wasn't happening and I considered being a lawyer. So I got a job at a large law firm in Dupont Circle and fell in love with DC even more. I also made great friends and so many memories. Honestly though, after two weeks at the firm I knew law wasn't for me.

Quick lesson roundup:
By the age of 22 I knew a few things: I was never going to be on Broadway or CNN, the life of law was not for me and DC was where I wanted to live.

What to do, what to do...

Admittedly, I slept more and partied more when I was in DC. Granted, these are two things I did a fair amount of in college, but definitely took advantage of post-college since I had so much more free time than I was ever used to having. I also knew that I needed another degree because I was basically switching careers at this point and couldn't afford to have an unpaid internship to get my foot in the door. I also knew I wanted to stay in DC. But a career change was daunting.

When I was 23 I was set on applying to grad school, but I just needed to pick what I wanted to do! I took a lot of time and prayer to reassess what I didn't like (law, traditional desk jobs, working paycheck to paycheck), what I was good at (Excel, talking to people, organization, teamwork), balanced with my interests (being social, learning new things), the classes I liked growing up (history, math, communications, some politics) and the landscape at the time (the growth of social media and tech in general).

After all of that thinking and all of the prayers, I figured a Communications Masters Degree was the ticket. I started grad school with a focus on Political Communication and an interest in non-profit work. I volunteered and got an internship at Street Sense that first year, followed by another (paid!!!) internship. It was here, at The Collaboration Project under the National Academy of Public Administration and incredible mentors, where I found my "calling," if you will. I learned some html, Excel tricks, and tactics for getting government agencies to...wait for it...collaborate, and realized that all of what I learned involved marketing.

Pair this experience with some killer statistics classes as well as user experience and communication technology classes in school and I was well on my way to a career in Marketing. For class projects I would do free work for actual brands and provide actual recommendations. I made an online portfolio of my work with my meager html skills. I was confident in my abilities and ready for my future.

By the time I graduated with my Masters of Communication from Georgetown I was ready for a career in Marketing. My husband and I were also ready to take our careers to the next level and moved to Chicago a week after I graduated. I am in my third job since moving here in 2011 and I haven't regretted a thing. I can't even begin to describe everything I have learned as a Marketer in the last four years, but I am now a Strategic Research Analyst, having fun in Excel, brainstorming ideas for our incredible clients and working with the smartest people in the industry.

Not too bad for a Bob Evans hostess band geek, eh?

My story certainly isn't over. I have so much more that I want to do and accomplish in my career and in life. Honestly, the more I learn the more I know what I don't know?

I'm not sure where my current position will lead me, but I have kept an open mind so far and I think that will guide me wherever I land next. Thankfully, I have my wonderful husband, faith, family, friends and mentors to help me as I continue the journey.

Current headshot :)


I have quite a twisted tale, and I'm not sure what I have said and done would inspire anyone looking for career advice. However, this was a really fun reflection. I am so tickled that TheLadders was curious enough about me to invite my post and I have them to thank for some new goals percolating in my head.

What's your story?

Have a good one!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

First time I've heard the whole story!
I'm so glad you wrote this--I think it will help young people understand that goals, ideas, jobs can change and that you don't always end up doing what you first thought was "it". I certainly did not!
You are a true role model, taking your strengths and seeing what you can create out of them. That is an amazing lesson that you will certainly pass on in the future to people, youth and friends looking to find their next challenge.
So proud of you!