Five years ago, I resigned my teaching position and moved away from my career as an elementary teacher. It was a difficult decision, made even tougher as we entered a recession and jobs were scarce, but I have never regretted it. Every day I am more certain I made the right choice for me, going back to my first love of marketing and communications.
I’ve often had people ask me about my diverse background. With my mix of experience in marketing, social work and education, I understand why it’s a question. At first glance, it can seem as though these positions have nothing in common. How did I go from communications to teaching elementary school, and what brought me back?
When I graduated from college, I planned to do public relations for high tech companies. I had some connections at agencies, and I planned to follow in their footsteps. Unfortunately, my timing was not ideal and due to the dot.com bubble burst, most of those agencies weren’t hiring. I did land a job doing marketing for an internet-based learning startup, which was an amazing experience. But sadly the company was not able to survive the crash and closed down leaving me wondering what to do next.
I spent some time doing the typical jobs recent college grads do when they are trying to figure out their next steps. I was a waitress at The Spaghetti Factory. I was a temp employee. I worked in customer service at Mt. Bachelor ski resort. And I bartended at a few different bars. I could actually write separate blog posts on how all of these different experiences make me a better marketer, but that’s for another time.
The farther I got away from college and my plan to work in public relations, the more I started to question if it was what I really wanted to do. Did I really have a passion for communications, or was I just following that path because that’s what my friends were doing? I questioned if I wanted to work for Corporate America. I was feeling a bit lost and without direction.
All my life I’ve had a desire to help others and I’ve always loved kids. It’s the reason I almost majored in Education in college, before I decided on Communications. So when I was trying to figure out what to do next, I was drawn to The Children’s Farm Home, a psychiatric treatment center. The two years I spent there were probably some of the most exhausting, heartbreaking and rewarding of my life. When it was time to move on from The Children’s Farm Home, I decided working with kids in a public school would have the rewards of a psychiatric treatment center, you know, without me getting punched, kicked and bit daily at work.
I received my Masters of Teaching from Pacific University and started teaching in Auburn, Washington. I loved my students! I enjoyed building lesson plans and designing new, creative ways to teach them. I adored thinking of fun ways to use emerging technology to help my students learn. I took over the school yearbook and taught my students basic design skills. I built a community in my classroom where students felt supported, encouraged and safe to speak their minds. There were many things I loved about being a teacher, and in many ways I excelled, but I felt something just wasn’t right. I like to think ahead and plan where I’m going, and when I asked myself where I wanted to be in 5 years, I didn’t really see myself still in the classroom.
As I was beginning to ask myself some tough questions, I happened to be in a leadership training course through Seattle Works. I learned a few things about myself as part of that course and the personality assessments. I learned that I’m driven by achievements, titles and promotions. I learned that I actually do want to be part of Corporate America, and I want to succeed and excel there. I’m competitive and driven, and that’s okay. I don’t know why I had resisted and tried to suppress those parts of my personality, but I couldn’t do it anymore. It was time to find a career where I could combine all my talents and traits.
When I resigned from my teaching position that August, I didn’t have a full time job. But I had some experience doing pro bono PR and marketing work for Seattle Works, an event planning contract position with another non-profit, and I was enrolled in the University of Washington’s public relations professional certification program. Over the last five years I’ve had the opportunity to work with some super smart professionals at fantastic agencies. I’ve learned so much. It hasn’t been an easy road at all, but I know I made the right decision for me because I love what I do. I love helping my clients succeed. It makes me so giddy to help build a thriving, healthy online community for a brand. I enjoy explaining what my clients do that makes them special, to reporters, bloggers, the general community or even my family. I know this is the right career for me. I can feel it every time I get to flex my muscles with creativity or writing. It just feels right when I can advise brands on the latest trends and tactics.
Since I made the big decision to go back to communications/marketing, I’ve realized it was always what I wanted. I even found old papers from high school where I talked about wanting to work in PR and marketing. I’m not sure why I started questioning that or thinking it wasn’t my path and I was just following along. One look at my history of running for student council nearly every year in high school and college, working on the high school newspaper, anchoring the college news program, and my lifelong love of writing would make a career in marketing an obvious choice. While there are times I kick myself for not believing in myself, I don’t regret my winding path. My diverse background has given me a broader perspective, more patience and the ability to quiet down a room of 30+ 8 year olds.
Every fall I do get a pang where I miss my students. I miss setting up my classroom and greeting them every morning. I will always love kids and want to see them succeed. But now that my career is a better fit for me, I’m not so drained and burnt out. Now I can spend time mentoring kids and supporting their growth in a way that gives me energy. Spring Creek Group has a long relationship volunteering with the Technology Access Foundation in Seattle, which was an incredible experience. Now that I’m in New York City, I’m looking for a new opportunity.
They say to be happy in life, follow your passion. My passion is helping people connect and learn. I’m a lifelong learner, always striving to better myself and the world around me. PR, marketing, social media… all of these give individuals around the world an opportunity to meet people, learn new things and connect with the brands they love. This is my passion. I took a winding road, but I grew my skills and experience along the way. And now I’m exactly where I was meant to be.