These Are My (Career) Confessions

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

csWhen 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

Eating healthy.
Eating healthy.

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.

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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 rented an office on the first floor of this building.
I rented an office on the first floor of this building.

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.

#AgencyLife

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.

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These Days

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. 

15 comments

  1. Susan

    I absolutely LOVED reading your story. Thank you so much for sharing. I had gone to college to study chemistry. I wanted to teach. After my first year, I was not so into THAT much chemistry so I switched to a more applied science and got a degree in Human Nutrition. I did private counseling while I was in school (which I did not enjoy). I started a master’s program w/ the idea of doing research and teaching. During my first semester I got a temp job at Hewlett Packard and took it because it paid much better than my campus job. That was 19 years ago. Needless to say, I decided to pursue the high tech world and have not looked back. I still have a passion for nutrition and health but I love what I do and feel HP is such a good fit for me!

  2. cheryl

    I have always admired your work ambition–you should be proud of your career path!
    In high school I thought I wanted to be a nurse, then my brother had a TBI and I changed to PT. I graduated and worked in inpt. rehab for 8 years–I really enjoyed it. When we started a family I decided to stay home. Now, I teach piano lessons, coach, and am a “professional volunteer” (usually 15hours/week). It is what works for our family as my husband travels most weeks, and I don’t want to be working on the weekends when he is home!
    cheryl recently posted…Boston Strong!My Profile

  3. Lizzy

    Thank you for sharing this, Kristina. It’s really inspiring to hear about how you’ve achieved success on your own terms and made wise choices to change firms when the fit wasn’t right for you. I hope that everything goes well with the upcoming merger.

    I am also at a career crossroads right now. I’m in a PhD program for cultural anthropology and have been fully funded up to this point. Starting next month I’ll be writing my dissertation and right now it looks like my funding will run out at the end of August. I’m currently applying to a mix of full-time and part-time jobs as well as funding opportunities that would pay for me to write. I’m a little lost, to be honest. I wanted a PhD since I was a child (seriously) but now that it is so close and yet still so far I’m less sure. I assumed I would become a professor after graduation. I no longer feel like that is inevitable, but I’m not sure what I want instead. I do know that right now I want stability in a way that my PhD program has not been able to give me, and that wouldn’t be available to me for many more years (and possibly never would be) if I went the professor route.

    Because of all of this I’ve spent a decent amount of time lately trying to think about my skills and articulate them in ways that might make sense in the business world. Part of what I liked about this post was that you are able to so clearly express what you liked and didn’t like about different job situations and how you were able to recognize, at such a young age, what you wanted to be like as an adult.
    Lizzy recently posted…Training Tuesday – enjoying the down timeMy Profile

  4. Hanna

    I STILL don’t know what I “want” to do! When I was younger I wanted to be a meteorologist because I was fascinated with weather. I actually wanted this up until my senior year of high school when it suddenly hit me – I’m not good at science! So I did a complete 180 and instead of looking at big U’s with good meteorology programs I started looking at small liberal arts colleges. My freshman year I went through I think three majors before falling into Political Science and staying with it. I began to idealize working as a staffer on Capitol Hill. I just thought that sounded so brag-worthy. Like, I work in the CAPITOL. But then I interned there and absolutely hated it.

    After two years in AmeriCorps I decided I really wanted to work in the non profit sector and here I am. I think it’s a good fit for me. Not all non profits are good, but in general I think the culture in this “industry” is much more suited to me. People don’t care getting rich or climbing the ladder, they care about making a difference and doing work that is actually meaningful. It’s a good place for someone like me who also values those things.

    I have no idea if I’ll still be in this line of work in 5 years. Or if I’ll ever discover a job I “love”. In general, I feel that our society puts too much emphasis on what people do for a living and I’ve found that I’m happier and more comfortable defining myself by other things in my life. I am more than just my job.

    I’m super impressed that you started your own business at such a young age!! That’s really amazing!! It sounds like you’ve really found a good career home for yourself and carved out a great deal of success. You should be proud of yourself!!
    Hanna recently posted…Go Big or Go Home?: How to have happier days offMy Profile

  5. Megan @ Meg Go Run

    Everything you have accomplished so far at such a young age is fascinating to me! And I will be honest, I know NOTHING at all about what PR/Marketing people do. I am really impressed that you started your own business at the age of 25. I wish I had those guts!

