The Long and Winding Road
I haven't had the straightest career path. I think when growing up you watch all the TV shows and movies and create a vision of what your life is going to be like as an adult. Honest to god, I thought I'd meet my husband in college, work for a few years, and be married with three kids by 25. I’d be the World's Best Mom, and not just because my kids bought me a mug that told me so.
Boy, did I miss that mark.
Now I’m 30 (and a half - because time flies when you're panicking about your future!). Nearly a decade has passed since I graduated from university and I've already had three pretty distinct career paths. Join me on Jojo's Long and Winding Road Through the Career Woods as I regale you with the tale of making calculated risks and taking so many leaps of faith I can't believe I haven't had a permanent and painful landing yet.
While attending college, I chose two of the most useless majors you could possible declare: English and Political Science. And while I completed the credits for a double major, I never actually handed the paperwork in to declare Poli Sci so really I've got is an English degree with a whopping - brace yourself (and mum - stop reading) - 2.89 GPA. YIKES.
Upon graduation in 2007, I happily continued waitressing living the carefree life with no real thought for the future. I had never held an internship or had any practical work experience so there wasn't exactly anyone banging down the door to hire me. Throw on a less than impressive academic record and a shaky (soon to be shook) economy and my prospects were bleak. Lucky for me, a local financial company was hiring customer service representatives and for lack of any other options combined with their low standards and my ability to razzle-dazzle in an interview, I found myself gainfully employed in November 2007.
Now, if you're a young whippersnapper, you may not be as familiar with the storm that was about to be unleashed in 2008. Let me tell you, it was a doozy… I had a front row seat on the receiving end of panicked customers watching their retirement funds disappear before their eyes. I spent a year as a customer service representative, talking to some of the angriest and terrified people you could imagine in a time of complete financial and world economic turmoil. I'd love to say that time has made me look back fondly at my first job, but that would be a lie. I can still remember the first few months where I'd occasionally be screamed at until I was in tears before I eventually became numb and bitter. After a year I moved off the phones and into the processing side of the call center but that wasn't much better. The work was repetitive and while I became an expert in the compliance and regulations of what I was doing, it wasn't for me.
SO I made my first major leap at 25 and decided to attend graduate school in London. Yes - LONDON BABY! Once again my mind went a bit wild...I assumed I'd move to London, get a degree, meet Prince Harry (or a duke - I wasn't picky), get married and live happily ever after. Spoiler alert: didn't happen. I did end up with a master’s degree in International Relations so that was cool too. When I realized I couldn’t stay in England without a job to extend my visa, and I couldn't extend my visa without a job it was back to the States I marched my little bum. Catch 22s are fun.
When I returned home I realized I had basically double-downed on useless degrees - now I had a masters but no genuine experience. So I started to apply for anything and everything, including internships. Lo and behold it only took four(!) months for a 26 year old to get an unpaid internship at a non-profit think tank. Problem? It was in Washington, DC; I lived in New Hampshire. So obviously, I moved down there two weeks after accepting the position. I am lucky that my mother, brilliant business woman that she is, was willing to help financially while I embarked on this new career path. But after three months and still no firmer leads on a position, I started waitressing at night and on the weekends. Yay for working two jobs!
Come September I'd been in DC for six months. I'd wormed my way into a fantastic friend group, had a lovely social life but still no real job prospects...until the non-profit finally decided to pay me! It wasn't going to be much but it was going to be enough and it was a start.
And then, a twist of luck occurred when a book club I was in (but never attended) sent out a post for a position that was going to pay nearly double the salary of the position I'd just accepted. It was a no brainer to at least apply.
Little did I know that starting in a Human Resources role with a possible opportunity to move into project work for an engineering company would give me the career I currently have.
When I first started with this new company, I came into a pretty basic admin role but three months later I was offered the opportunity to go overseas to the Middle East for two 6-7 week stints. There was a fair amount of unknowns to work through, risks to weigh and 'worst case scenarios' to consider. So of course I accepted the offer two days later. I can honestly say taking that leap of faith and throwing myself at a lot of unknowns led me to the career I have now. Since starting in my original role and having recently changed companies, I have more than doubled my salary and have set myself on an interesting and exciting career path.
Cool - a thousand words later and you might be asking 'what's the point?'.
Well, I uh, I don't really have one. I do have some takeaways though and maybe some helpful lessons learned for you all as you navigate your own career path because it isn't always a straight road. There are twists, turns and roots to trip over as well as some scary monsters deep in the woods. As I mentioned at the start, I'm now 30. I'm also single with no real desire to do the traditional marriage and kids path. I love my freedom; I love my ability to take terrifying leaps of faith that mean moving across the country or traveling more often than not. I live by the motto: 'If you don't have kids, your 30s are like your 20s but with money'. And let me tell you, that is happily correct. I have a sweet apartment, a nice enough car, fancy bags and can spend oodles of money at Sephora whenever I please. I get to live for me, it's fun.
But sometimes, I'm blindsided with a very real fear that in five, ten, fifteen years I'm going to wake up and wonder what I've done with my life, wonder if I'm happy in my industry, or if I regret not giving something else a chance. So with that very real fear in mind, I decided to combine two of my favorite things: beauty and international relations.
Inspired by the lovely ladies at LFC, I’ve been working on launching a site that will give women (and men!) the opportunity to share what beauty means to them - too much of what we see is a Wonderbread view of traditional beauty, and that's not reality.
Reality is multi-racial girls never having a foundation option because it's either too light or too dark; reality is the booming $10 BILLION skin-whitening product industry in India and China; reality is there is beauty out there beyond what's currently walking down a catwalk or plastered on billboards.
I hope it becomes a forum and safe space for people to talk about their own struggles and share their own tips for surviving and thriving. If you're interested, watch this space: www.makingfacesGLO.com.
As excited as I am, I’m realistic because unfortunately, not everyone can turn their passion into their career. Do I think I'll be able to quit my day job? Nope! And that's okay. You can have a career that you're satisfied with but don't live and die for while still having a passion.
I'm passionate about writing. I’m passionate about understanding the world and different cultures. I’m passionate about the world not destroying itself through war and intolerance. I also have a screenplay and a novel locked in my head (no musical, sorry). I think I'd make an awesome famous person except for how much I swear and that I have little to no filter. The odds of that happening? Slim to none. Will it stop me from writing or pursuing my passions? Nope. Will it stop me from practicing my Oscar acceptance speech? (Did I mention I'm super dramatic and think I could be the next Kate Winslet?) Nope.
If I've learned anything it's that five years ago I couldn't have imagined what job or career I would have, so guess what that means? Five years from now I just might be on that stage getting an award (or something a little less ambitious...I'll take a Pulitzer). And you could too.