b Self-Helpless: True Tales of a Working Girl: My Toastmasters Ice Breaker Speech

3/18/2006

 

My Toastmasters Ice Breaker Speech

(Be warned - it's on the long side)

Many years ago when I was still in high school, my parents asked me what I wanted to do with my future. It’s a funny thing to ask any 16 yr-old as they don’t usually think much farther out than their Saturday night plans. But since I’d soon be looking at colleges and deciding on a course of study, it really wasn’t such an outrageous question.

So I thought about it. I turned to my mom and said, “Well, I don’t want to be a secretary.” That was her profession back in the days when they were still called secretaries. I thought about what my father did and I liked that idea better.

Dad was an advertising executive for Martin Paint (for those of you who remember the commercials, my dad wrote them). But more importantly, I liked the idea of what he did. Although he worked out of an office, he wasn’t chained to his desk most of the time. He went out to store openings, flew out of town to visit printers, went to fancy lunches with salespeople, wrote commercial copy and designed weekly circulars. How fun.

So my answer, however vague, encompassed some very definite points: I didn’t want to be chained to a desk. I didn’t want to work “conventional” hours like 9-5. I didn’t want to wear a suit – ever, and I really didn’t want to be told what to do.

It didn’t really help with the career choices, but as it got closer to my high school graduation date, I had to choose some kind of future for myself. So I chose to study Communications. It’s a broad enough area that you could really go in so many different directions with.

I started college and continued throughout my time there studying in the field of Communications. I learned various aspects of radio, television, PR, film, advertising and communication dynamics. As an English minor I covered as many writing disciplines as I could: fiction writing, screenwriting, playwriting and business writing.

When I graduated I still had no clear idea of what it was I’d do out in “the real world”. I worked in retail as I went on a number of interviews at a variety of companies.

After 9 months of searching, I finally found a job. I started at the bottom as an assistant. Then I moved on to other companies and gradually moved myself up the ladder. I did this for a good long while.

Then almost 2 years ago I woke up one day and realized I was increasingly unhappy with my job. I mean – Unhappy. So I decided to look for another job. 18 months and 200 resumes later I was still in the same place. It was pretty disheartening and I felt my situation getting desperate.

I did all the things I was supposed to when looking for a job. I networked my tail off in hopes of getting in the door somewhere else. It gained me a rolodex full of contacts. While it did get me the interviews, the craziest things were happening which prevented me from getting the offers. Most times companies wanted to hire from within. One time, I had an offer but I couldn’t take it (didn't pay enough) and another time I had an offer and then my future boss got “laid off”.

It was during this time that I got my real estate salesperson license in an effort to really just get out and do something else. I knew that I had to make the change happen.

But it was also during this job hunt period that I did some serious soul-searching. I asked myself what it was that I was really looking for – and would I find it elsewhere. The more I thought about it, the more I realized after 12 years of working in my industry, I didn’t want to sell my soul in order to continue my climb up the ladder. As it was, I saw so much that was wrong with management practices in general and I realized that I was no longer interested in being a part of it. What do you do with that?

When I stopped and asked myself that if there was anything that I could do with my future what it would be, I realized it contained the same criteria that I gave my parents back when I was 16 yrs old: I didn’t want to be chained to a desk, I didn’t want to work “conventional” hours, and while Ann Taylor changed my perspective on the suit-wearing thing, I didn’t want to dress corporate on a regular basis, and I knew for certain that I no longer wanted to be told what to do.

So it was around this time that I got involved with my college alumni society. My alma mater invited me to speak to Communication students about being in business. So I went. I spoke to the students and I realized something: Not only did I enjoy speaking and that I was good at it, but that I actually had something of value to say to someone else.

I left the event and had hundreds of ideas swimming around in my head. One of them was the idea of putting a seminar together for college students that would help answer their questions about their futures and the things they needed to do to move themselves forward. I developed a program and went back to the school with it. They enthusiastically embraced the idea and set a date for me to conduct this seminar.

Then I started thinking of all the other things I could do with this one idea and I knew that I was on to something bigger. As a matter of fact, I was on to a whole new career. For the last year now I’ve been developing this new business and bringing my ideas to fruition. I have a new company and a new direction. I’m even working on a book to go hand in hand with this idea.

So it’s funny that I never viewed myself as the entrepreneurial type, because as it happens, that’s exactly what I am – and it meets all my criteria for the perfect job.

So now if you asked me what it was I wanted to be when I grew up I’d tell you it’s this. I am who I wanted to be when I was 16.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting

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