In a world of Mark Zuckerberg's and "overnight" startups getting bought up for millions, it's hard to perceive that success sometimes takes time. For many people my age or just graduating from school, it's hard to remember that we have to start small. I remember when I graduated college (which honestly wasn't that long ago), I was jaded about my abilities in marketing. Working at Imagewest my senior year had helped me learn a LOT and my professors at Western Kentucky were incredibly forward thinking. However, I hadn't really proven myself in an office environment. I envisioned myself standing up in front of people, being Don Draper-like, pitching new business and changing the world on day one.
Was it a bad mentality? Not completely. Having that extra boost of confidence helped me in that first set of interviews after moving to Chicago from Kentucky. However, I was in for a bit of a wake up call.
Opportunity Where You Least Expect It
When I moved up to Chicago, I had a picture of my first day at work downtown, with a great view of the skyline and having lunches in Grant Park on a daily basis with a sweet apartment in the city. However, things were a little different. I shared a one bedroom in Lakeview with a buddy of mine from school, sleeping in a bunk bed to save space and money. Work-wise, I was working as marketing coordinator on the south-side of the city at Hinda Incentives, a company neither I nor any of my family had heard of, in a building whose only view was of the train tracks next door.
I actually almost didn't go to the interview after scoping out the building the day before. True story. I learned then that you can't judge a book by its cover. My first few weeks at Hinda consisted mainly of stuffing envelopes, organizing usernames for an internal database, and learning exactly what Hinda Incentives did as a company. It appeared like a waste of my self-perceived talent but ended up being a trial run for bigger things.
Doing those small tasks that seemed mundane in my eyes helped build confidence in the eyes of my bosses at Hinda. My ability to do the small things well led them to believe I could take on more intensive work. Over time, I was able to take on bigger tasks, go out on cool business trips all over the country, write articles for a few trade journals and build a lot of cool relationships that I will take with me throughout my whole career. What looked like nothing more than an obscure building in a slightly sketchy neighborhood on the south side of Chicago ended up being a well of great opportunity.
If You Can't Do a Little Well, You Have No Business Trying a Lot
Even when I started working at Engauge, I was a little jaded about my ability. After all, I was the resident expert on all things digital at Hinda, I was going to take this next agency by storm. However, working with the DIG team at Engauge was a quickly humbling experience. Everybody on that team KNOWS their stuff better than any collective group of people I know.
I didn't start off at Engauge going on trips and pitching business. Most of my job involved just cranking out client social content calendars for a couple of months. However, as myself and all of my teammates did a great job driving engagement with our content, we were given more opportunity to lead strategy for our clients.
Plus, I now work in a sweet office space with a view. That has to count for something right?
The one thing I've learned, you can't pass up an opportunity. If you're on the job hunt now, what comes your way may not be what you had built up in your mind as perfect. However, any opportunity can be as fruitful as you make it. It can be disguised as a warehouse-like building in a sketch neighborhood like me, or come in some other form. We all want our dream jobs but in an economy like this, sometimes taking the less-than-ideal thing that 'pays the bills' can lead to something bigger that you never saw coming.
Where have you seen hidden opportunity?