I’ve been thinking a lot about my career lately due to the circumstances at work, and I thought I’d share a bit about my background. This post doesn’t include any running so I understand if you skip it :).
(I haven’t run all week – I’ll post about it tomorrow – but I am starting to feel a lot better.)
These are My Confessions
When I was a sophomore in high school I read Confessions of a Shopaholic and it changed my life.
Up until that point I had no idea what type of career path I wanted to follow. I was teetering between astronaut and maybe something to do with international relations. I would also have gladly accepted the job of pop star (a la Britney Spears) but I kind of knew that wasn’t realistic.
Then one day I started reading “Confessions” and I found my calling. The main character is Becky Bloomwood; she’s a shopaholic. She loves buying expensive clothes, purses, accessories… she is unable to resist the call of beautiful new things. Unfortunately she doesn’t have the money to support such a lifestyle and she’s heavily in debt.
Eventually she meets Luke Brandon; he’s smooth, he’s handsome and he’s rich. Becky and Luke fall in love, get married, yadda yadda.
Becky isn’t the character that I started self-identifying with. I mean, like many other 15 year old girls I was really into shopping and I liked luxury brands, but I did’t want to be Becky.
I wanted to be Luke. He was smart, he owned his own company and he was really successful.
Luke’s company is called Brandon Communications and it’s a Public Relations (PR) firm.
I didn’t totally understand what PR was at the time, but in the middle of reading the “Confessions” book series I decided that I was going to have a career in PR.
Picking a Major in College
When I graduated high school I was accepted to a few universities and ended up going to the University of Central Florida in Orlando on a scholarship. Like most kids coming from a small town and suddenly living in a “big city” with tons of new found freedom I goofed off and enjoyed freshman life to the fullest
I also declared Public Relations as my major and was obsessed with the idea of studying it and really getting out there and doing it. Unfortunately I still didn’t have a clear picture of what IT was.
During my junior year of college when I finally started taking PR classes I found out that I was pretty lucky because I did like the idea of PR. It seemed to suit my skills well.
At that time I also transferred from UCF to Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton because some guy I was seeing had transferred there and I missed him. (That guy and I will celebrate 11 years of being together this year!)
FAU didn’t offer a major in Public Relations so I entered the closest program which was Communications. I was bummed because I thought majoring in Communications was a step down; it just seemed so generic and bland. It ended up working out perfectly though because I met the professor who inspired me to go to grad school, which was an amazing experience. She also turned me into a liberal.
Getting THE Job
I started my first corporate job the Monday after I graduated. I worked for some big Fortune 500 company and was really unhappy. My job was a blend of marketing and PR but I really wanted to do PR all the way.
I still had a really idealized notion of what PR was. I was going to get my company in Forbes and the Wall Street Journal and it was going to be awesome.
Flash forward nine months and I left the big corporate world when I landed a job as the PR Manager for an Inc. 500 company. I was so much happier there. I loved the culture of working for a small but super successful business. Everyone focused on getting shit done. I like that. I hate long meetings, conference calls, team building exercises, blah blah. That’s not for me.
What I discovered in that job is that PR is also not for me. I was okay at it; I got my company in magazines like Ad Age and even Forbes. I didn’t find the process at all enjoyable though, not even the part where I saw my company’s name in print.
What I really wanted was to get back into marketing, but not the way I had done it before. I wanted to do marketing all the way.
Starting My Own Business
The small but successful company that I worked for grew really quickly during a short period of time and the culture within the organization became uncomfortable and unenjoyable for me. Not to mention, after working for some really amazing entrepreneurs, I was ready to try my hand at running my own business.
So I quit.
I started my own marketing consultancy and was quite successful. I found that I was very good at running campaigns and even finding and landing my own clients. In less than a year I moved out of my home office and into a really nice office building. I even hired two contractors to help me handle all of the work.
I learned that I really had a passion for marketing, but I was too inexperienced to run my own business. I was constantly stressed by all the little things you have to do as a business owner; I was only 25 years old.
I was sort of happy but definitely in over my head.
Then one random day I got an email from my current boss. He found me on LinkedIn and wanted to know if I would be at all interested in meeting with him to talk about his agency and a position he had open.
I went to meet him with no expectations. I hadn’t yet fully decided if I would even really be willing to give up my consultancy, but when we talked I really liked what he had to say. He made me an offer right away and I took all of 15 minutes to consider it before accepting.
It was a good offer to join a great team. I was sad to give up my consultancy, but I had hired good contractors who I was able to easily pass my clients onto. It worked out really well.
For the first time in my life I really liked my team and the work. Two of my colleagues have worked for my boss since he started the agency 20 years ago! In my opinion that’s the sign of a great work environment and a boss who treats his employees well.
Now the agency I work for is merging with another larger agency. I can already see how things are changing. The team dynamic is quite different and the culture is too. Since my boss first told us about the merger I’ve been nervous about the transition. When the last company I worked for grew quickly overnight I didn’t really love the result.
Of course back then I was just a small cog in the wheel, and this time around I am in a leadership position and have the opportunity to shape how things turn out.
When I was 15 years old and flipping through the pages of Shopaholic this is kind of what I imagined my life would be like. I couldn’t see the details, but I more or less envisioned I would work in PR/marketing and be smooth and successful like Luke Brandon.
You could argue that I’m not quite as smooth as he is but I’m working on it!
How did you decide on your career path? Did you always know what you wanted to do?
Note: this is the (long) cliff-notes version of my career so far. It doesn’t include grad school, my internships or my brief foray into the startup world.