    I went into Music Education because growing up, I loved music and performing in musicals, so it seemed like the natural path. I would have rather performed on Broadway but I was self aware enough that THAT was never going to happen in a billion years. When I graduated in Dec 2004, I started day-to-day subbing. Then in Feb, 2005 I got a long term sub position teaching 8th Grade English. That lasted the rest of the school year. Then I was soooooo lucky that I got hired as an actual MUSIC teacher in the summer of 2005 and I still teach at that district. Funny thing is that about 3 weeks after I got my job and moved, I met Paul. 🙂
    Megan @ Meg Go Run recently posted…Something VERY strange happened last week…My Profile

  6. Liv @ Healthy Liv

    So interesting to hear about your career path! I feel like I know a lot more about you now 🙂 I love posts like this even when they’re not necessarily related to the blog’s “theme.” I still am not 100% sure what I want to do or if I even want to keep the same majors I currently have…
    Liv @ Healthy Liv recently posted…RecentlyMy Profile

  7. Karen

    I am so impressed by you! That is a lot of big decisions and life changing situations for such a young age. best wished with your on the new venture!
    Even though the work is very different, one thing similar in most jobs when administration changes the culture and over all morale can be greatly impacted for the better or worse. The only thing i have learned in life is that it’s nice to work with a boss who cares that you are happy. Happy people tend to much more productive 🙂
    Karen recently posted…BostonMy Profile

  8. Amanda @ Slimplify Life

    Wow, really cool, I definitely didn’t know any of that! I love to learn tid-bits about other bloggers :).

    I had NO idea what I wanted to major in so I choose very broad Economics and Psychology. I was a litigation consultant for 2 years post-grad and did electronic discovery, aka searching people’s emails. I had an ah-ha moment 1.5 years ago that I wanted to be an RD and committed my life to it. I can’t wait to start grad school in the fall and follow my dreams!
    Amanda @ Slimplify Life recently posted…How to do speed work without a track or treadmillMy Profile

  9. Jess

    Great post, Kristina – thanks so much for sharing your story! Wow, a 3-year commitment…that’s a long time. But it also could be an awesome opportunity to shape the merger and make sure that things are handled in a way that they ought to be. I hope you’ll keep us posted (in a loose sense) how things are going. It certainly will be busy / stressful, I’m sure!

    Speaking of which, I’m SO sorry for not emailing you back sooner. I have been swamped with training and getting back into SEO strategy. I feel like my eyeballs are going to fall out of my head every night, haha.
    Jess recently posted…My Running FavoritesMy Profile

  10. Kim

    I loved this entire post!!! I love the Shopaholic books and knew that when you referenced it you were relating to Luke!! I know that you can take all of your experiences up to this point and play a huge role in making this merger a big success!!
    Kim recently posted…I Want to Learn to be SpontaneousMy Profile

  11. Molly

    Thanks for sharing! I always find it so fascinating to learn how people end up where they do. You are so ambitious – I’m sure there are great things ahead!

    I am a pharmacist in a hospital, and I primarily work with cancer patients. I chose it because I was interested in science, but I wanted a career that allowed me to work more directly with people instead of researching in a lab.

  12. Cocomama

    I love love loved reading your story. And am so impressed by all your accomplishments in such a short amount of time. I can’t wait to read about where you go next!
    Cocomama recently posted…Are we all chasing the dragon?My Profile

  13. Kristen @ Glitter and Dust

    I love that a book that you read in high school inspired your entire career path! THAT is an amazing story. It sounds like you definitely went through some different learning experiences and finally fell into your niche post-PR. My husband owns a PR company here in Bend and is very successful at what he does. The perks could not be any better and I keep telling him that he needs to do some journalism and writing on the side – those guys get the royal treatment!!!

    You will have to keep us posted on the transition you are currently going through. What would you be doing in your new position? What are some of your big responsibilities within the company?
    Kristen @ Glitter and Dust recently posted…Week 18; Personal Space, A Trip To The Dentist, and Giving Birth In SpaceMy Profile

  14. Lauren @ Lauren Runs

    So interesting! I did not know what I wanted to do… as I was wrapping up college I thought I’d go into PR (I actually did two internships at PR companies in college), but ended up getting into health care IT instead. Maybe I’ll do a similar posting on my career trajectory to share!
    Lauren @ Lauren Runs recently posted…Thinking Out Loud ThursdayMy Profile

  15. Sam @ Grapefruit & Granola

    Loved hearing about the journey of your career! I can relate to some of the things you’ve said here, although I probably shouldn’t say anything beyond that on the internet 🙂
    Sam @ Grapefruit & Granola recently posted…neVer forgeTMy Profile

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