Career

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?