Home Self Life After College 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

Author
Nicole Emerick founded Ms. Career Girl in 2008 to help other ambitious young professional women find and thrive in a career they love. Ironically, growing MsCareerGirl helped Nicole transition her own career from commercial banker to digital marketer. Today Nicole leads the social media practice at a digital agency in Chicago. In addition, she is an adjunct professor at DePaul University where she helps develop the careers of PR, Advertising and Communications students. Tweet with Nicole @_NicoleEmerick.
63 replies to this post
  1. Congrats Nicole! Always happy to see people leaving the corporate grind to pursue fun adventures!

    Would love to grab coffee sometime and hear about this new chapter. :)

  2. I’ve been fantasizing about reading this post for a long time. It’s been a long time coming but I never at all had a doubt that it would be here and that you’d, sooner than later, be doing something that fulfilled you both personally and professionally. Michael clearly knows what he is doing at YouSwoop with the folks he has brought on board and you without a doubt will make an invaluable contribution.

    It’s amazing to see how far things have come over the past couple years of knowing each other and that first night we met at Caribou in Glenview – I won’t say we were totally different people, but we’ve definitely come a long, long way.

    Here’s to the next chapter! Congratulations again!

  3. Woot Woot!!! Congratulations Nicole….Kudos to you for knowing that you wanted more and going after it…thanks for being such an inspiration to all career seekers out there. Can’t wait to learn about your new adventure…sounds like the perfect fit!

  4. Congratulations, Nicole! Although we have never met in person, I always kind of thought the same thing about you being in finance—this is a perfect fit for you now! Next time I am in Chicago, I’d like to take YOU to coffee!

    Best of luck with this new venture. Can’t wait to hear more! :)

  5. Right on Nicole. So glad to see you doing this. AS far as the finance degree, I got an economics degree and kind of feel the same way about the whole thing. I think you’re headed for some great things and really excited to see where all of this will lead you.

  6. Congratulations Nicole! So much of what you wrote rings true with me… it’s great motivation to keep up with my blog and encouragement to expand my network even further. Best of luck and I wish you the best! :)

  7. Wow, what perfect timing for me to read this!

    I’m 26 and leaving the corporate world this week! My story echos yours so much… except that I don’t have a new job yet.

    I’ve been blogging and experiencing success with it for over 4 years now and with my marketing background I’m a real killer in the social media space.

    It makes me hopeful, when I see that someone else is going through/has gone through the same thing I am experiencing right now.

    I feel a great sense of freedom at losing my job and moving away from the BS of corporate marketing/advertising but am a little apprehensive about finding the right path for me to follow now.

    Thanks for posting, I needed this!

  8. Nicole,
    CONGRATULATIONS on your new position! And cheers to you for pursuing whatyou LOVE doing! This is a great story. I hope that others who chose a college major because it was a “safe” choice are inspired by reading this. I’m sure the expeiences you had in Finance cultivated the professional that you have become. What is a key take away from your story is that you were focused, and cultivated great business relationships which is such an essential skill for anyone, no matter what areathey work. I look forward to the next few chapters from Ms. Career Girl!

  9. Thank you for the huge boost of confidence and an injection of inspiration. It validates my thoughts on not always sticking to the same path. It is tough to take a risk, and on top of that to convince your peers that you are doing the right thing for the long run. Their support is a huge factor in personal success. Thanks again! Good luck to you!

  10. Congrats!!!!!!!!! I’ve loved following your blog and am so excited for you as you go down this new path. For almost a year I’ve been working towards quitting my corporate job and following my dream of launching a business, and while it’s slow going, it’s going to be totally worth every minute of missed sleep. :) The biggest challenge I’ve run across is the skepticism from my parents.

    Funny thing is that, like you, I am finding marketing to be one of my biggest passions. Oh, how I wish I’d studied that in college!

    Good luck, and can’t wait to hear more.

  11. Not sure how I got to your blog, but I love your story!

    Completely agree with you on how you made it happen, some people might say to you -oh, you’re so *lucky* how it all worked out- but it wasn’t really *luck*…..your actions over the years got you to where you are today. congratulations!

    “Luck isn’t due to kismet, karma, or coincidence. Lucky folks–without even knowing it–think and behave in ways that create good fortune in their lives. Unlucky people are stuck in routines. When they see something new, they want no part of it. Lucky people always want something new, they’re prepared to take risks and relaxed enough to see opportunities in the first place”. – Daniel Pink interview Fast Company

  12. Congratulations, Nicole!

    This sounds like the perfect fit for you. I too, had a hard time imagining you in finance:)

    Thanks so much for speaking at PodCamp PGH! You totally inspired me to start my blog, yinzpiration.com. It’s bee so much fun meeting with someone new every week.

