Saturday, July 21, 2012

What should I be when I grow up?

When I started college, my major was Speech Pathology, but I didn't like that and I switched to Psychology.  But I had a habit of taking courses that weren't actually on my career track.  If it was new and interesting, I had to take it. Entomology - fun!  Psychology of Death & Dying - fascinating! The Study of Women's Sexuality - interesting!  The English Bible as Literature - what the hell was I thinking?

After six years in college (yes, six) my adviser told me I was never going to get a degree unless I followed a certain track. So while I no longer had any interest in psychology, I followed his advice and ended up with a BA in Psychology with a minor in English.  And no career goals.

I went through a series of jobs then - cashier, cashier, cashier, and annoying person who calls you and tries to convince you to do a phone survey.  And then the job after that was mommyhoood.  I don't think my salary was market value there.

Then this really neat thing called "the internet" appeared. And I was determined to be a part of it.  I bought an HTML book and a copy of Front Page and I was off!  I learned, coded, learned, coded, and learned some more. And then I started building websites for friends.  And then for businesses.  And I added flashy graphics that were cool and blinky.  (It was 1996, people!)  I designed websites for about two years and I was a damn good designer, I just had a really hard time with the business end - I always volunteered to do things for free!

Then I decided I wanted to work with people, not computers.  And I decided to go back to school and get my certification in hypnotherapy. are getting veeeeery sleeeeepy!  I found a great instructor who took me under her wing and taught me so much!  She shared everything she knew with me, sent me to conferences, shared her research with me, let me work with her clients, and really trained me well.  So I decided to open my own private practice.  And that went really well, except for the business part.  I always volunteered to do therapy for free!

Then I decided that the thing I really liked the most about hypnotherapy was writing scripts for different psychological and physical conditions.  So I wrote over 50 different scripts and asked my instructor to read them and give me feedback.  She was more than happy to do so because we were so tight.  And then she stole them all and published them as a book.

Then I realized that my passion was really in writing, so I went back to school and took writing classes - fiction, children's literature, copywriting, technical writing - lots and lots of writing.

And then I landed a job with an educational publishing house and I wrote educational children's stories and copy-edited books and collected submissions for anthologies.  Then one day I pointed out a typo on their website.  And then another.  And another.  And then they asked me to fix them.  And then they asked me to make a page look better.  Then they asked me to redesign the whole site.  And I did.  And then the publishing company went under.

And then it was 1999 and it was the big .com boom.  And when I put my resume online, people called me and offered me outrageous amounts of money and big signing bonuses.  And I accepted a technical project manager job with a start-up company that created websites for child care centers and pediatricians.  And I loved the people I worked with and I loved all the venture capital money we wasted on $150 bar stools for the break room and $80 bottles of designer perfumes for in the women's bathroom.  When I started there, I was a technical project manger - responsible for scheduling, etc.  But in a start-up, you roll up your sleeves and do what is need to be done even if it isn't part of your job.  So that's what I did.  And during my time there, I wore many hats. And as the company grew and reorganized, I had many job titles.

I quickly moved away from just project management and was involved in many hands-on roles: I performed QA and reported bugs, I designed pages, I did UI testing with focus groups, I wrote requirements docs for new products, I wrote functional specifications, I wrote web copy, I managed teams, I copy-edited, I answered customer support calls, I researched competitors, I studied the market, I approved marketing materials, I coded new pages, I ordered pizza, and I cried when the company suffered the .com fate and went under.

Then I became a teacher.  To my own children.  I learned all about educational concepts and learning styles and teaching styles and curriculum and I researched and I learned and I made lesson plans and I homeschooled my children.  For many years.  And I did it for free.

Then we moved to another state and I did some online jobs in writing and web design, but I was lonely and didn't know anyone so I decided to get a job outside the house.  And I started working as a technical writer for a social science research firm.  And I read 200 and 300-page social science research final reports for government contracts with the US Dept of Education and The EPA and The DCD and The Dept of Homeland Security and if I tell you anything more, I would have to kill you, and I summarized the reports into 300 word marketing briefs for on the company website.  And I started pointing out bugs on the site and ways things could be enhanced and I started doing QA's job for them and then they asked me to fix their site and I did and I made it better and they loved me.  And then they asked me to redesign the corporate intranet and I did.  And while I was there, they asked me to post a job opening on Craigslist and while I was on Craigslist, I saw a post from a man who was looking for homeschool bloggers.  And I responded to him.

And he emailed me back a rambling 10 pages of blogging ideas with absolutely no cohesive thoughts and I wrote back and told him he needed a copy-editor and he hired me and I worked for him for the next 4 years.  I started copyediting his work and gave him ideas and he asked me to take a look at his new website and I told him it sucked.  He asked me to interview web development companies with him and I ended up managing the development team and hiring writers and managing a team of 30 people as the Director of Operations.  And he took me under his wing and taught me all about business development and business plans and goals and marketing and metrics and SEO and affiliate advertising.   And when he asked me if I knew how to do something, I said no, but I will learn how.  And I did.  And I researched and read and watched videos and taught myself.  And I managed people and consulted with experts and designed blogs and researched social media practices and performed QA and created web tours and coded new sites and coded new blogs and learned more about online elementary education and guest starred on radio shows.  And then he got a new job and was running out of money and asked his friend if she was interested in hiring me.

And she said yes.  And she asked me to do research for her.  And I offered ideas and suggestions and offered more help.  And she took me under her wing and taught me all about the wholesale trade industry and ecommerce.  And I designed a wholesale website and helped maintain an ecommerce site and wrote marketing copy and planned campaigns and did social media.  And I researched best practices and implemented them.  And then I decided to take more classes and learned graphic design principles and brushed up on my html skills and learned Illustrator and learned InDesign and learned how to use Photoshop to fake people into thinking I'm not colorblind and I can see colors.

And she sent me to ecommerce conferences and taught me all about email marketing and list management and segmentation and campaign planning.  And I designed a million and one emails.  And then the company changed focus and my role was more on the business development side and I worked with some large companies that sell lots of things.  And then I decided that I make a horrible salesperson because I always give my own time away for free and I paid sticker price for a used car I bought once because I didn't want to negotiate with the salesperson.  And I said I was done with business development and sales and I can only design weekly emails.

And now it's today.  And I don't know what I want to be when I grow up.  

And when I try to figure it out, my brain hurts.   And it refuses to turn off when the work day is done.  And I get mad when people are excited because the weekend is here because my brain is still working - thinking of ideas, finding improvements, planning for the next phase, making recommendations, figuring out issues.  And my brain never stops.

And right now, I think the ideal job is to pack boxes onto a UPS truck.  Because it doesn't require a lot of thinking.  But I know I would eventually tell them what is wrong with their system and offer suggestions and make improvements and then they'd ask me to manage something and re-design something and implement new policies and I'd be back where I started.

So if you've made it this far, please tell me.  What should I be when I grow up?