How did I so definitively decided to become a social media expert? Basically, it comes down to the fact that I spent many years being very indecisive about many things. Trying my hand at a number of a different games, if you will.
As I work in writing short copy day in and day out, I want to take this as an opportunity to give you the more detailed version of my story.
I majored in journalism at Northeastern University. I wanted to be a writer, well, a journalist. More specifically, I wanted to be a war correspondent. The problem I always ran into with journalism was my passion and my strong opinions. There was no room for that in ethical journalism. I couldn't control my emotions correctly when trying to write.
Through out my college career I spent my free time creatively writing for no other purpose other than I liked to do it. I like to stimulate my brain. I thrived on coming up with a good descriptive sentence. I loved to plug in my headphones, close my eyes, and tap my foot and the keyboard keys of my old iBook. It made me feel more alive. I laughed out loud at my copy. It was for no other person but myself. It was mine and it made me feel good, I owned it.
It never occurred to me that I could take the buzz that using the creative side of my brain gave me to work. That I could make a career out of it. I thought it was the writing I loved and it was, but more than that it was the creativity.
However, I continued to look for that buzz that creatively writing in my room gave me in various writing and public relation internships.
My most cherished “co-op,” as we called our integrated internships at NU, was at the Boston Metro. I excelled at my intern position taking on more hours for my editor and eventually becoming hired to be a freelance writer with a young entrepreneur beat.
However, that too conflicted with my creativity in certain ways. While I was able to come up with my own story pitches, I struggled with what I had learned the "real world" of journalism to be.
It was, in fact, a business and thinking back to the early days of journalism, I guess it always has been a business. It has always been what sells the papers. This greatly conflicted with what my beliefs and ideas were for writing and the journalism industry in general. I wanted to tell the truth. The important truth. Not cover the car show at the Seaport because they bought a huge back page advertisement.
Eventually there was a falling out at the Metro. I never got the details but I imagine my editor got so fed up with the advertising department that their disagreements were finally won by the business side of the paper.
While struggling to get my ideal writing career going, I also worked in the restaurant industry throughout college. For those of you who have done this you know that the restaurant industry is a very slippery slope for a young adult. It’s fun work, most of the time, and it’s good money.
Cash is king.
It is an instant group of friends and people to share your grievances with and party with at rare hours of the week and day. For a socialite like myself it was an even uglier recipe for disaster.
I loved socializing with people. I am really good at it. My tips proved that. The more friendly and accommodating I was, the more money I made. As the epitome of a multi-tasker, my managers also felt I could handle a large amount of customers. Which was a perfect equation for more tables and ultimately more cash. The more cash I made the more I loved doing it.
I loved the restaurant industry, or so I thought. I left college in Boston and my quest to be noble journalist and moved to Portland, a known foodie mecca and home to great friends and family. I had a plan. I was going to learn all I could by working at one of the popular Portland restaurants and then would set out to create a restaurant of my own.
First, I was going to accomplish a dream I’d had since my early days of journalism. While I wasn't going to be the war correspondent I once longed to be, I was going to write in Africa. I went to South Africa for a month to be an intern for a small non profit organizations’ publication in Cape Town. Best. Experience. Of my life. Culture, diversity, nightlife, adventure, outdoor activities, beaches, French men who loved to take me dancing; it was a whirlwind month that left me back in Portland completely spent.
I guess you could say this was where the path I was on started to change.
It took me months to fully process the experience of Cape Town but it left me jumbled and questioning, and for that, I’ll be forever indebted to the beauty of the culture of South Africa.
I got back from S. Africa ready to start on the path to owning my own restaurant. Enter Petite Jacqueline, a James Beard, "Best New Restaurant" nominated French Bistro. I got a job through my best friend and my roommate who worked at their sister restaurant. They hadn't opened yet and were hiring. I needed to start paying off my credit card debt from my travels ASAP and the owners had/have great restaurant industry cred.
The Bistro became an immediate hit in Portland and after working in the high paced intense velocity of the restaurant world in Boston, working in a small bistro in Portland came easily to me and I excelled.
