Sitting In My Empty House

Here I sit, in a house in Austell, Georgia, empty for all but a few belongings to get me through tomorrow afternoon, when I will depart for my and my husband’s new home in Clermont, Florida.

This past year — wow, it’s been quite the ride. I don’t think I have grown more as a professional than I have during the past year. I’ve had some major victories, made some big mistakes (and been forgiven for them), and I’ve done everything possible to perform at my best. I’ve learned so much about managing projects, holding clients and my team accountable, and I’ve learned a whole heap more about the marketing industry and about the industries of my agency’s clients.

And the best part… I’ve found my work family.

I can’t say enough about how much I will miss being in the office every day with my amazing team. They make every day fun, and we get through major challenges together on the reg. They understand my weird, random sense of humor — because they’re all a bit kooky in their own ways, too.

A few other things I’ll miss: Our huge backyard, and our massive garage to match. The house we’re renting in Florida leaves a little to be desired in the roominess department in both of those categories. Also, proximity to family and friends in Alabama. And the beautiful spring and fall weather. No thanks on the winter weather, though!

I’ll also miss the Southern accents, the Southern hospitality, and the regional allegiance to SEC football. Yes, the Gators may play in Florida, but let’s face it… Florida just isn’t Southern like the rest of the deep South.

A few things I won’t miss: The terrible Atlanta traffic… the seasonal allergies and yellow pollen coating cars each spring… and oh, did I mention the traffic?

I’m looking forward to putting down our roots in Florida, working toward buying a home, starting a family, and continuing down my path with my awesome employer. I can’t thank them enough for being willing to keep me on, and I’ll do my best to make sure they don’t regret it!


“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations”

This quote has been my mantra for several months now.

Let’s rewind back to what feels like a lifetime ago: August 2014, when, after just 10 weeks on the job as a contractor for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Online, I was told my contract would end in two weeks due to budget shortfalls.

I was devastated. After losing my dad to a sudden illness in January 2014, I made the decision in May to leave my steady job and take the leap as a contractor with WDPRO, signing on to 1 year with the company. Working for Disney had always been my dream. And it was a great gig, with nice people, interesting projects, and an endless supply of Coca-Cola products.

The worst part about it was that my stint was cut so, so short. I had finished training and ramping up, and was really getting to know the brands, the projects and the people involved in my work.

So, I started looking. I was anxious to find something quickly, as I bring in about 2/3 of my family’s income, and we rely on my salary to pay our monthly expenses.

I first started looking in the Orlando area, and was happy to quickly begin talks with some local companies and agencies… only to see all of those opportunities fizzle out. I spoke with my former employer, who agreed to bring me on part-time, but couldn’t commit to full-time. I gratefully accepted and continue on with them to this day as a consultant.

So, after a couple of weeks, I expanded my job search net to include Tampa, Atlanta and Birmingham. And a few phone calls and Skype video chats later, I found myself seated at a conference room table with the leadership team of the Swarm Agency in the west Midtown area of Atlanta.

We clicked. I could tell it from the get-go that this was a great team of scrappy, genuine people with a sense of humor and a desire to grow and learn together. And shortly thereafter, I received an offer to join the Swarm team as a project manager.

Fraught with anxiety, I discussed the issue with my family. I made the decision to relocate to Atlanta and take the job, not knowing what sort of job my husband would find in Atlanta. And he went along with the relocation, though not happily. And I found out later on that my husband did not feel comfortable speaking up about his true feelings — that we belong in Florida — because of the loss of my dad. He did not want to stir up trouble in my time of grief.

But trouble we encountered, when my amazing Disney chef husband could not find anything up his alley as a mid-tier chef in Atlanta. And we were homesick for Florida, more so than I ever thought I would be, having grown up in the Atlanta area. My husband was right. We belong in Florida.

So after six months on the job in Atlanta, I made the decision to share with Swarm Agency leadership that we will relocate back to Orlando this fall, to allow my husband to return to his career as a chef at Walt Disney World.

And Swarm’s response? “We love you, you’re awesome, and we still want you to work with us.”


