Traditional portfolios aim to impress with accomplishments, numbers and raw facts. I’m most interested in the story of how someone gets from point A to point B, the twists and turns, the takeaways, the lessons learned and the reason why they chose the path they did.
I like to start with why. Starting with why versus starting with what makes all the difference when it comes to long-term results. This path might not be as straightforward, but it does result in living and working in alignment with your values, your why.
No clue. Like many Millennials, I had no clue what I wanted to do as a young adult. I left a strict religious sect that only permitted women to be teachers, secretaries or wives. Even though I no longer believed, I decided to finish up my studies at one of their colleges and attained my Bachelor’s Degree at age twenty. I felt compelled to finish what I started, even if I never would “use” that degree in my profession.
Social good. I’ve always had an inclination towards social good, so I decided to do a 3-month internship at New York School of Urban Ministries, where I worked with Peter DeArruda and the short-term missions team. During this stint, I met Kelvin Thomas, a mentor who would help me to discover the strength inside me and how to be open to new experiences.
Making connections. I then returned to the Midwest and worked a series of jobs as a social worker in rehab centers and as a caregiver in people’s homes. Through this experience, I learned how to work with different types of people and discovered I had a knack for building one-on-one relationships. A theme began to emerge in my work: I loved making connections, helping people get connected and nurturing relationships. Little did I know that this would be the pre-cursor to my marketing career.
Growing my first community. Because I had an established track record in working with the elderly, I landed a job as a Health and Wellness Manager at Covenant Village of Northbrook at only 23-years-old. I had negligible experience as a personal trainer or a manager, but I did have a vision for their fitness program. This position combined my passion for fitness and my desire to build something from the ground up. It’s where I discovered that I LOVE building systems. Prior to my arrival, this facility had only one regular exercise class. I single-handedly created a self-sustaining fitness and wellness program for several hundred residents. I personally designed 300+ individualized exercise programs. My classes were always full, even though I struggled to match my moves with the beat. I did quite a bit of public speaking and learned how to hold an audience’s attention. It was one of the linchpins in my early career: I learned how to grow into a position, delve into a project with no roadmap and believe in my innate abilities.
Burning out. Less than 18 months later, I crashed and burned. I had not yet learned how to manage my energy and how to build enough restoration into my lifestyle to fuel my hard-charging work ethic. My health deteriorated. My energy levels dropped. I was burned out. I left my job to focus on recovery and self-exploration. What was next?
Wannabe author. During this time, I rediscovered my love for books, writing and reading. I decided to become a fiction author and invest myself 100% into that project. I never do things haphazardly. Once I decided that’s what I was going to do, I decided to learn all I could about what successful fiction authors do. I began writing every day. I began blogging. I began creating videos. I began doing social media…and THAT’s where my career took a sharp turn.
Personal branding. I did manage to write a few novels, but I realized I most enjoyed the marketing and community building that came along with building a personal brand. My fiction pretty much sucked, but what else could I have expected at 24-years-old? I now had built an online platform, but I had no fiction to sell to my community. Why not change gears? Why not explore other career trajectories?
Agency newb. At age 25, I moved to the Central Coast of California, where I got my first taste of marketing with Starr Hall. I was hooked. After several weeks of freelancing, I found myself getting hired at Rosetta, a cutting-edge digital agency, as a social media marketer with a group of marketing superstars. It was like a dream come true. The hours were long. The learning curve was steep. The job left no room for my fiction writing. I gave up on becoming a successful fiction author before age 30, and I chose to go all-in as a marketer. I found a niche that I was (surprisingly) good at—there was no turning back.
Learning to lead. Within 12 months, I quickly moved through the ranks from working as a social marketing assistant to working with Doug Klein leading the social media and content marketing strategy for Rosetta’s corporate social presence. I figured out how to manage a social media marketing team across Rosetta’s nine offices. I was then asked to be the editor-in-chief for their corporate blog. This appealed to my writerly nature, and I especially enjoyed getting employees involved. Employee advocacy was one major initiative I focused on, as I began actively seeking out new voices to write for the blog and also began teaching interested employees how to build their own online platforms. I had the opportunity to hobnob with the agency executives and rework their personal brands, showing them how to more effectively use channels, like LinkedIn and Twitter.
