I always knew I wanted to travel as part of my job, although originally I had been aiming for international travel. The reason behind this was that I wanted to meet interesting new people, learn about new cultures, and explore new places. I recently realized I am basically living my travel dream, if mostly domestically. I’ve visited 7 new cities this year in my current role which maybe doesn’t sound like a lot but feels so satisfying. I got to meet interesting new people through different conferences (some were even international hello Canada!). I got to learn about new cultures in cities like Birmingham and Nashville (three hours away from each other but the most different takes on southern culture). And I got to explore new places like Washington D.C. (if only just for a day – what an incredible city!).
I am literally so grateful for a position that allows me to travel and explore and better myself through adventures like this. I was nervous originally when they decided to include me on more conferences – networking is HARD. But when I mentioned this to my dad, his only response was “I don’t think you need to be told how perfect this is for you – you love connecting with people.” And he was right. I love making people happy and learning about others’ lives. Seeing how we can work together becomes an afterthought when you are genuinely getting to know people.
If you’ve ever been to a conference – or camp for that matter – you understand the feeling of getting to know someone else in a short period of time and truly feeling a real bond. One conference this year took place in Palm Springs. Not a bad place to be sent for work. I just remember night 3 leaving the networking event with my boss and 8 of our new closest friends, ending up at a tiki bar and detailing our perfect days to perfect strangers. What an incredible experience to get to know someone so well in just three days, to the point where you can describe their ideal day.
Or also do we all remember that time 3 years ago when my coworker met her now HUSBAND at a conference? Talk about making a good first impression – conference connections are basically magical.
I honestly think these friendships happen so fast because we all have the same insecurities. Person A and Person B walk into the same room alone and they are both just trying to find someone that they can hold a conversation with – a TWO sided conversation that does NOT center around sales. That’s it! Easy! You have something in common with everyone on this earth – I don’t care if it’s hating cold weather or your crying newborn or your love of the outdoors, you just have to find that commonality and it’s smooth sailing from there.
***can we pause for a quick flashback – remember when I studied abroad and on my first day my host mom and I went to get ice cream and I accidentally agreed with her that I hated dogs, debatably my favorite creatures on the planet. if i had to network in spanish i would definitely blow it, end up agreeing with someone that malls suck and books are boring. much easier finding something in common with someone when you understand what they are saying ugh***
I could talk to a freaking shoe (if we spoke the same language) and make it work, my dad was absolutely right that conferences are where I belong right now. Of course, there will always be those draining conversations as well. Like the man that looked like death incarnate who approached our booth in Orlando to discuss contracts and systems long after I assured him I was not the right contact for this. I think I died myself talking to him that day. When the eyes start to glaze over, friends, please take that as a strong hint the conversation should be wrapping up asap. But you take the good with the bad and at the end of the day it is so rewarding to feel like you’ve made a difference in the way someone views your product, your brand, or your company. Just by being you. How incredible is that.
I think my point in writing this is that if you’re in a role right now where you feel underutilized or you feel your true talents aren’t being noticed – you’ve gotta GO FOR IT. You’re wasting time each day you show up at a job you don’t love. Life is SO short, why on earth would you spend it hating your position, your boss, your coworkers… I can’t grasp that. Although in all fairness I found my company by complete accident and it just so happened they’re my people, but I totally believe that your people are out there too somewhere. And your people will recognize you for who you are and what you bring to the table. If you’re SUPER lucky, your people will work with you to improve your natural talents and steer you towards a career path that makes sense for you. My dreams included travel but your dreams are probably different – whatever they are, make it happen for yourself.