So I can now proudly announce that as of October, I will work remotely for the Swarm Agency, traveling to Atlanta as necessary.

And I can say that more than ever, I am so happy that I made the decision to come to Atlanta. I am happy to have found a mutual match in an employer that values its employees as people, not commodities. And I am happy to continue on with Swarm, happily buzzing away from my home office.

Thank you, Swarm, for making my difficult road lead to a beautiful destination.


The Switch: My Journey from Digital Media to Digital Marketing

I posted this little missive on my Facebook account today. I think it boils down what I’m feeling quite nicely. Image

On April 3, I was laid off from my former job. And on April 22, I started a new career in digital marketing for consumer packaged goods. Talk about a quick turnaround! And I could not be more thrilled about what lies ahead.

The most interesting aspect of being laid off, and of being able to be open about job-seeking, was the questions I got from those curious about my journey. I received several messages along the lines of “I’m intrigued to see where you end up.” (And I had a lot of cheerleaders, too! You know who you are!)

And so, digital marketing is where I ended up. I don’t know if everyone really finds that intriguing, but I will say that I believe digital marketing is a great career path for digitally-savvy journalists bound to traditional media, but hungry to move beyond the focus on and subsequent constant “shipping” to traditional print and broadcast channels.

Some things I’ll be tackling: Inbound/permission marketing, digital content strategy and execution, social media strategy and execution, influencer and blogger outreach, email marketing, mobile strategies, project management, etc. etc. etc.

A few tips for those wanting to make the switch from media (or any other industry) to marketing:

1) Read, read, read! There is a bounty of books and websites devoted to digital marketing. Learn as much as you can. I’m still a novice in many regards — especially all the marketing jargon! I’m a huge fan of thought leaders Chris Brogan, Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach, Seth Godin, and Guy Kawasaki, just to name a few. I also have books from Mack Collier and Jackie Huba on my reading list.

2) Network, network, network! Attend local meetings of the Social Media Club or other marketing-focused groups in your area. Reach out to professionals you admire in your town and ask for 30 minutes of their time over coffee or lunch. I’ve had several chats over the past year or so with folks here in the Orlando area who I (wrongly) assumed might not even give me the time of day! And I’ve had others reach out to me in turn. Give some, take some!

3) Sign up with talent agencies. I hooked up with Aquent and Vitamin T a little more than a year ago. It took some time, but my second interview through Aquent worked out with my current placement, made through their Vitamin T network. Did I mention that Aquent also placed a former report of mine in a position in New York City? They’re the real deal! Digital talent agencies like this are a great way to jumpstart the job hunt while still employed.

4) Brand yo’self! As a journalist, your skill-set may be reporting, editing and/or photography — but it’s all relevant. Beyond those skills, think about the digital skills you’ve learned and make sure they’re prominent on your LinkedIn profile. Don’t have a LinkedIn page? Then you’re probably not a fit for digital marketing — at least, not yet.

I’m excited to see where my future is headed. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, I may be changing the world soon enough!


Putting it all in Perspective

breast-cancer-ribbonI recently wrote about the great outcome of my husband’s employment journey, but I neglected to mention that I’m currently undergoing one of my own.

Laid off from work. Yep, that’s me. A few weeks of severance, then I’ll begin navigating the world of unemployment. It happened just last week. I was going about my day, then — BAM. It was all over, as the brands I worked with were absorbed into other groups. Such is the plight of the publishing industry.

Feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger. Then — freedom, hope and confidence. Even a tad bit of exhilaration. I think I’ll be coming out the other end of the tunnel soon, and making the transition I’ve craved — from online media to digital marketing and social media.

Still grappling with these feelings, I woke up last night, and during this little bout of insomnia — being the social media addict that I am — I began scrolling though my Instagram feed.

And then I gasped.

A blogger friend, and sorority sister from another college, had been diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant, at age 29. I reeled, and suddenly my problems seemed so, so small.

Kirsten is chronicling her journey at her blog, A Bump and a Lump. I urge you to check it out and leave encouraging messages and prayers for her and her family.  Because at the end of the day, despite whatever problems our careers are throwing at us, what’s most important is faith, health and family.