    Best of luck to you, and I can’t wait to hear about your new adventures!

  13. Congrats Nicole!

    Your post always inspire me and push me to keep striving forward in my profession. I look forward to hearing what is next for you!

  14. Congratulations, Nicole!

    Not much more to add that hasn’t already been said but thank you for your post. It’s pretty much the perfect story to be reading at 4.30AM as I work on my blog after a long day in Corporate!

    I wish you all the best in this next phase and look forward to your updates.

  15. Congrats!

    I have also been fantasizing about the day when I can write this post as well. I’m sure you will rock it! I just discovered your blog last weekend, so I look forward to reading about your new adventure!

  16. Congratulations! This is a really wonderful story about how life can change and how to follow and focus on something you truly love. I think this is perfect for you. Can’t wait to hear more of a new and different career journey :)

  17. Congrats! Awesome to read a story of someone making the leap from a “job” to “something you love.” It’s a shame so many people just give up and accept what they think is their lot in life. Kudos on following your passion!

  18. Nicole! I did the same thing three years ago and I couldn’t agree more, especially with the “taking actions” part. You’re an inspiration, and I’ve had similar moments when social media interaction or another chance encounter led to something great. Good luck in the new position!

  19. Congrats! It’s fascinating to me that you went into finance at all because women are told that we’re not good at math. Kudos to you for going for it anyway and then finding your real values along the way.

  20. Congrats Nicole!
    You totally deserve it. You’ve worked hard and you put yourself out there. You had the courage and commitment to pursue your passion and follow your dreams. You’re a great example.
    I hope you love this new chapter in your life!

  21. How exciting Nicole! I couldn’t help feeling when I read your post that it’s great you’ve found your niche…but i bet you learned a lot at your last job- the one that really wasnt you. So, maybe the fiance degree helped get you where you are today? Good luck in your new venture!

  22. Congratulations! This is a fantastic fit for you. I’m still seeing you somewhere in career development- perhaps consulting to college seniors and recent grads for professional development, like a personal trainer?- but marketing really does seem more your thing than finance.

    I wish you luck, and continue to read and be inspired by your blog.

  23. Really inspiring post! I myself am 3 weeks away from graduating from university in a field that I do not think I will getting a job in. I’m doing something about it, as you’ve mentioned, and going to be pursuing a career in filmmaking for the next year or two (or hopefully forever), but it’s somewhat comforting knowing that you can always fall back on what you’ve spent 4 years getting a degree in… I guess. But when you do work you love, you really are able to put all of your time into it without having it feel like work at all.

  24. Congratulations on your move and following your passion – it takes courage and you are so right – after dreaming, you have to get to actually doing!

  25. This is so exciting to read. It’s been almost a year since I’ve graduated, and I feel like I am already experiencing a similar adventure to yours. Life is truly an interesting journey! And it is true, your thoughts and goals do manifest themselves. By having goals, you are setting yourself up for success. You can then begin taking ACTION–as you mentioned– and things seem to unfold the way they are meant to. Such powerful stuff!

    Looking forward to following your blog! Best of luck :)

  26. Nicole! I am so incredibly excited for you!!! When we first met (was it two years ago already?), I knew you were destined to turn your dreams into reality. Yours is definitely a story that people should hear – hard work and goals do pay off. Have SO much fun in the new role :)

  27. Nicole,

    Thank you so much for this inspiring blog post. I am 28 and can totally relate to your story. I too began working in corporate america right after college thinking that it was what I was “supposed” to do. I didn’t realize that I was actually following someone else’s ideals and expectations. I never felt right. I was going against the grain and literally just going through the motions every single day.

    In 2010, I decided to take action. Long story short, I’ve spent the last year working tirelessly at building my freelance business as a makeup artist. Like you, I spend all of my free time, before work, after work, weekends, etc working on my building my business, meeting potential partners and clients, accepting free gigs, taking classes. Pretty much anything and everything that would support the cause. Financially, I’m not ready to leave my full time job yet, but I’m getting there. I’m working my ass off and have little time for myself but I don’t care. I love where this is going and I know that the sacrifice now will pay off big time. Anyway, kudos to you and thanks for sharing your story. It’s so encouraging to hear from someone with a relatable story. All the best to you!

    -Clara

  28. Clara,

    GO GIRL GO GIRL! I hope you are really proud of yourself. Isn’t it funny how much energy you get when you’re doing what you love? Sometimes you even forget to get enough sleep becasue you’re actually happy.

    Do you do weddings as part of your business? What city are you located in? I just checked out your website and you are absolutely gorgeous lady!

