My Life Story in 1400 words or less

4 Jan

Warning: I promise that no other post will be this long!

My About page is a quick synopsis of the background of my blog, but I wanted to go into a little bit of detail for my first real post:

I’m going to begin by saying that my life, up until this past year, was relatively easy.  My high school experience could be described as “sheltered.”  I went to a small private all-girls school and loved (almost) every moment of it.  All of the graduates used to refer to the environment as a “bubble,” which is something I came to understand once I graduated, too.  Choosing the right college was also pretty easy for me.  I visited a bunch but I felt right at home at Penn State (probably because State College is also a “bubble.”)  For the first 21 years of my life, I never had to make a difficult decision because I always went by what “felt” right.

Picking a major was also a similar process for me.  While Penn State offered a multitude of majors, for some reason I felt like there were only a few options:

  1. The medical field – I hate all things blood and guts so this never would work for me
  2. Teaching – Two major cons for me: the brats and the pay
  3. Engineering – definitely don’t have the math skills for this
  4. Law – I hate confrontation
  5. Business – why not?

Back in the day I took one of those personality tests that told me what I should choose for my career.  The result?  Top Executive (CEO).  Business just felt like the right away to go.  I also did a “process of elimination” to get to my major by carefully opting out of the classes that involved anything heavy in math skills.  I ended up with Management because I felt that I could apply it to pretty much anything and it meant that I got to work with people instead of databases.

When it came time to start searching for internships, the economy hit rock bottom.  I studied abroad in Rome during the Spring semester of my junior year so I missed out on the prime time to pick up an internship.  I also may or may not have used “Study Abroad” as an excuse for not having an internship.  While the impact on my career was minimal, studying abroad was an amazing personal experience because it was the first time I stepped outside of my “bubble.”

The Career Fair in the fall of my senior year came entirely too fast for me.  I still didn’t have the slightest clue what I needed to do for my “career.”  As it turns out, choosing a major that wasn’t extremely concentrated didn’t give me a slew of opportunities like I had hoped.  It actually limited me to only a few options.  I also had very little knowledge of the job market and the types of jobs that would interest me.

I love Penn State, but I always got the feeling that nothing was personalized.  It wouldn’t really have been a big deal if I knew what to look for in a career path but it was hard to ignore the information in front of me.  After doing some research, it seemed like most Management Major career paths were lumped into three groups:  HR, Consulting, and Retail.  There were literally no HR jobs posted through Penn State’s career network, and consulting required a crap ton of traveling.

I ended up choosing retail as my “career path” because it was advertised as a great way to start out of college as a manager (one of the few places that will allow you to do that.)  I’m not going to lie, salary was also a decent draw because Store Managers make close to $100k (and they told us we could get there in 3-5 years).  I also liked the entrepreneurial side to the job – it’s like you’re owning your own business.  I actually thought that I could be really good at it.  I was offered a job in a “Manager in Training” program in a large department store and I took it because there weren’t any other options and I was too afraid to wait around for something better.

It isn’t rocket science what happened next.  My “training program” was great.  I loved the people I worked with and felt confident that I could be a successful assistant manager.  Once they saw that I was ready to be shipped out to a desperate store, they “promoted me” to Assistant Manager of Apparel and Accessories.  I was in charge of pretty much half of the store and about 15 associates ranging from part-time register workers to full-time managers.  The drawback was that I was placed in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania with no friends, no family, and a 6+hour-long distance boyfriend.  The other drawback was that the store was in the middle of a meltdown and I had just started at the end of October (dangerously close to Black Friday by retail standards).

I had already started looking at new options in December.  A friend I met during the training tried to tell me that it’s normal because it was our first year going through the process.  I felt like a failure that I was already miserable and I had barely started my career.  My close friend Katie, who was actually working in a career development center helped me get on the right path.  She gave me ideas and hope and with a lot of her help, I started a serious job search.  My friend Mallory actually sparked my movement towards leaving.  She started at a similar company with a similar position about a month or two before me.  Although her situation was a little different, she was the only person who I felt actually understood the severity of the situation.  When she made her decision to start fresh, I felt inspired to do the same.  (THANK YOU MAL)

I’m not going to get into the insanity of my first job, but I’ll just say this: It was by far the worst year of my life.  It will make any job I take in the future feel like a cake walk.  The day I turned in my keys was literally the happiest day of my life.  I actually did the thing that everyone tells you not to do: I quit before I had a job lined up.  (Okay that’s a lie, I knew of a job that was in the works, but nothing was set in stone).

With the career help of Katie and the support of all of my family and friends, I prepped for the job search.  Thanks to my long-term boyfriend, my resume got into the right hands.  It took a few months but I landed my “dream entry-level position” in Campus Recruiting.  I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t want to be doing this for the rest of my life, but I love the company I’m working for and I finally feel like I can see legitimate options for a career path.  It’s a great place to start and I’m finally happy!

So where does this blog fit in to the mix?

Now that I feel like I’m heading in the right direction, I want to work on building my brand.  I think the best way to build my brand is to become more self-aware.  After entering the working work, I realized that I have a lot of areas of opportunity that I will need to improve in order to function at a higher level.  I also would like to capitalize on areas that I feel are personal strengths and highlight them as my “selling points.”  Writing a blog is the first step to becoming more self-aware because it allows me to think outside of my head.  It also allows me to get feedback from others.

So I will now officially kick off my blog by promising that I will never make another post this long again.  (It’s just SO difficult to  write a life story in 300 words or less).

Just want to thank everyone who supported me through the craziness of last year (especially my family/Evan’s family, Evan, Christine, Cate, Mal, Katie, Callan, and Ms. GG).

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5 Responses to “My Life Story in 1400 words or less”

  1. Tina Wutzke January 4, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your journey. What a great way to make connections!

  2. Beverly Viscusi January 5, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    So glad you took the giant risk and did what you had to do. Life is always a learning process. I am just so glad that you are happy.

  3. Cate January 7, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    I’m extremely happy/proud of you and lucky to call you my best friend. Love you.

  4. Lila January 8, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    Christina! I really enjoyed reading this. I am currently in a similar situation to you a year ago where my job is really weighing on my personal life and is really just not what I had thought I would be doing or have to deal with! I am very fortunate however, to have Jack, some friends close, and live in an amazing city, but sometimes having a chaotic job can really affect the quality of your life! I came so close to stopping mid-year but knew that having at least a full year will pay off in the end. Your story and the support of my family as well helps me keep things in perspective. Thank you and I am so glad you found your happiness 🙂

    • Christina January 22, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

      Lila, it makes me so sad to hear that you are going through a tough time. I completely suck at taking risks but I have to say that the changes I made last year were completely worth it. Definitely stick it out for the one-year mark but it’s totally acceptable to move on after that. The time may seem slow now but it’ll be over sooner than you think. Stay strong!!

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