Monday, November 23, 2009

Guest Post: On being what you want to be when you grow up.

I am currently in Columbus, Georgia for the annual School of the Americas/WHINSEC vigil and protest.

While I brave the loooong bus ride and being in charge of six teenagers for three days, a few generous souls have kept you entertained!

Today, we have the fabulous Dana, of A Sizable Apple who is getting ready to graduate from college (yay!) and is pondering career choices in this post...Enjoy and be sure to say hi to her!

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The first dream occupation I can remember was the desire to be a furniture saleswoman at the tender age of 6. Other than seeing commercials of energetic, well-dressed sales people over-enthusiastic about holidays, I don’t know how this seed was planted into my mind.

My first logical dream job was to be an art teacher. I love to create and love to work with kids. As a day camp counselor, the summer before I left for college, I realized while spending hours elbow deep in Play Doh was fun; it didn’t fulfill the bigger characteristics in me. I thrive on challenge and competition, with room to explore outward creatively; and I needed to find a field that focused more on that.

I’m writing this, 24 days (not that I’m counting) away from the end of my undergraduate journey. As of today, I could bail out the auto companies with the amount of money spent on college credits, could designate a different Gosselin child for each internship I’ve finished and could compare my uncertainty selecting a major to the great unsolved mystery of Donald Trump’s hair; yet I’m still not certain of where I’m going or what I’m looking for.

I’ve learned lately that few people (even those in the midst of a great career or even near retirement) know what they’re looking for. Despite this, many are excited to share their words of wisdom (solicited and unsolicited, good and bad) about how to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. Among all of it, the best has come from E.

E is my supervisor at my current internship (I’m working on the web redesign team for a local furniture company- a little déjà vu from my original career ambition). About 35 years older than me, her story has helped me understand how to tackle the idea of a perfect career.

At 19, E moved solo to Europe to pursue her dream as an opera singer. She gave voice lessons and wiggled her way into working backstage at some of Europe’s finest theaters to make ends meet.

When she was no longer able to financially float abroad, she moved to New York City. Looking for a way to earn money, she set her sights on Wall Street. With no experience and in an era where women were scarce in the workplace, she fought her way through constant rejection until she was finally given a shot to prove herself. E became a top seller at top financial agency.

To feed her desire for change, E moved to LA. She joined a world-renowned advertising agency, lending her creative talents and undying drive to push huge campaigns for car companies and other nationally recognized brands. At the peak of her career, she packed up again to move closer to family.

E now lives in a city 40 times smaller than NYC, as a corporate communications and marketing expert for a furniture company. She is the leader of a massive web project, despite coming from a generation typically known for technology confusion. She has the spirit, drive and focus that often leaves me in the dust. She keeps meetings lively and participants on their toes, pushing them to think from a variety of directions.

E constantly challenges me to enhance the work I create and gives me great advice through less talk and more example. Her outrageously diverse resume has taught me that life is less about what you want to be when you grow up and more about what you are.

E is a performer at heart; she is successful, happy and full of life because she performs daily.

As a singer, a leader in the country’s largest financial district, a campaign pitcher and corporate communications guru- she performs. E constantly tried out for challenging roles and when faced with rejection, pushed on anyway. She performed for varying audiences; winning trust, gaining approval and practiced with enough gusto to warrant standing ovations. When the performance became too simple and familiar, E pushed onward to a new show.

Though not an opera star, her dreams are still fulfilled because she’s constantly satisfying the characteristics she’s passionate about (albeit in creative, unconventional ways). E has never had one answer to what she wants to be when she grows up, but she knows what she is, and that has been fulfilling in many careers.

I’m certain advice will continue to rain down on me as I embark on the search for full-time employment. The economy is tough, but no matter what I find, if I apply characteristics that have always been with me, like E, I can make any job into exactly what I want.

What do you want to be, and what are you? Does your career align with your personality traits and characteristics? How do you apply your uniqueness to your job and daily routine?


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