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?

2 Comments on My Career Journey: Part One

  1. Sara
    June 20, 2017 at 6:24 pm (2 months ago)

    Hi Beth! Long time reader here. Glad you’re writing again, and love the new format.

    I had a very similar start…English major who graduated with NO IDEA what to do with my degree. I went to a temp agency, got placed as a corporate HR assistant, was eventually hired permanently, and have bumbled along ever since
    (including two stints in grad school). After all that, I’m STILL not sure what I want to do with my life! I agree with you that it feels harder the further into our careers we get, for the reasons you mentioned. I work in education now, and I’m not sure what a lateral move to another field would look like (or if that’s even what I want?!).

    Looking forward to hearing more about your career journey! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  2. Summah
    June 21, 2017 at 9:42 am (2 months ago)

    Yay, you’re back!

    When I was reallllly young, I used to tell people I wanted to be a comedian. Then, I was convinced I wanted to be involved in politics (this started when I was in sixth grade, so very early!). I had a teacher compare me to Cokie Roberts when I was a sophomore in high school, so that’s who I wanted to be.

    But more than anything, I have always been a writer. My last two years of high school, I was yearbook editor, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. I majored in print journalism with a dream of eventually working at Southern Living magazine, which is based out of Birmingham, AL (just an hour away from my hometown). I interned at SL as a copy editor, and while I loved, loved the experience and even stayed on past my internship, I wasn’t sure it was the right path for me.

    My first grown-up job was part intentional and part random: I worked as a writer/researcher/assistant at a nostalgia-based greeting card/gift company. After four years there, I moved to DC to work as a full-time editor for LivingSocial. It was a great experience, and it got me to DC, but there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for growth. I also felt like I wasn’t completely fulfilled by my job.

    I ended up applying for an admin assistant job in publications/research for a nonprofit nursing membership organization, and I’ve currently been here for four-plus years. In that time, I’ve been promoted to editorial coordinator and work with scholarly publications and consumer media, writing and editing and everything in between 🙂

    I kinda fell into this current position, as I didn’t really even know it was a career path I wanted or that existed, but I can truly say that I love my job, and I’m getting to do things that I love while also making a difference. Sometimes I think you just have to be flexible and do some digging to find what is best suited to your abilities and talents.

    I can’t wait to hear more about what you’ve been up to!

    Reply

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