My current role is that of vice president of fundraising for a local non profit. That did not happen overnight. I actually used to be someone's assistant. Before that? I worked for a couple of different department stores that had uniforms that consisted of some really attractive smocks! I mean, how in the world are you supposed to dress cute as a teenage girl or young 20 something with a smock?
My resume consisted of a variety of different employers and roles over the years. All taught me something that I was able to take to the next and the next and the next. You get the picture.
I got my first job when I turned 15 at a local amusement park for the summer. It was a pretty awesome job. I actually really had a liking for customer service and interacting with people. I quickly shifted to the food service industry learning everything there was to know about how very particular people were about their food. Especially eggs! Do you even know how many different ways you can order eggs? It would honestly blow your mind.
I dappled in more retail throughout the years and had roles from customer service reps, to cashiers to an assistant store manager at the age of 17. You have to admit, that is pretty impressive for a 17 year old and possibly really crazy of the employer!
I became a mom at the age of 19. I continued with many of the above types of jobs through the first couple of years of her life. In most cases, I had to work a lot of nights and weekends. I missed a lot of goodnight routines, and dinner table chats about her day. I can honestly look back now and say that though I missed these opportunities, I wouldn’t change a thing because each of these opportunities helped me to get to where I am today.
There did come a point though when I made the shift and put my focus on going back to school and getting a job that allowed me to be with her at night and on the weekends. This is when I took my first job in a school district working as a paraprofessional. I started learning the ins and outs of this department and soon was able to move to an assistant position to the Director of Special Education for the district. I will be the first to admit, I felt like an impostor, I had zero experience to do anything like this! But I did what any impostor would do, I faked it until I made it. I became a sponge. I asked questions and learned everything I could in order to be a strong employee. I still remember the day I sent my first fax. It was a 20 something page fax that I sent through the machine backwards, so the person on the other side received 20+ blank pages. Oops. I can’t say that was the only time in the history of my life.
For many of my roles, I looked at them as an opportunity to hustle. To learn, to ask questions, to do the things that no one wanted to do. You need a conference room moved all around for your meeting? Sure! I’ve got you. Hot coffee and fresh bagels for your meeting? I’m your girl! You need to have a donation picked up, sorted and distributed? Sure! I’ve got this. The volunteers coming in to stuff envelopes for a mailing need someone to sit and guide them, I love to talk! I did it all, even when no one else wanted to.
Then the day came, the day that I knew I needed more. I applied for every job out there that I could, many of which were entry level. I was relocating and needed a job, so I was desperate. Then I saw an ad. It was for a coordinator position to a program at a nonprofit I had never heard of. It sounded interesting, but challenging. The expectations were those of the people I worked with in my previous position. I didn’t have the exact experience, but I worked with them all in their roles and had a good understanding of the importance of it all. So I did what any bold, confident person would do (just joking, I was far from bold or confident, I was scared and desperate. Let's be real here.), I applied for the job. Then the craziest thing happened. I got an interview.
When I say I did research for this interview, I mean I researched the crap out of this job! I looked at the description and had examples of how I could help to make the programs more efficient. I wanted to show them the value I could bring to their team. I then did a bunch of research on their mission and told them why I believed in the work they did and how I thought I could help spread the awareness of their mission via this role. When I say I rocked it, I really mean it.
I got the job.
I couldn't believe it! Want to talk about impostor syndrome, now I had to actually DO the job. But you know what, I did. And if I didn’t know how to do something, I researched it, went to training's or asked. I connected with experts in the community that helped mentor me (even if they didn’t know they were mentoring me). I continued to learn and grow and ask questions all along the way. I actually continued to grow within the same company and took a couple of different positions.
I recently celebrated eleven years with that company. I currently sit as their vice president of fundraising. Had you asked me eleven years ago when I clicked send on my resume if I thought I would be in the place I am today, I would have laughed at you. I would have told you that you were crazy. That I could never, or would never be a vice president. I was just a girl that worked at your local department stores in a really horrible teal blue smock.
My take away for you today? Believe that you are enough. You are capable of anything you put your mind to. If you want it, go for it. If you’re scared, DO IT SCARED. Sometimes, you might not know where you are going, but all you do know is that you are on your way. If you don’t take the first step forward, you’ll stand in the same place. Anything is honestly possible. ANYTHING.
I look back now to that young girl, standing behind that cash wrap in her teal blue smock, and I think to myself, man, that girl is so friggin’ proud of the person I am today. All the struggles, the tears, all the no’s, or you can’t do that, all the bedtime stories I missed, all of it, it was ALL WORTH IT.
Tell me, are you enough? Have you ever done something scared and afterward thought, wow, I did the thing! Even if you got a no, or maybe it didn’t work out exactly how you might have hoped, but you did it anyway, you tried right? If your younger version of yourself saw you today, would he or she be proud of you? Tell me about it. I’d love to hear.
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