What was your first “real-world” job?
Right after graduation, I worked for an international logistics group in a sales support position. It was not too long before I began to ache for work that was more meaningful to me personally. A second job in marketing video games ultimately gave way to what would be my third job and an open door to my career path: nonprofit marketing and communications.
I’m happy to say that I am a founding member of EPIC (www.iamepic.org), which is a nonprofit organization that taps the best professional creative talent in Chicago. We place these folks in teams to hammer out high-level creative work for nonprofit organizations in the city that work with kids, families and/or education. The work manifests itself through several different ways: a strategic communications plan, a new logo, brand strategy, new website, fliers and more. Whether its through EPIC or through consulting, I get a real charge helping nonprofits own their value, to realize their visions, in ways they hadn’t imagined before. In just four years, EPIC has contributed over $2.7M in pro-bono creative services for 27 Chicago-area nonprofits.
Also – last January I did something I always wanted to try: the launch of a new toy company that designs beautiful heirloom-quality wooden toys. While it’s a bit off-center from what I already do, I’m a big kid and a creative at heart – so this gave me space to try something I’d always wanted while. At the same time, this gives me space to continue with nonprofit marketing, working with EPIC and teaching.
What Drives Your Professional Career
For me, I love that the work I do is really about a lot more than just a job. That’s my worldview. There’s more to life than a paycheck – you have to love what you do if you want to be happy in your day-to-day. I consider myself one of the lucky ones with the privilege of helping nonprofits make themselves better. And what better – I get to share what I continue learning with my students.
Advice to Students
There are two things I can only show you, but I cannot teach you and those are character and self-assurance. Those attributes are on you to learn, and they factor directly into who you are as a person and as a professional. For everything you’re about to learn, none of it is as important as getting those two items down hard. The real world is not as forgiving as classrooms would lead you to believe, so if you have character and a healthy sense of self, then you’ll be able to persevere without compromising who you are. Take the initiative and use every bump and scrape you get to make yourself stronger and more capable.