While browsing on Twitter, I came across a blog post by Kayla Hollatz about her career story. (Seriously, read it!) In the article, Kayla talks about all of the steps that took her to where she is in her career today. And because I thought it was such a brilliant idea, I wanted to do the same.
As bloggers, we’re able to control what parts of our lives we share. But I’m always so curious about those parts of life that we don’t talk about. What do we do from 9-5? What makes us tick? What are our struggles? What are our accomplishments? What got us to where we are? What makes us who we are today? So. Many. Questions. So today, I’m going to start by telling you about my career, and how I got here.
Despite the five minutes that I wanted to be a veterinarian and the one time I told someone I wanted to be a fire fighter when I grew up, I always thought I would go into a career in the arts. I was an active child, and I loved to create. I was fortunate because my parents encouraged this behavior. I took piano and ballet, and I loved to read. As I got older and into my middle school, my career paths became more focused. For the longest time, I wanted to be a Radio City Rockette, as I studied dance under a former Rockette. I was involved in my school’s daily news production, and I fell in love with broadcasting. Following broadcasting, I decided that I wanted to be an actress.
There was never a point in my elementary or middle school days where I was considered “cool” or popular. Eventually, I stopped trying to fit in.
Right before my freshman year of high school, I started working with an agency. The coaching that I received was extremely beneficial. I learned how to control my strong Southern accent, I learned body language, and I learned how to communicate with people. When I was going to have my headshots taken, my agency decided that I should shoot an actual portfolio. I immediately felt like modeling was a better fit for me than acting, and while I never really viewed modeling as a career path, I viewed it as something that would take me to the next step in my career. I eventually signed with a Miami based agency, and I was so fascinated by my agent. She was fiery and feisty, had bright red hair, and spoke with a thick Italian accent. I knew I wanted to be just like her when I grew up, so much so that when I was accepted into a high school leadership program, I submitted “talent agent” as my career choice. (There were none of those in my area to job shadow, so I job shadowed someone in HR… and quickly realized I had no desire to be in HR.)
The summer before my senior year of highschool, I became extremely ill, eventually learning that I had a chronic illness. This experience really inspired me to want to go into the medical field. Science was never my strong point, but I was determined to be good at it so that I could help others the way my specialist and nurses had taken care of me. I eventually decided that I wanted to be a nurse with goals of becoming nurse practitioner.
But then I took an A&P class in college and realized really quickly that nursing was not my path. I still wanted to be in the medical field, so I studied Special Education with the intent of becoming an Occupational Therapist. But I had a horrible teacher who taught all of the special ed classes, and I knew it just wasn’t going to work out for me.
At the end of my sophomore year of college, I was so depressed because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had always had huge aspirations and wanted to save the world, but I was lost. I went to the career center, took aptitude tests, you name it. My parents even suggested that maybe I take a little time off from school and work retail full time until I figured it out. I started having this overwhelming desire to be a lawyer. So my dad came into town, we sat down at a Starbucks, and we charted out my course schedule of pre-law classes for the next two years. I declared business as a major with a concentration in legal studies, and I loved it, y’all! I had never felt as passionate about something as I had my legal studies classes. I would talk about torts with anyone who would listen. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I made the decision to stay in school because I was so focused on getting to law school. When I think about things that really helped me through my battle with cancer, legal studies was one of those things because it was the perfect distraction and something concrete in a very abstract time in my life.
While in college, a sorority sister of mine helped me get an events internship at my local Chamber of Commerce. It was absolutely perfect because I graduated in December, would start the internship at the end of December, and would intern for about six weeks. I planned to start law school in the fall, so the internship was the perfect opportunity to save a little money!
I loved being an intern so much that it wasn’t even funny. When my events internship was over, I was asked to stay on as an intern for another department, and I jumped at the opportunity. The thing I loved most about being an intern was learning. Sure, it wasn’t fun to constantly clean up catering or cover switchboard on occasion, but then there were moments where I had opportunities that I never would have had otherwise, and those made it worth it.
While I was working my second internship, a job position became available, and I was encouraged to apply for it. At this point, I had been rejected by my top law school, realized my second choice wasn’t going to give me a dime, and had missed out on a full ride to my third choice by one point on the LSAT. After lots of thought and prayer, I decided that if offered the job, I would accept it and put law school off for a bit. I was offered the job in small business development, and I took it.
To be really honest, I didn’t love my job at first. There was a learning curve, and I was terrified of my boss. I kept telling myself I just had to make it a year. But six months in, I hit my stride. By the time I hit the one year mark at my job, my boss trusted me enough to handle all aspects of the business trainings we offered. I also helped small business owners with social media strategies. I had been attracted to medicine and law because I saw jobs in those career fields as ways to help people. When I started to form relationships and see results with small business owners, I realized just how rewarding my job was, and I truly fell in love with it. I come from a long line of small business owners – my family that came over from Italy had a farm, my great grandfather owned a blacksmith shop, my papaw owns a welding business, and my mom and mamaw owned a preschool – and that really fueled my passion, as well.
In the middle of one of our training sessions, I received a call from the CEO of an economic development organization in our area. He had a job opening, and he wanted to interview me. While I was absolutely in love with my job, I took the interview out of respect. I had no intention of leaving my job. But after the interview, I knew I had to take it. I finished out one last event, took the LSAT on a Monday, and submitted my two weeks that Tuesday. While I was terrified to leave, I knew that I had to do so in order to continue growing and learning.
Which leads to where I am now – I work in marketing for the economic development organization (sometimes called an EDO) that represents the county I live in and a neighboring county. All EDO’s are different, but we focus on recruiting primary jobs to our community and supporting our existing industries. The marketing that I do is pretty broad – I handle internal communications, work to promote the positive things going on in the communities I represent, and also work to promote my organization so that companies are aware that we exist and will send us leads.
I had no idea just how hard it would be working in economic development, but knowing that I’m helping to put food on the table for families in my communities makes it all worth it. I truly think that economic development is what I will spend the rest of my career doing. If you’re unsure of what you want to do and enjoy a fast-paced environment, doing something a little different every day, traveling on occasion, and feeling like you’re making a difference, I highly encourage you to do a little digging into careers in economic development.
Shew, that was a long post, so if you read all the way through, I applaud you! If you have any questions or want to talk about anything you read in this post, leave me a comment or shoot me an email… I’m always happy to talk career with y’all!
And now it’s time for my favorite part – I’d love to hear from you! Tell me about your job (or about the career field that you hope to go into) in the comments!