I consistently get whiplash at how fast life can change. With a blink of an eye, your entire plan can be completely turned upside down and leave you shaking your head, wondering what’s next. Two months ago I was a part of a management team at a digital marketing company, running the marketing/PR/social media department. You know that nagging voice in my head I spoke of last week? Yeah, that ONE. It crept it’s annoying little voice back in a few months ago and kept picking away at me, asking me all these questions like, “Do you really agree with where this company is going?”, “Do you fully support the new leadership?”, “Do you believe the new vision you helped write is going to be acted on or quickly brushed under the rug?” Eventually, I gave in and started answering those questions and the overwhelming theme of my answers was, “No, I’m not in line with the plan.” That left me to start thinking about my larger picture of where my career was currently and where I saw myself going. The 5-year plan I secretly have been working against but don’t talk about, because I don’t want to be one of “those” people.
For the most part, I’ve been pretty strategic in my marketing/advertising career. I’ve aligned myself with certain influencers, knew when it was time to keep my head down and grind out some endless hours of work, climbed some title and salary ladders by jumping around a bit and even have slept in the office for a few nights because it was the only way I would meet a deadline. It’s apparent that I care about my work and always want to do a good job. At some point though, you run out of strategic moves and have to take a look at where you are and where you want to be. It’s time for evaluation and compromises.
So here I am: department head, six-figure salary (you better bet the champagne was flowing the night I achieved that goal!), connected to the brim in the advertising/marketing/PR/social media industry, receiving job offers from other companies, a wealth of notable clients in my portfolio and I wasn’t happy. I honestly couldn’t put my finger on what it was that wasn’t aligned. Was it my career choice? My industry? The type of clients I did work for? The place I lived? Just my constant need for better? I searched and searched and couldn’t find the answers. What I found was a mind too busy to stop everything to do some non-work thinking. I did know that I wasn’t a fit for the company I was at anymore, so I decided to negotiate my resignation out of there and give myself some much needed R&R time to really stop and think before I made my next move.
I very easily could’ve taken one of the job offers available to me but I know I would’ve found myself in the same spot six months from now. So I did some good ol’ cliche soul searching and life analysis. This is what I came away with:
– I do love my actual job. I’m extremely passionate about branding and integrated communications. Researching trends and human behavior patterns (In another life I’d be the best therapist), developing strategies, creating campaigns, executing and managing all of the moving cogs to the campaign, and sharing the amazing results with your team. I get a rush seeing my work in the real world and read everything I can get my hands on that relates to it.
– I love working on brands that I feel good about helping at the end of the day. Those tend to be brands that help people in some way (the therapist trend continues…). The pro-bono section of the resume continues to fill and when looking back, I loved doing those projects more than almost all the ones I got paid for. I have a “Will Not Work For” brands list and have stuck to it so far, so that I can look myself in the face in the morning. Overall, I want to, in my own way, help the world through the skills that I have.
– The advertising industry is a never-ending carousel ride, with each of us being plugged in and taken out at any whim and I want off. This is a game-changing realization that I came to. The constant change and unpredictability was great when I was in my twenties but now I’m exhausted by it. When I was in my teens, unpredictability was the theme of my home life. I never knew if my key would unlock my front door, wasn’t sure if I’d come home to screaming, drunkenness, physical violence, cops and the like. Many times didn’t even know where I would end up sleeping that night. I became comfortable in the unknown and thrived in it. But as I grew older and worked to un-learn unhealthy behaviors taught by the ‘rents and started to learn what I wanted and what made me happy away from them, I saw that I was living a survivors’ life – thriving in the chaos but floundering in the normalcy. It isn’t ironic that I chose an industry that supported that crisis strength of mine, but now I’m not the same person. I want stability. I want to go to work knowing the same CEO from the previous day will be there and the vision will still be on track. Another sign of being in my thirties, I hate to admit!
– I’m strongly business-minded but my blood is swimming with creative juices. So I have to work in a creative, fun company culture that values more than numbers. This is a big job filter for me.
– I know the ideal lifestyle that I want to continue supporting but I also have identified my scaled back version that would make me just as happy. In other words, my high and low salary.
So what did I decide to do, you must be asking after this run-on blog post? I decided that I want to go in-house. Meaning, I want to work for a brand aligned with my passions and thoughts managing the marketing/PR/social media department. To do this, I need a few things that I already have: mixture of agency and brand experience, 7-10 years experience, strategic planning and financial management experience, etc. The major roadblock for me getting over to that side of the fence is a Master’s of Business Administration or MBA. A $50,000-$170,000 piece of paper that says you are a great manager. I can say that I am till I’m blue in the face but without that paper it’s back to the carousel for me.
I researched a ton, studied a ton (Holy crap it’s hard to study after so long of not doing it!), applied and have been accepted to Pepperdine’s Executive MBA Fall Class 100. It’s a very scary thought going back to school but I know that it will get me to where I want to go and am excited about this next phase that starts next week (Gulllllp!).
I’m going to go back to work since this is an executive program and gives me that flexibility and time but I feel extremely blessed that I was in the financial position to give myself that breather to stop the auto-pilot decision-making and figure out what my next step is.
So, here I am, 30-years-old and going back to school. I would’ve never thought this is how I would be starting this decade but as I do with everything, time to roll with it and see where it takes me.