Career

Stepping Out of the Fog

The last few months have been quite a whirlwind. You know how they say “When it rains, it pours”? Turns out that’s true.

I alluded to this vaguely, but back in June my career took an unexpected turn when I found out that the job I’d been at for just under a year wasn’t going to work out longterm. It was a very humbling experience that made me do quite a bit of digging and soul searching, which I’m still knee- (elbow-?) deep in at the moment. In some ways, it’s hard to believe it was already almost 5 months ago (!), but in other ways it feels like it was just yesterday that I still had an office job.

That change in and of itself has been a lot to navigate, but I’ve also been dealing with some health issues, which you may have caught wind of if you follow my Facebook page. Long story short, back in April (so two months before the career shift) my back started acting up again for the first time since having Emergency Back Surgery in 2006 (part 1, part 2, and part 3 of that story), and it really, really messed with me after being pain free for 11 years. I tried to do everything in my power to avoid having back surgery again, including making some pretty dramatic dietary changes that seemed to make a significant impact.

I was trucking along and feeling like I was almost out of the woods with my back (and ready to refocus on the next step in my career!), when seemingly out of nowhere, I started having pretty severe abdominal pain on September 20. I tried to suck it up but after it didn’t go away for over 12 hours I went to the hospital, and I ended up needing emergency gall bladder removal surgery that day. (PS: My first emergency surgery was at 22, my second at 33… let’s hope this trend is over and I don’t have to think about what’s next at 44!)

The surgery itself was pretty uneventful and I was released the next day and sent home to recover. At 10 days post op, I went in for a follow up and everything was looking awesome, and the surgeon decided to put new steristrips and adhesive over the incisions to help it heal even better. When it started itching a bit the next day I assumed it was just from healing, but then it started getting itchier and redder and I realized I was having an allergic reaction to whatever they’d administered. I had to go back in and once they removed the steristrips it was INTENSE to look at the reaction. Since I’d recently had the surgery, I couldn’t use anything topical to treat the reaction and instead had to take steroids, and after being put on the wrong type and then the wrong dose over the next 10 days by the surgeon’s office, I went to see my PCP and got put on the right dose of steroids and at long last, the reaction started to dissipate. That was 2 weeks ago today that I got put on the right dose of steroids and finally, finally, finally I feel like I’m stepping out of the fog of these last few months and can start to shift my focus back to the bigger question of where to go from here.

Since I’ve laid out the crappy stuff that has happened over the last few months, let me end on a positive note and also share some of the highlights:

  1. I formed an LLC to do consulting work and landed a client almost immediately who I’ve been working for on a part-time basis since! I had been thinking about starting my own company for some time and knew that there was never a better time to try, so I did.
  2. I traveled a bunch – including to Charleston for my birthday week in July, Jamaica for a destination wedding in August, and New Orleans for a friend’s birthday last weekend. (Check out my Instagram if you wanna see pics!) Up next: family vacation in Antigua over Thanksgiving in November for my dad’s 70th birthday!
  3. We made an offer on a house that got accepted, but then we backed out. I list this in the positives because while that particular house didn’t work out, it was very helpful to see the homebuying process and looking at houses is really exciting (albeit depressing with the cost of real estate in DC).
  4. I’ve been looking for a volunteer opportunity to weave into my schedule, and decided on Reading Partners, where I’ll work with a student for an hour a week to help with their reading for the whole school year. I had to get a TB test, fingerprints and a background check to be able to volunteer since it’s in DC Public Schools, and I have my orientation tomorrow and am SO excited to start!

I’m planning to expand on a bunch of the topics mentioned in this post, but let me know if you have specific questions or anything you’d like me to address. I’ll be back soon!

My Career Journey: Part One

When I was little, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, hands down, I’d tell you a talk show host. If probed further about who I wanted to emulate, I’d tell you Ricky Lake. These days, I may be more inclined to go with Ellen DeGeneres, though I don’t quite have dance moves even close to what she can do, so I’d have to leave that part out. But my point is, being a talk show host always felt like a far-fetched dream career that, while appealing, was just not realistic.

So after graduating high school, I went to college at GWU without too much certainty around what I wanted to do for a career. I applied as a math major, but after toying with Calculus and realizing I was more into adding and multiplying rather than the complexities of advanced math, I switched to psychology, and I loved it. I found it so fascinating to study the human mind and to have context for so many things I’d observed in my interactions with others throughout my life. I remember being particularly impressed with abnormal psych and subsequently being able to “diagnose” people in my life who dealt with various abnormalities we studied in the class. But, I never dug deeper and thought, “What do I want to DO with my psych degree?” or “How should I make a career out of this?”

Instead, after graduating, I just sort of stumbled into my first job, which I’d applied to to through Craig’s List for a position as an administrative assistant at a professional sports association. When I arrived for the interview, I was really confused because I didn’t appear to be at a professional sports association, but after asking some questions, I realized I was at a boutique staffing firm that placed people at various positions, including the one I’d applied for. At the time, I had no idea what a staffing firm was or that they even existed, but long story short, I ended up hitting it off with my interviewer and got hired to work at the staffing firm as a recruiter.

And, I loved it. I spent my days running job ads, interviewing people over the phone and in person, administering tests, submitting candidates for jobs, working with clients for new job orders, and feeling really satisfied when I placed someone at a client who hired them for a permanent position. That experience helped me with every step of my career since, and my boss from that job has became not only my career mentor, but a close friend over the years since then.

After two years in that position, one of our clients had an opening for a sponsorship associate, and it was a step up in pay as well as working for a client that many of our candidates loved working for. So, I threw myself into the mix and got hired in my first position doing event sponsorship and exhibit sales. I ended up learning a lot about events, sponsorship, and exhibits, and exceeded my goals with revenue for each event and loved the people I worked with. I ended up staying there for over 3 years, during which time I got promoted and discovered how much I loved the relationship management aspect of sponsorship. I wrote about my last work trip with that job in this post – The End of an Era. (And, my favorite line from that post: “With that said, this new opportunity was one I couldn’t walk away from. It’s a huge step up professionally and is making me feel like a real grown up, even if I have technically been one for some time.” #truethat.)

After 3ish years in that role, I ended up taking a new job in the event sponsorship/exhibit world, but this time with a big step up to Director (I posted about my first day here) and also with some flexibility in my schedule with working from home a few days a week. I stayed there for almost 4 years and really grew up, both professionally and otherwise, though in the back of my mind, was questioning whether event sponsorship was really what I wanted to be doing with my life. At the same time, I’d been doing it for almost 7 years and wasn’t sure there was a way to change career paths laterally, and I wasn’t comfortable taking a step back in responsibility or in salary. So, I tried to mute those lingering questions in the back of my mind and stay focused on the career path I found myself on.

I’m curious – were you intentional with your first few jobs, or were they more random like mine?