Thursday, February 24th Keynote presentation at Specific Conference
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February 4, 2023

How I CREATED a job for myself in the throes of COVID-19


Graduating from college can be very exciting, but at the same time very terrifying! If you’re like me, it’s the first time in your life that everything is up to you, and nothing is laid out in front of you. You’re used to having your parents/guardians and teachers tell you what to do and what your next step will be. To some, this new sense of independence can be freeing, but to others, it can become very overwhelming.  That’s exactly what happened to me; I became overwhelmed and scared that I wasn’t going to be successful by myself.

On top of the usual college-graduate fears, my experience graduating college was a little bit scarier than others before me. I had moved back home due to COVID- 19, into an area where there weren’t a lot of jobs in the marketing field. I knew that getting a job (or any form of experience, for that matter) was necessary for my future, but all signs were pointing to that not happening. I had applied to many internships and jobs online, but with the future of the pandemic so unknown, I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t hear back from a lot of them. Or maybe it was just that I didn’t have enough real-life experience in certain categories.

However, one day, after the stay at home orders were lifted, my friend came over. I was venting to her about how I felt like I was never going to get a job, let alone a job I actually wanted and was interested in. She proceeded to tell me that her mother, Michele Lee Sparks (the one who used to drive us to gymnastic practices when we were little) was hiring a remote Social Media Marketing Intern. I was intrigued but still thought the position only entailed managing the social media for her mom’s local vending route named, Prime Vending. I didn’t understand how or why they would want to hire someone to do social media when they couldn’t take the pictures or videos of the product. But I needed a job, and anything to put on my resume wouldn’t hurt, so I reached out to her.

Little did I know she had another, entirely different business, based out of Miami, FL. I soon learned that it’s a business that takes vending machines to the next level. I learned that Optimal Station had created an ingenious and innovative set of marketing solutions integrating vending machines. They designed full communication stations with a variety of calls-to-action that all deliver marketing ROI. I found it fascinating that they can use them to engage, gather data, share a message, entertain, and build brand awareness.

So, we had talked a little bit, but I hadn’t heard anything over a couple of days. I kept following up to see if she was still looking.  In fact, I kept in contact almost every day. And you can guess what happened next… I got the job. Persistence pays off!

Originally she had told me that she didn’t have the position written out or have any idea of what it would look like.  She told me that the fact that I continued to follow up had caught her attention and made her want to hire me and figure out the details later.  We talked again and agreed that we should create the position together and see where it led. I shared my ideas about a marketing strategy for Optimal Station. I expressed that I was willing to help design the position as a way of demonstrating my value. I was ready to put my education and everything that I had learned to the test.  After all, college teaches you the facts, but only real life teaches you how to apply them.

The real-life lessons I learned from this process are:

  1. It’s not always what you know, but whom you know.  Make sure you build your network.  If I hadn’t had that connection (and continued to foster it) with Michele’s daughter, I wouldn’t have found out about this amazing job opportunity.
  2. When all else fails, persistence prevails.  If I hadn’t been persistent and followed up with Michele, I wouldn’t have gotten to design and create my own job.
  3. Be willing to learn and challenge yourself.  If I had followed my assumptions instead of learning more, I would have not have found out about this exciting and creative experiential marketing company.  

Things are going great at Optimal Station.  I’m not only learning new things every day in the world of real-life marketing, but I’m able to contribute fresh, new ideas.  They welcome my ideas and suggestions while guiding me down the path to career success.  Now, instead of sitting home scared and uncertain about my job prospects, I’m making things happen within a supportive environment.  I encourage anyone in my situation to take a chance, reach out, be persistent, and show your value.

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