Lately, I’ve really been enjoying the Second Life podcast by Hillary Kerr. She interviews entrepreneurs, artists, businesswomen, and celebrities who are living their “second life” after having a major career change. I’m still very much on my first career, but one thing that always strikes me when I’m listening to this podcast is how your experiences, however random at the time, can teach you things that will be helpful to know in the future—even if you don’t quite know what the future looks like yet.
My career today is on a marketing and PR track, and I have had projects where I’ve had to write, design collateral, plan events, tell stories, think creativity, take photos, and communicate effectively. Since I changed jobs late last December, I’ve been thinking a lot about how former jobs, activities I did as a student, and interests have threaded themselves through my life, career, and projects. I thought it’d be a fun post to share some of those threads here on the blog today—it really is fun to see how everything you’ve loved or worked on all adds up.
(And, PS, if you’re curious about what my second career might be, I wrote about it a few years ago here, and don’t think I’d change my answer today!)
the things I loved to do as a child /
When I think about the things I loved to do as a kid, the number one thing that stands out in my mind is that I absolutely loved to read. I read everywhere, and would often stay up past my bedtime reading in my room with a flashlight. I loved The Babysitters Club series, the Sweet Valley High series, the American Girl Doll books, the Dear America Series, the Nancy Drew series, all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, and pretty much any book I could get my hands on. There was no greater day than the day my mom took me to the library or my dad took me to a used book store and told me to go wild.
It’s no secret I still love to read today, and like I did in elementary school, I still love talking to other people about the books I’m reading and recommending ones I think they might like. I believe my reading hobby also translated in an ability to write well since I was exposed to a wide variety of authors and voices. Writing then turned into a passion of mine, too, which lead me to student journalism, and ultimately, a career in PR + marketing that relies on effective communication, often through writing.
Another thing I loved as a child was creating and crafting. In the digital space, when I was five or six, my Dad bought me and my sister some Barbie CD games for our computer, and a couple of them were all design-oriented. We had Barbie Print and Play that allowed us to design all sorts of cards, calendars, and banners, and we also had Barbie Fashion Designer that allowed us to design clothes for our Barbies. Though I’m now an old pro and use Indesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator, those games really were the foundation of my graphic design experience. When I wasn’t crafting in the digital realm, I could be found doing sand art, tie-dying any t-shirt I could find, making a masterpiece with do-a-dots, or working on one of those cool craft kits from Zany Brainy. All of those art projects really helped me hone my creativity, which I know has served me well in the long run.
my student journalism experiences /
My sophomore year of high school, I enrolled in Journalism 101 as an elective, and through that class, discovered my high school yearbook. I consider myself so lucky that I went to a high school that had an amazing student journalism program. Not only did I strengthen my writing, learn the basics of graphic design principles, become proficient in the Adobe Creative Suite, have an outlet to create, and foster a life-long appreciation for the fourth estate, being in the newsroom taught me how to work collaboratively with a team. Our yearbook was 400 pages, so there was no way one person could do it all. Even though I may have had a vision for what I wanted the theme to be or a certain spread to look like, by iterating with my classmates and balancing our many personalities, we always came up with something better than I could do on my own. That lesson is something I took with me and try to apply when I partner with colleagues at work today.
Through the high school yearbook, I also had the opportunity to travel to student journalism conferences around the country—I went to New York City, Phoenix, and Los Angeles through the program. Those trips were really the first “business” trips I went on—we learned how to act as professionals in our sessions and lectures, network with other attendees and speakers, and then appreciated the fun side of those trips at night as our advisor took us out to nice dinners and cultural experiences. Yearbook was probably the closest thing I had to real world experience in high school, and it really prepared me well for my working life today.
(And, in a way, this blog is my own adult yearbook as it combines storytelling, photography, and graphic design, all of which were skills I leveraged daily back in our newsroom a decade ago!)
In college, though it took me a year and a half, I eventually made my way back to student journalism through UVA’s newspaper, The Cavalier Daily. That experience not only brought me my “place” at the University, but really helped me take those skills I learned in yearbook and professionalize them even more.
As an editor, I also had my first opportunity to practice managing a team and delegating work. It was through that leadership experience that I realized I loved creating a fun work environment and culture that motivated people and made them want to be a part of our team. I planned social events, created traditions among our staff, and really got to know the people on my staff as people, not just colleagues. In my last job, I made an effort to do that at our office—I co-founded our dinner club, I tried to attend company-sponsored social events whenever possible and encouraged others to do the same, and helped create traditions that made sense for our company culture. Being an active participant in whatever team I’m on is something that is so rewarding to me, and I’m also applying that at my new job today.
how blogging has shaped my path in many ways /
When I started my blog nearly five years ago (!), it really was a creative outlet for me outside of work that no one else owned. I could write how I wanted, I could design how I wanted, I could photograph how I wanted. At the time, I thought my blog could help me strengthen the skills I needed at work. I never imagined they’d also give me skills I could then parlay into work. At my new job, one of my responsibilities is helping manage our influencer program—something I have experience with first-hand by working with brands through A Touch of Teal. Because I have experience on both sides of the coin, I’m able to bring unique perspective at work and provide insights on how other brands are working.
Through this blog, I’ve also learned an entirely new hobby—photography! I bought my DSLR camera back in early 2015 because I was frustrated that the quality of my blog wasn’t where I wanted it to be since I didn’t have great photos. Once I had the camera in hand, I signed up for a DSLR photography class, and, after that, I was hooked. Since then, I’ve practiced often on trips, for blog shoots, around my neighborhood, at family and friend events, and overtime, really became proud of my photography. I’ve used my photography skills in a professional setting, but have a feeling there will be a greater way I use photography down the line.
As I was writing this post, I realized there are even more examples of threads running through my life—but so this post doesn’t become 500 pages long, I thought I’d stick with the three examples that stuck out to me the most. I’m excited to see how the life I’m living today weaves itself into my future.
I’d love to know what threads you see running through your life and how your past experiences led you to the place you are today—drop me a note in the comments below.