After my first summer at the Bistro, I was promoted to assistant manager. I was on the right track to owning a restaurant. I would be the assistant manager, learn the ropes for a few years and then, boom, I’d be ready to open a restaurant of my own. My best friend and I talked about it constantly. Usually after long hours of work on the back porch over a bottle of French rose.
However, I started getting easily agitated at work. I didn't like having to manage people's attitudes and walk on egg shells in the back of the house when one of the guys on the line wasn't in a good mood.
Is this REALLY what I wanted? To manage people? To not pay them enough so that they were always grumpy?
I woke up one day and asked myself, how did I get here? How did I come from having one of the best experiences of my life (a.k.a. South Africa) to waking up every day DREADING and counting down the seconds until I had to go to work. I was coming home night after night and ranting about the hardships and my feelings of lack of self worth.
I think I felt the bar had already been reached. What were the goals I was supposed to be reaching for in the day to day now? There was no sense of accomplishment. Where was I really going? Did I REALLY want to own a business that would ultimately leave me working like a dog for money that I would never have time to spend?
I asked myself these questions continuously and spent some serious time thinking about what I wanted out of a job.
More than anything I wanted a sense of achievement. I wanted to feel pushed. I wanted to learn. I wanted to be going somewhere. I wanted to be creative. I wanted new experience. I wanted to go to bed at night exhausted and satisfied that my brain was working to the best of its ability every day.
The one place in which I was given some creative freedom at my time at the Bistro was doing the social media management and the public relations work. I loved it! I would spend most of my managing hours before service working on it.
Bingo. Public relations. I thought I could dabble a little in PR while trying to do some freelance feature writing on the side.
The story ideas I wanted to see published were greatly in association with the people the stories were going to be about. Which is why the idea of being in public relations appealed so largely to me. I cared about people and wanted their stories to be shared.
I decided I’d give it a go. I networked my butt off trying to meet with all the public relations groups in town- to no avail.
As a young adult with very little experience and no concrete concept of what exactly I wanted and could deliver, the small PR firms of Portland had no use for me. I don’t blame them.
I was very discouraged at times, but I didn't stop. I kept writing on my blog every day letting the creative juices flow and sent pitch after pitch to different publications, locally and nationally.
My life became increasingly more difficult as I attempted to harness all my energy and focus on to what I wanted and how I was going to get it. I told the owner of the Bistro that I didn't want to be an assistant manager any more. I wanted to focus on writing and PR.
It was a huge relief. I would soon have so much more of my day back. To write, to network, etc. etc.
My social life went down the drain. I woke up early, went running and then spent the day writing- blog posts, emails, pitches whatever I could. While I didn't know exactly what I wanted yet I knew I was on the right track. After a day of writing and meetings, I would go to work bar tending all night. My friends were not so patient with me at first when I continuously claimed I was too tired to go out after work.
It was a complete one-eighty. From the girl who was the first to buy her co-worker an after work drink to the girl who wanted to go home and read white papers from Carl White and books by Perry Marshall. It was not an easy adjustment! Focusing on myself did not come naturally to me, but focusing on the world of social media and communications did.
It didn't take long for my hard work to start paying off. My writing started to become recognized and I also picked up my first PR client- which presented the perfect opportunity for me to be able to experiment in mastering different techniques of marketing and communications.
A short while after, I picked up another client. They wanted my assistance namely with their social media accounts. I was now working with several different clients, with a large focus on social media accounts.
The experiences I had with my first clients were invaluable- both for myself and for my clients. I learned what worked and what didn't work.
Unfortunately, the realm of social media management for small businesses is still a very small market here in Portland. I have always wanted to live in California and San Francisco, a city full of young start-ups where the importance of social media is fully realized, seemed like the appropriate place for me to grow.
I now know my niche. That thing I desired most, the need to raise the bar higher, to accomplish and achieve more seems to never cease in the world of social media. Furthermore, I’m happy to be in a place that fully capitalizes on my creative writing ability. The learning never stops and neither does the creative buzz. For me, working in social media provides the perfect combination of pushing the limits and achieving success.