The second I was out of sight and earshot of Bri and her assistant, Sarah, I let out the tears that had been welling up in my eyes during the interview. I exited the front doors of Co:Lab, the office building that housed Social ICON, sure that I wouldn’t be invited back.
After landing the interview the previous week, I spent virtually all of my free time preparing for it. In the first sentence of my cover letter, I wrote, “Since moving to Pensacola in June, shortly after graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, I have not come across a job listing that has excited me as much as the Social Media Manager position with Social ICON.” I was convinced that I had found the listing for my dream job.
I reached my car, now in the midst of a full-on, snotty breakdown and called my dad. “I blew it,” I said while sobbing. “I’m going to be stuck working in retail forever,” I said.
Although I was still excited about everything I knew about Social ICON, I had psyched myself out during the interview. All of the pretty, detailed answers I had rehearsed beforehand fell to the wayside, and instead, word vomit spilled out. I wanted the job so bad that I let my anxiety get the best of me.
I sat in the parking lot of Co:Lab while my dad did his best to cheer me up. After we ended the call, I wiped my face, traded my nicest blazer for my plain work vest and headed to work my shift at the Pensacola location of a national retailer.
When I first moved to Pensacola and accepted the position as Department Manager at the retail store, I was sure I would only hold this job title for a few weeks until I was able to secure a real, big-girl job. Flash-forward eight months, and I was still taking inventory, stocking shelves and being micromanaged by a boss who didn’t respect or appreciate me or any of her employees, counting down the minutes until each shift was over.
I had been warned about the painstaking process of the post-grad job hunt, yet I still wasn’t fully prepared. Having worked a variety of jobs through high school and college, including internships doing event planning, copywriting and digital marketing for an arts district and a talent agency, I was sure I would be able to find something I actually enjoyed doing for a living. When I wasn’t working at the store, I spent my time searching and applying for positions ranging from everything from Entry Level Administrative Assistant to Art Gallery Attendant and Doggy Daycare Employee— I was sure I qualified for and was capable of. And for eight months, I had no luck.
Living in a city halfway across the country from my family and most of my friends, with virtually no professional connections and a retail job I despised, I questioned the value of the years I spent working toward a degree. I questioned my decision to move away from Oklahoma—a place I had always sworn I would leave. Even worse, I questioned the value of myself as an employee.
That afternoon, while I was on my strict fifteen-minute break at the store, I got a call from an unknown number. “We’d love to welcome you onto the team!”
It was Bri. I put in my two weeks resignation notice at the store and never looked back.
I entered the doors of Co:Lab, this time for my first day on the job. That morning, our team had a preliminary meeting with a representative from Pensacola’s chapter of the Community Action Agency – a national nonprofit organization whose mission I stood behind and had even organized a fundraiser for in college. Then, I was tasked with my first copywriting assignment for another client: a blog about meditation – a practice I had begun reaping the benefits of within the previous six months.
When lunchtime rolled around, Bri took advantage of her first opportunity to push me out of my comfort zone. She informed the team that we would be attending Monday Movement, a freestyle dance session held by life coach, Angela Forth. I agreed with a smile, but inside… I. Was. Terrified.
Ever since I could remember, I had been teased about my lack of rhythm and my two left feet. There I was, on my first day at my new job, worried about impressing my boss and my coworkers, being forced to do something I perceived as humiliating. But I had nowhere to hide. The room was covered in wall-to-wall mirrors and Bri set up a Facebook Live video. For the first few minutes of the dance sesh, I felt awkward… to say the least (pictured above).
However, I eventually had a lot of fun and realized that I was truly in a no-judgement zone. Afterwards, Angela asked us to gather in a circle to discuss our experience. An intuitive Life Coach #BorderlinePsychic, she told us that she was pulling energy from the group that made her think of one word: Isolation. This opened the floor for us to talk openly.
For me, living so far away from my support system and having just left a work environment that treated me like a cog in a machine, I could easily relate to the word. Then, Bri made a comment about how she had chosen me out of a pool of over 100 applicants. All at once, I realized just how perfectly Social ICON and I fit each other, and I was appreciative of all the job applications that were rejected and the interviews that didn’t work out. I knew that if I had accepted another position, I wouldn’t have been where I was supposed to be, with a new kind of support system.
Since that Monday, Social ICON has given me the opportunity to engage in more projects right up my alley, like blogging for Community Action and writing profile articles on local artists. It has also given me the opportunity to engage in experiences I never thought I would have at this stage in my career, like coordinating and managing swanky, large-scale events and conferences. It has continually pushed me far outside of my comfort zone, like doing a public speaking engagement for a sports camp.
Writing this blog post was out of my comfort zone. As Social ICON’s copywriter, I am used to writing impersonal blogs for our clients, not about myself. It was a challenge—just like my interview and that first day on the dance floor—but now that it’s accomplished, I feel as though I have reached a new level of growth. For those looking to remove themselves from a toxic work environment, seek new opportunities that are outside of your comfort zone. You may surprise yourself and land the job of your dreams.