MY NON-LINEAR CAREER PATH
as you may or may not know, i own my own marketing business. it launched late last year, and i take on clients for content marketing, digital advertising, branding, and more. but that is SO not how this journey started — and i think this is an important tale to tell. so here we go. pull up a seat, pour yourself a glass of wine or crack open a sparkling water. it’s a bumpy ride with plenty of twists and turns.
we’re going all the way back to high school. i’ve been called an “old soul” as long as i can remember. i always wanted to be older and get to the “good stuff”. this remained abundantly clear when, in the spring of my sophomore year, i decided to apply for “post-secondary education option”, or PSEO. this meant that i would take the majority of my classes at our local community college. no AP, no taking tests to actually get credit — i would be taking classes with actual adult humans that attended our community college.
and let me tell you — it was an amazing experience. i learned what it was like to create your own schedule and take ownership of my education. i took 15-21 credits each semester of junior and senior year, while still participating in my high school’s choir and cheer team (even serving as captain senior year), and taking piano and voice lessons. this flexibility and “go-against-the-grain” mentality set me up for a nontraditional career path, though i didn’t know it then. further proof: that quote above (h/t eleanor roosevelt) was my senior yearbook quote.
then, i moved down to des moines to attend drake university — my dream school. i grew up watching movies that glamorized the magazine industry (hello, how to lose a guy in 10 days, 13 going on 30, and the devil wears prada!), so it was a no-brainer that i would study magazine journalism. i started my college journey double-majoring in magazine journalism and piano performance. needless to say, i dropped that second major like a hot potato after the first year. there was NO way i could maintain my journalism studies (or a job, or a social life) if i was practicing piano 3-4 hours per day.
so i took on graphic design and english classes — and since i brought 64 credits to college with me, i was able to take plenty of elective classes in social media, web design, and more. i was exposed to all of the tools i would one day hone and finesse.
i held 7 internships throughout college and served as editor-in-chief of a campus magazine. leadership and a thirst for the next best thing are engrained in me (thanks, dad!). my final internship, with a women’s lifestyle website at meredith corporation, turned into a 4-year stint at the company where i worked on various women’s publications and food magazines. during this time, i wore many hats — writer, editor, graphic designer, social media manager, email marketer — and that diverse background (plus saying YES and/or coming up with new projects to make my boss’s lives easier) made me a little harder to get rid of. side note: during this time, i met my now-husband. we sat right across from each other (though we were on different teams) and became besties-turned-bf/gf.
simultaneously, i started my blog (which has now gone through 3 iterations and 3 different names over the years) right after college! i had too much time on my hands, but i’m so glad i did it.
after a handful of years, i decided to foray into the marketing world a little further by stepping away from meredith and into agency life. i took on a role at a downtown agency as a pr/social media coordinator. the opportunity to juggle clients and learn more about an agency’s role in other business structures was too good to pass up! this experience laid the foundation for how i run my own company today.
but after less than a year, i got a linkedin message. you know the kind — a recruiter with an offer you “don’t want to miss”! i generally ignore these messages due to the sheer volume in my inbox (i’m sure you can relate). but this woman would not give up — so we got on the phone and talked about it. this phone call resulted in a 1.5 year stint as director of marketing at an employee engagement/marketing agency in new york city. yes, you read that right. i spent that 18 months splitting my time between manhattan and des moines. while planning a wedding. to that guy i met at meredith. it was exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting all at once.
but burnout is real, ladies and gents. and i was seeing women all around me in my vibrant community of des moines that were doing big things. B I G T H I N G S. i had freelanced before, casually, but hadn’t really entertained the idea of working for myself until i saw the kind of creative freedom these women were capitalizing on, while getting to call the shots in their own companies. so, i filed to make “mdj marketing” a legal biz.
and here we are. i’m lifting up other women and their businesses through strategic launches, ongoing creative digital marketing, advertising, and more. i am my own boss. it’s all on me. if i don’t kill it at least 97% of the time, half of my little fam’s income is on the line. no pressure though!
to tell you the truth, it’s been an adventure so far. prioritizing things like sleep, healthy eating, workouts, and not drinking all the wine is necessary. breaking up with clients is hard. setting boundaries and semi-annual work hours is nearly impossible. but i’m working on it. i’m building systems. and i’m learning from those around me!
so. the moral of the story is: if you’re 3, 5, 10 years into a career and not feeling it, make a move. if you’re about to finish up your senior year and you’re pretty sure you majored in the wrong thing, make a move. if you’re freelancing or gigging, that’s OKAY and you do NOT have to have everything figured out at 22, 25, even 30.
are you in the career you set out to conquer? let me know in the comments. i’d love to hear your story!