    Nicole

    • Wow, I happened to stumble upon this article this morning, and I’ve never read anything that hit so close to home. I’m 24 years old, and I majored in finance for the exact same reasons listed above. And I regretted it almost immediately upon graduating. I’ve been an oil & gas analyst at a regional financial institution since graduation. And there have been days (weeks, months…) that have been quite, quite miserable for me. I was not impressed with what my world had become.

      The good news here is that I began thinking for myself (for once), and decided to follow my heart and let it lead me to my passions, which are centered around the sports/entertainment industry. I love football and I love athletics. I always have, and I always ignored this when deciding my major and career choice. Too many outside voices tellingn me, “This isn’t a safe career path.” Well, I currently have an unpaid internship at a professional indoor football team that I committ to during weekends so as to not miss any work, and here’s the better news- I have exactly 13 days left in my current job, as I offered my resignation last week. I will attend graduate school in the fall with an aim (a clear-headed one, mind you) to enter the real industry I love. At the same time, I’m fortunate enough to be able to act on my passion for athletics right away, as I have applied for and accepted a head coach position for a high school cross country team close to the college.

      I echo the sentiments expressed above almost to the “t”. Get out here and do something about it if you have that pit feeling that what you are doing for 9 hours a day and for 5 days a week will never make you feel fulfilled, despite the steady stream of paychecks. I think there are a lot of us in our generation that are out there, and this type of blog/resource is perfect for acting as a possible catalyst for some young people who are not quite there yet.

      Great website, Ms. Career Girl. Keep it up.

      -B

      • Brandon,

        Thank you for this comment and for your email. It is SUCH great news to hear that you made a plan, focused and took actions to get yourself to the next place.

        I haven’t read this post in a while… in fact it’s weird to think I wrote it almost exactly 1 year ago! I’ve never been more broke and more happy in my whole life. The money will undoubtedly come for both of us but I must warn you the 1st year is really tough. Your comment is making me feel it’s time for a 1 year anniversary post! Thank you so much for taking the time to write- comments like these really keep me going on the hard days and make me remember why I’m pursuing this new career path.

        Nicole

  29. Hi Ms. Career Girl! I just found out about your website yesterday, so I’m a little late on your new career story. In this article you state that those of us who feel we’re in the wrong career should do what we naturally feel drawn to do. Problem is, I don’t feel naturally drawn to do anything. I don’t see myself being a Juvenile Probation Officer for the rest of my life and even hate the idea of working in legal after this; however, I can’t think of what I want to do. I just know I want to be happy to go to work everyday. I want to be passionate about what I do. I don’t want to feel like I’m working and struggling to understand a field that I don’t even like. What would you recommend me to do?????? Please help!

    • Hi There,

      I think this would make a GREAT series as it is an issue many people are probably dealing with. I too felt the same way a few years into my career and spent a lot of time with my notebook, brainstorming and testing out different things. In fact, this very blog was one of my tests. Sometimes your passion may lie within something you ARE already doing. For example, in your case: mentoring troubled teens, administration, leadership or management. If you’d like to be the subject of a “finding your passion” series please email me and we can anonymously work on this together to help you figure it out and also to help other readers! nicole@mscareergirl.com.

      Thanks, Nicole

  30. Congratulations to your success!! Longing for the day I will write my own “to do what I love” post! at careerloveandlife.blogspot.com

  31. Congratulations and thanks so much for your inspirational story. I
    too am at a crossroads and found your story just what I needed to jumpstart my blog. Thanks!!

  32. I landed here with a Google search, “I love cooperate America”. This was well sarcastic and was interested in what I would find. Your site was my second click. The first was an image of T-Shirts saying, I love American Cooperations. I would like to believe that they were equally apposed to cooperations as i would like to believe but unfortunately many do believe in elitist behaviors. I am proud that you have learned form your own lessons, ethically finding your way!
    I have went to several schools of higher education first intending to be a male nurse. I cannot live day to day with a person dieing under my own care regardless if it was inevitable or not. So at thirty I went into Business to learn what I needed to know to fight against the ones that have killed the ma-and-paw shops everywhere they had existed. I had spoke with many of them and they tried to conform in every way in order to stay afloat. Not one besides the foreign owners are here in MI today. Tax exemptions and other unethical practices displaced the, “American Dream’s” these hard working folks strive for and had no backing by our government. So I will strive to get our businesses back into the mainstream (my ma and my paw) and volunteer till my bones are wore down to nubs. Post your will do right please and i hope this makes at least one to be determined to get it done by any means. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for us citizens is in our best interests. TY&Peace You’All Career Girl…take a weekend just for you:)

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