Finding Your Niche
For many years I had no idea what I wanted to do when I "grew up." When I was finishing up my degrees, and people would ask me about what my post-graduation plans were, I'd frequently mumble something about my move to Toronto and hope the questions would stop there. Frankly, I had no clue what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. At thirty-something I still don't. I just know what I want to do now and hopefully this will help guide my future self into whatever my next adventure is.
Finding where you fit into this world is not an easy task. I changed jobs countless times, changed career paths and even changed who I was.
Right out of university I decided I wanted to work in the high flying world of PR and media. Realistically, I had zero idea what these jobs truly entailed. I knew I enjoyed my film and marketing classes in school and figured that might be a good jumping off point.
My very first job in Toronto was at a small tech startup. It definitely was not what you would envision a tech startup to be today. They attempted to make the company quite corporate by scheduling in 3 breaks for staff a day. When you were not a break there was a closed door policy. They discouraged us from hanging out or even conversing during working hours. If you were to compare this to the tech startups sprinkled around Toronto today, this company would flounder.
Seeing that I didn't fit in with their "corporate culture" (what little there was), I dove head first into the world of advertising and media, thinking this is what I was meant to do. I had dabbled in radio during my university years, acting as on on-air host for a few local stations and had written copy for advertising. I decided to sign up again to work in advertising hoping this was the niche I was looking for.
I can't say that I hated advertising, but it wasn't my passion. I missed being around technology and learning about things that might change the world. Advertising didn't fill that niche. Online advertising was still in its infancy during this time (Instagram had JUST been launched when I joined the firm) and we were still a few years away from true online ads. I decided that while I was at the firm I wanted to dive deeper into the online world of advertising learning about CPM's, CPC's and once again found myself back into the world of tech. Just as I was beginning to reach my stride at the firm and on-board other co-workers into the WWW of advertising, we lost a big client and I lost my job.
Looking back, being laid off was probably one of the better things that ever happened to me. I didn't realize how unhappy and unfulfilled I was in that position. I was bored, the work was mundane and I frequently found myself on university websites dreaming about an MBA. Given that my experience was mostly in media and advertising I was quickly grabbed up by a larger media company with multiple TV networks, radio stations and online assets. After a few months, they recognized that I understood innovation and tech and was transferred into the conferences department to assist in running a large innovation conference that still runs today. The conference truly opened my eyes to my passion for tech and innovation. Over my lengthy tenure there I learned a lot from the speakers as well as our innovation partners. Many of the skills that I still use in my current position I picked up on this job.
I clearly remember the day I decided to leave that job. A job that had defined who I was for many years, to the point that people would refer to me as the name of the conference and then my own name. I found however, I was getting bored. Things were not moving in the direction I wanted them to and I was no longer making an impactful change. I clearly remember turning to my closest work friend and saying ‘screw this, I’m out.’
On my final day, I actually cried leaving the building. I used to live by the PR motto if you have to cry go outside, that was popularized by a character in the Whitney Port show The City. I no longer live to that motto. I let my emotions show. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I laugh so hard my co-workers don’t want to associate with me. I no longer care to be honest. I recognized however that I was no longer learning at this job. I was punching the clock, waiting for the day to end and then rinse-repeat.
If you only take away one thing from this blog post, let this be it: always be learning. The moment you stop learning it is time to move on. Leaving may be bittersweet, but sometimes you need to look out for number one. You should never be afraid to ask your manager to move up in the organization, to take on new roles or for a mentor that will help you sharpen your skills.
I have to admit I never believed I’d end up in a position I love. I can truly say I adore what I do. I’ve never been a fan of the interview question “where do you see yourself in five years?” because frankly, I have no clue. Despite the fact that I adore my career now, I still have no idea where I will be in five years. I like not knowing where I will be in five years. Life is an adventure, and your career should be as well.