As I removed my old St. Mary’s College business cards from my wallet to make room for my sexy new Social ICON cards, I was hit with a weird realization - In the three months of working here, I have gained more professional connections in Pensacola than I had during the six years I had worked in Maryland.
Flashback to my senior year of college. I remember sitting in the Career Development Center, listening to a counselor preach about how important it is to build a network, maintain connections and be active on LinkedIn. I thought, “What a waste of time. Most of this is just common sense.”
Flashforward to my second year post-grad. I was working as the Assistant Director of Admission for Digital Media for St. Mary’s College of Maryland. It was a perfect first job that taught me more about business, marketing and communication within the first three months than I had learned in my entire college career. But I found myself feeling stagnant in my position. I was at a point where I felt I wasn’t growing anymore and I had exhausted the resources at hand. Being a smaller college, we didn’t have enough personnel with the time and knowledge to create strategic campaigns that included social media. My bosses just wanted to make sure something was getting posted to our social media channels and then have me focus on other responsibilities tied to my position. I knew there was so much more I could be doing in this field and I felt that I couldn’t get the support I needed to go deeper.
As I was toying with the idea of making a career move, the perfect opportunity for a change arose. My boyfriend, a 1st Lt. in the USMC, was stationed in Pensacola, FL and we decided to move in together.
For the first time, I found myself in the throes of a job search. My previous positions had been referral-based and had relatively painless interview processes - something I had taken for granted. I didn’t know anyone in Pensacola- or anyone who had once been in Pensacola, for that matter- and I hadn’t formed any relationships in my field outside of Higher Education. I thought back to that Career Development Center meeting and I realized the counselor was right - having connections to refer you to positions is really helpful.
I spent a ton of time applying to jobs on Indeed, Zip Recuiter, Google Jobs and any other online listings I could find, and the only thing this yielded was an inbox full of spam and calls back from ad sales and positions that seemed like pyramid schemes.
I needed to find a way into the Pensacola marketing world, and I needed some facetime with someone who was connected. I began searching “marketing agencies in pensacola” on Google. I visited each website and social account that came up, then followed and connected with every person who had positions I wanted. I liked, commented and direct messaged these people - and their bosses - trying to find an in.
Much to my surprise, this actually worked! I ended up with a couple connections in the Pensacola marketing scene. Then, I messaged Bri specifically in reference to a LinkedIn post she had made about the responsibility a boss has to support and encourage their employees growth.
I am currently relocating to the Pensacola area and I've been doing some research on marketing firms that could potentially be hiring. I came across your website for Social ICON and read your page "Next Moves". I found it totally inspiring and just wanted to reach out and let you know how much I appreciate your words and advice. As a young professional, I can completely relate to the experience your new employee went through and its refreshing to hear someone say that type of behavior on the part of employers is not okay. I feel like it’s often written off as instilling professional behavior or values into young employees.
Also your advice on leveraging LinkedIn...super helpful, but more importantly it was original and specific. I'm totally going to be taking it to heart.
Anyway, you deserved the kudos so I thought I'd give them- Thanks!
She responded almost immediately and we got to chatting about why I wanted to make a move.
We actually ended up chatting for a good amount of time. Then one thing led to another and although she had nothing listed, Bri was looking for a project manager that could help her stay organized and on task as she worked to bring on more clients.
After a couple FaceTime calls, she asked me if I’d be willing to come down to Pensacola and work with her and her team for a week. I was so surprised at how quickly everything was moving after almost a month of no success.
Heading into my first day, I met Bri and the team at Co:Lab and immediately felt comfortable. My current office at St. Mary’s was a stark contrast to Bri’s. St. Mary’s was uncomfortable business professional attire every day, had a strict hierarchy and made me feel like I had to adapt a new personality and demeanor to fit the corporate standards. Social ICON was colorful, and Bri and the team obviously worked hard and were very professional, but they maintained a certain level of fun and camaraderie while doing so- a flair, if you will. I felt like I was in a space where I could be creative, laugh, work hard and learn a ton. It was invigorating.
At the end of an awesome week, I accepted Bri’s offer and frantically started trying to figure out how I was going to move to Florida in just two weeks. I couldn't believe that this all started with a LinkedIn message.
I had finally experienced this networking thing that everyone keeps saying is so important and so beneficial. However, I still hadn’t fully grasped how crucial the role your network can play in your career, beyond just helping with a job search.
My first week with Social ICON was filled with networking. We helped organize an event for Autism Pensacola, held several meetings with potential clients, went on coffee dates with key people around town and had chats with anyone and everyone that we ran into. I was almost taken aback at how much of Bri’s business benefited from her connections. From the Autism Pensacola event alone, I had scheduled three more coffee dates to discuss work opportunities on Bri’s calendar.
Part of the reason I decided to make a career move was to start learning again, and Bri has been giving me a masterclass not only in marketing strategy, but in how to create and leverage your network. She has gotten me involved in various committees that allow me to work alongside awesome people from all parts of the industry. We actively attend networking events around town and we became the title sponsor for a women in business conference. Bri recognizes that there is always something that can be learned or gained from a new relationship and focuses on creating as many as possible while looping me and Lindsey in and encouraging us to make our own relationships, as well. These are skill sets that I admire and will surely strengthen because I know I will have more than enough opportunities to practice while I’m with Social ICON.