Still entitled. Though working at Rosetta was a gratifying experience, I craved more responsibility. I felt stifled by the corporate structure that I had not yet learned to navigate. I admit it—I was still acting like an entitled Millennial at this stage in my career. I jumped ship before embracing the opportunity to delve deeper into my work. In looking back, this could have been a mistake.
Content marketing. Since San Francisco is a hotbed for startups, I began my job-a-day challenge to find another job in a tech startup. Less than 30 days later, I had an in-person interview at Quri for a content marketing manager position. I somehow convinced Darby Williams to hire me, though in retrospect, I lacked the experience and maturity for that type of position. The day after accepting that position, I found out I was pregnant with my first child. I had already turned in my two-weeks-notice to Rosetta. There was no turning back.
Social at heart. San Francisco was a major culture shock, and I was ill-prepared for the responsibilities of a content marketing manager starting from scratch. Though I did succeed at laying out a comprehensive content marketing and social marketing plan within my first few months, I gravitated more towards the social media part of the job. I could have been more proactive about producing great content but waited to be told what to do, rather than taking the necessary initiative. I managed to get through about six months in that position before I crashed and burned. I quit my job, but I did stay on as a social media consultant for more than a year.
Zones of Genius. From that experience, I learned that working within your zones of genius is more important than the environment in which you work. As much as I enjoy some aspects of content marketing, I do better work when I focus on social media, employee advocacy, influencer outreach and community building.
Remote work. Leaving Quri gave me the opportunity to explore working 100% remotely, where I discovered how to freelance on Upwork. After getting a few smaller marketing gigs, I was hooked. I began picking jobs that allowed me to focus on what I do best for a range of clients. Because I really enjoying building systems from the ground up, I gravitated towards working with entrepreneurs and small business owners. Here’s a sampling.
For KEEPTIGHT, I had the opportunity to create their social strategy and grow their social channels from nothing into a thriving community. My favorite part about working with Eric Burke was being able to brainstorm, lead and manage their brand ambassador and sponsored athletes programs.
Building communities is one of the things I most enjoy doing, and working with this up-and-coming female fitness apparel brand was a highlight for me.
Nourish Balance Thrive is a functional medicine practice led by Chris Kelly. When we began working together, he and his team were hoping to grow their online practice exponentially. The initiatives we focused on most were creating a social presence, launching an influencer outreach program, content marketing and production, personal branding and live events.
Through this partnership, I discovered areas of marketing that I really enjoyed (and those I don’t care as much about). In trying to be an all-in-one marketer, I found myself struggling to juggle all the responsibilities. I learned that I do my best work for clients when I focus on very specific objectives that are within my zones of genius.
The 3% Conference is a non-profit dedicated to improving diversity, creativity and profitability. I had the opportunity to work with Kat Gordon and her team for a couple years as their Blog Mistress. I especially enjoyed connecting with, interviewing, editing and producing content for their blog. We produced nearly 100 blogs during that period and even worked through a website redesign.
What I enjoyed most about this position was being able to make a difference in the female empowerment movement while building connections with influencers and those doing great work in the creative world.
Finding my niche. For the past two and a half years, I have been working with Susan Tatum and Liz Lawson at The Conversion Company in Social Media Business Strategy and Marketing Programs Management, along with doing a few other short-term specialty marketing side projects. This opportunity has been one of the most transformative in my career so far. I found my niche. I get to work in my zones of genius nearly every day while building out programs for several B2B companies focused on social selling, personal branding, employee engagement, brand awareness, community management and influencer outreach—all with a heavy focus on using Twitter and LinkedIn.
Always learning. Professional development is critical to staying sharp in my industry. In August 2016, I immersed myself in Seth Godin’s altMBA program, which was a transformative experience.The altMBA is an intensive, 4-week online workshop designed by Seth Godin for high-performing individuals who want to level up and lead. You can find my entire portfolio of work here — this business analysis for Creative Live (see tweet below) was my Honors Project.
— CreativeLive (@CreativeLive) October 25, 2016
There’s nothing quite like doing what you do best every day while working towards your next big goal.
I am currently open to my next career opportunity. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to chat.