How I Left Corporate America at 26 to do What I Love

I've been fantasizing about the day I'd get to write this post for a long time.  It's official: a new chapter of my career has begun.

For those who don't know my story, I have a finance degree.  I got a finance degree because I wanted to have "job security, even in a bad economy," I felt I needed a degree which gave me "a trade," and I wanted to "always be able to support myself and my family."  Not sure why I felt Finance was the only way to achieve these things, but regardless, that was the lame advice floating all around me and I took it as truth.

The funny part is that, until high school, I hated math.  In addition, I've never been Ms. Serious nor am I one to do well with lots of policies & procedures.  Getting too caught up in details drives me a bit nuts and I'm from a very entrepreneurial family in which small business was praised and "big corporate america" wasn't.

It seems pretty obvious looking back that majoring in Finance was an odd choice for me.  But I was hell bent on achieving the "status" of a finance degree and overcoming the challenges that came with it.

So I did it, knowing deep down it wasn't for me.  Then I proceeded to get great internships in finance/banking and work in the industry for almost 5 years after college graduation.

It's funny how things shift after graduating college.  Your first jobs are never quite as you imagined them, and often times you feel a sense of disappointment.  In addition, life throws you lots of curve balls: big bills (is that considered a curve ball?), failed relationships, changing friendships and most importantly finding out who you are.

Thankfully, the right side of my brain thirsted for some creative, after-work stimulation. So I started MsCareerGirl.com in November of 2008, which opened up a whole new world to me that I didn't know existed: twitter, social media, online marketing, making money online, the power of brand building via the internet etc. You don't learn about that stuff in Finance.

Little by little I learned more about how the technology works, I reached out to meet people from the blogosphere that were way more brilliant than me, I read books on the subject, and I attended lots of events and conferences. About a year in, I established the fact that if I am devouring marketing books and meeting new people for coffee every week to pick their brain and learn about the subject, I probably love this stuff. And hey- maybe I'd even be good at it.

So I took some internet marketing courses through the University of San Francisco which definitely took me to the next level in actually putting this passion to use in a career.  After I finished my second class in 2010, I got a message on LinkedIn from some guy who liked my blog.

I noticed he had been a partner/founder in 3 small companies here in Chicago- all of which I had worked with and loved.  We decided to meet for coffee to talk about blogging, social media and our Chicago network.  He ended our coffee conversation saying, "I just don't see you in finance at a huge company. One of these days I'm going to find a way for us to work together Ms. Career Girl."

Almost a year later I got a phone call from him saying "I think I found a way for us to work together.  Let's put something on the calendar."  So the four months of conversations began.  He was now the CEO of  my favorite Chicago-based Daily Deals site YouSwoop.com and he was looking for someone with just the right personality, Chicago network and skill set to help grow the company.

Yesterday was my first day as You Swoop's Community Marketing Manager.  It's crazy how things work out.

Then again it's not.

For the last 2+ years, I had put all of my focus, extra time and energy into learning everything I could about the online world.  I often times worked on my blog (and even developed a second site) before and after my day job.  I accepted every speaking engagement I was offered, never being paid for a gig once. I worked with lots of small businesses for free- giving them advice, plans and suggesting ways for them to improve their business.

I'm a big believer that your thoughts become your reality. But for those who think sitting and wishing upon a star will make their dreams come true, you are wrong.  Thoughts must be turned into ACTIONS which then become your reality. And they don't become your reality over night.  For those of you who have a gnawing feeling that you might be on the wrong career path, do something about it.  Just do what you are naturally pulled towards doing.  And, as Stephen Covey says, begin with the end in mind.

This is chapter one of a whole new story for me.  What do you want your new story to look like?  What are you doing to get there?  What do you love doing?  Why aren't you doing it? If you look at your life in 5 years, do you want to be doing what you are doing today?  What would change if you didn't do anything?  Not sure what you want to do?  Are you testing an idea every week?  The more failures the better.

I'll keep you posted as my story develops.  Thanks so much for reading MsCareerGirl over the past few years. Without you guys I wouldn't have had the confidence to keep learning and growing into my passion which ultimately became my new career path.

Nicole Crimaldi