The places you’ll go with “yes, and…”
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The places you’ll go with “yes, and…”

The power of knowing yourself, pushing your limits, and being OK with the not-so-shiny patches of your career.

The places you’ll go with “yes, and…”

This is a response to 8 Things To Keep In Mind As You Navigate Your First Job Offer.

There’s a short but mighty phrase in improv that drives everything– “yes, and.” This phrase is largely how I’ve navigated my career thus far. I work hard, opportunities arise, and I say “yes.”

For background, I’ve been working various jobs consistently since I was around 13. It started with the usual neighborhood pet/plant/house-sitting that was available within a bike-able radius from my house. That then led to coaching a local swim team for 6 years, lifeguarding, university jobs in various disciplines and departments, to working three positions with a jewelry company (which catapulted the vision for what I believed possible in my career), to working for a brief stint at an educational non-profit.

There is something that I learned at each of these jobs that I carried with me to the next position. So while there are numerous factors to consider when making a commitment to your first salaried role (or any role for that matter), keep in mind that even a “wrong fit” can provide invaluable lessons.

After my internship in Summer 2022 as a Copywriter for the jewelry company, I knew I wanted to be creative in my career, but also work for an organization that made a strong commitment to helping others. However, my love and need for that latter qualification for a company started to overwrite my innate love of creativity. When the company went on a hiring freeze about a month before the end of my internship, I started to plan for taking a break and working on personal projects that would allow me to showcase my creativity.

But in keeping with the unpredictability of life, on my last day of the internship, the HR department offered me a contract role.

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute, HR is just about the polar opposite from the world of creativity you love Mia!” and to that I would have to say I agree. But my love of the company’s commitment to philanthropy excited me enough to say yes and go for it.

And I’m glad I did.

While I won’t be pursuing a career in HR anytime in the near future, I met the most amazing people who I was fortunate enough to call colleagues for a period of time. I learned life skills and made lasting connections that I’ll keep with me always. And most importantly, I got out of my comfort zone with what I thought a job would look like for me and learned first-hand what I do and don’t want in my career.

For instance, I am not a good 9-5 desk person. I think I’ve always intuitively known this, but it took getting a 9-5 desk job to realize I need to have some variability to my day. I want to stress that while I may have had an inkling to this suspicion before actually working a desk job, I wouldn’t have KNOWN for sure. Failure and knowing what you don’t want are just as formative experiences as success and finding your passion.

Oftentimes, if you think too much about the “perfect first whatever” and what that entails, you’ll miss lessons, mentors, and opportunities along the way that will inevitably lead to what is “perfect” for you.

Back to my time in HR.

I attended a lunch-and-learn one day that featured a representative from an educational nonprofit. My colleagues knew I was looking for a change, and really hyped me up to the speaker. Turns out, the organization had multiple positions they were hiring for and after my enthusiastic colleagues paraded my resume around like a prized pig, the nonprofit was extremely interested in getting in touch.

Flash forward two months and I would be starting my first full-time, salaried role with that very same nonprofit.

Unfortunately, my desire to work with an organization that helped others and made a difference in the world again outweighed my need to work creatively and I accepted a position as a manager on the nonprofit’s outreach team. While the colleagues I met there were wonderful and driven people doing hard work to support an incredible mission, I was miserable sitting at my desk in my home office looking at spreadsheets, sending emails, and making calls all day.

Again, I was learning that I not only needed to work for an organization with strong commitments to social causes, but one that would allow me to exercise my creative muscles.

In both of these experiences, I learned what doesn’t work for me.

It may seem that I jumped on the first offers that came my way, and for a while, I thought the same thing. But looking back and getting a little introspective, I realize that saying yes to those opportunities was the best thing I could’ve done in my early career.

The career experiences I’ve had over the past year have enabled me to think about what I truly want in life. I now feel empowered and ready to make a move across the country that I’ve known in my heart for a long time is my next step.

So, Dear Reader, if there is one nugget of knowledge you take away from reading this today, I hope it is this. That while saying “yes” and running with the opportunities you find may not land you your dream job in your dream industry with your dream company immediately, it might just lead you to the realizations you need to make to get there.

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