I think it's funny how non-linear most of our career paths are. I entered the workforce thinking that everything moves in a straight line -- from primary school to college to a fulfilling career. As I grew up, I learned that the reality is very different.
Many of us take unique paths to our eventual happy place. Here's the story of how I ended up in my dream job as an in-house SEO for one of my favorite companies.
In the beginning....
If I look back at how I got here, I can put my finger on the exact moment that I learned the value of hard work.
The year was 2001.
Microsoft just released the original XBOX and I was intent on getting one for our house. Up to this point, we'd (my sister and I) never had a game console. We grew up watching public television, putting together puzzles, and playing cards and boardgames. I begged and pleaded for a video game system, but to no avail. I remember my parents telling me that if I wanted an XBOX, that I'd have to buy it myself. Back then, the XBOX was $299, so I'd have to get a job to raise the necessary funds.
So get a job I did. Answering an ad in the paper, I picked up a once a week delivery route for the local advertiser (a listing of classified ads) at $11.64 every two weeks. They'd drop off the papers on Wednesday morning and I'd do a round with our old school Radio Flyer wagon. I'd come home every week tired and with a distinct black color (from the newspaper ink) on my fingers, but I was committed to getting that XBOX.
As you probably understand now, I moved on from the paper boy routine into something more exciting. Like a large share of other teenagers in my hometown, Gurnee, Illinois, I applied for and accepted an offer to work at the local amusement park. For the next few years, I did a little bit of everything. I operated rides, cleaned up every bodily fluid you can think of, greeted people entering lines, and changed trashcans. You wouldn't think it was that glamourous, but I'd argue that the experiences that I had working in this industry were the catalyst for much of my success to come.
College will be hard they said.
And it was.
When I finally entered college in 2011, I knew 2 things. I wanted to do more good for the environment and I wanted to be successful. At that point, I just didn't know what I didn't know.
Two semesters in to my Electrical Enginering degree and I was failing. Failing so bad in fact that I was put on academic probation. I ended up taking Calculus 2 a total of 3 times before I threw in the towel and switched majors.
A change in perspective
I loved solving problems, but I couldn't solve the ones in front of me. I needed to reframe my passion. So, I took my communication skills and critical thinking and applied them to a degree in journalism. If I'm honest, I never had an intention of being a journalist in the traditional sense. I still had a burning passion for technology and engineering, but needed a new way to pursue that dream.
Over the next few semesters, I continued to explore my options, taking a job at a local print shop and the public radio station. At the time, I think I was in the mindset of if you can't do what you want, try to do everything. I'm sure you see where this going, that didn't work out well either. I was working the night shift at the radio station, going to class, and then working at the print shop. It was a recipe for disaster and another defining moment of my professional career. I still remember the words, "People lose their jobs over just a few minutes of dead air". If you ever wonder why I have an annoying need to be early for meetings, parties, etc., this is the reason. I was only a few minutes late to a shift at one of my many jobs, and it was the last straw. My responsibilies would be reduced and I'd lose out on some of the learning opportunities I'd been afforded in a modified role.
So you might be sitting there asking, "So how'd you get to where you are today with all these failures?". The answer is right in front of you.
Failure was the catalyst for my successes.