It's not youse, it's me
Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals. I’m participating in Jessica Lawlor’s #GetGutsy Essay Contest. To get involved and share your own gutsy story, check out this post for contest details.
I began 2013 underemployed with little money, lots of frustrations and a desire to do better. After falling into a creative and professional slump, I knew I had to take action. To me, “get gutsy” meant “get going.”
First, I was determined to find a new job. I worked in healthcare communications for a small publishing company outside of Philadelphia. For more than two years, I wrote and edited, and even got to travel to industry events nationwide.
However, there was no “ladder” to work my way up at this small business; rather, a step stool where I’d have to knock off the editor in chief to reach the top. Trips to Vegas and SoCal were fun, but they did little to overshadow my constant anxiety over the instability and low wages. The changing industry also meant unpaid furlough days and cut shifts with little notice beforehand. To offset this, I continued to hold a job in retail to supplement my work week.
I applied to many jobs and had several interviews. For the first time since college graduation, I began regularly attending networking and continuing education events.
While on the job hunt, I put more energy into my writing and local travel blog. The latter sprang from an idea I had from my days as the consummate tourist on work trips. Although I lived in Philadelphia my whole life, I hadn’t seen or done much in the area. In an effort to explore the city and write more regularly, I created I Don’t Hate You, Philly the previous fall. My boyfriend gifted me with local tours and took me out for Restaurant Week, so we could inexpensively try new things and I could blog about them.
These endeavors were unpaid, but helped build my portfolio. Then in April, the owners at my retail job announced they wanted a store website. With my newly acquired web skills, I positioned myself for the job and was hired. I was suddenly paid to play in WordPress and write online.
Unfortunately, the job search was not going well. But instead of retreating, I became more determined. I politely reached out to complete strangers in fields I had interest in. To my surprise, I had a very high response rate.
Professionals in sports marketing, digital media and TV production took time in their busy schedules to have candid phone calls with me. I even cold-pitched a local business owner who was so impressed by my email he invited me to his office for a meeting.
I continued interviewing successful people for another writing project I worked on, I Want Her Job. Local businesswomen and TV personalities graciously lent their expertise – and their ears – to me. All of these encounters helped me realize I had something to offer, and opened the doors to cool guest blogging and modeling opportunities.
Still, there were setbacks. And tears. I became inpatient and worried aloud if all my work was for naught.
Friends and family continued to assure me my break would come. Then, sure enough, I earned and accepted a position with a startup in the software industry in September. I prepared to move on to an exciting new field.
Before leaving the retail world behind, a card circulated around work. One coworker I routinely chatted with began his goodbye message with a simple and meaningful, “Well, you did it.” As 2013 came to a close, I had a new job, new skills and a renewed sense of confidence.
Whatever it is you want in 2014, work toward it now. Just begin. You have everything to gain by putting yourself out there. I promise.