Let's all pause here and shudder at the thought of an underage student learning anything from me, in any capacity, ever.
I spent plentiful time with the young lass, discussing marketing strategies, explaining social media tactics, and convincing her my job involves more than getting paid to drink beer with journalists.
Toward the end of our first session, she pulled out a list of questions her teacher suggested she pose to the professionals she shadowed. I looked around for professionals, and finding none, agreed to be interviewed.
Several questions focused on my career path, and I explained my progression from underpaid journalist to understimulated tech writer to marketing geek. The latter is where I've spent the last thirteen years marketing everything from community healthcare to kids' photography franchises to translation & localization services for the life sciences industry (say that ten times fast and then drink two shots of vodka, because that's the only way to make it sound anything other than mind-numbingly dull).
I explained that the type of marketing I do boils down to being a glorified cheerleader for whatever product or service I'm paid to hawk. Over the years, I have gotten pretty decent with my pom-poms.
She politely refrained from commenting on my pom-poms as she posed another question:
What advice would you offer someone who's just starting out in this line of work?
I thought about it long and hard (and didn't even make the "long and hard" joke while I did so.) Finally, I settled on a reply.
"About eight years into my marketing career, I got cocky," I explained. "I was switching jobs at the time, and I remember thinking I'd be happy marketing just about any product, as long as I was well-paid."
I was wrong.
I learned that the hard way as I found myself failing to get fired up over photo studios and translation services. I reached a point where I thought I might just throw in the towel on the marketing thing and try being a circus clown instead.
"Then, this job came along," I explained. "I've lived in this town for 14 years, and I vacationed here as a kid. I know a hundred million reasons this is the coolest place on earth to be, and I get to spend my days sharing that with people. I'm passionate about the Bend Ale Trail. I get giddy thinking about floating the river or finding the city's best mac-and-cheese. There are days I know I'd do this job even if no one paid me. And that right there is what will keep you going when the job f**king sucks. Because make no mistake about it – there will be days your job f**king sucks."
I didn't say f**king, but I did infuse my monologue with enough passion to make the youngster sit up a little straighter in her chair.
The advice holds for just about any task you undertake. When I began writing fiction nine years ago, I started off writing women's action/adventure romances. I sold my first book to Harlequin Silhouette's Bombshell line, which was canceled a month before my scheduled debut.
I'm glad about that.
Because my heart wasn't in that kind of writing, and I damn well knew it. While I won't claim to be the best romantic comedy writer on earth, I can tell you I'm a lot more passionate about writing penis jokes than helicopter crashes.
And that's what makes a difference when I hit the inevitable low spots in my writing career. Having a passion for what I write is what keeps me going even when the well runs dry.
My high school shadow finished scrawling in her notebook and stood up. "Thank you," she said.
"No problem," I told her.
The next day, I checked back once she'd finished shadowing my four colleagues.
"So after all that," I asked, "which job do you think you'd most like to do someday?"
She thought about it a minute, then pointed at two of my co-workers. "His or hers," she said before looking back at me. "I don't think I have it in me to do yours."
I think it's best I didn't ask what she meant by that. It's also best I refrained from snickering over the phrase, have it in me.
Are you lucky enough to be passionate about your career or some other aspect of your life? Do you find it makes a difference? Please share!