Leaping Off the Ladder: How I Got the Coolest Job in my Company

Guest post by Amber Rinehard

We’ve seen a lot of posts here on Culpwrit about making a transition from student to professional or intern to full-time employee and how to totally ace that interview.  And once you’ve gotten in to that company, you likely already know the next step, especially if you work in the agency setting.  The standard PR agency ladder goes a little something like this: Interns (hopefully) become Account Coordinators, ACs become Account Executives, AEs become Senior Account Executives, and so on.  You can literally picture the ladder in your head.

So how did I manage to take a leap completely off the ladder, and get the coolest job at my company? 

Let me start from the beginning.  I started an internship almost immediately after graduation in May 2009 (aka, at the height of the recession).  I was lucky enough that a few months later my internship became a full-time position as an AC.  Flash forward a year, and I became an AE. Standard ladder climbing, you know? 

Except there was one minor detour I took on my climb up the ladder.  Before even starting my internship, I knew I had a vested interest in social media and how it could be used for public relations.  This is something I was very vocal about, and (like any good intern does) I sought after opportunities to learn as much as I possibly could from the internal social media team just in case I didn’t get that job offer I wanted so badly.  And, as luck would have it, I was able to participate in a client social media project as a result (my job offer came in the midst of this project). 

A few months later, one member of our senior leadership team came into town to share plans for our strategic direction for the next year. As part of this plan, they announced that they were looking for the company’s first-ever Community Manager – someone who would oversee the brand’s presence on social networks, drive a content strategy for our corporate blog, and engage directly with the people who impact our performance the most. I could totally do that, I thought.  And even though they were looking for someone in a more senior position… you know what?  I raised my hand anyway. Why not? 

No surprise – my bold hand-raising didn’t actually get me the job (yet).  But just by speaking up my managers were made aware that I take social media seriously enough that I wanted to make a career  out of it – so I was given the opportunity to join our company social media team (yes, the same team I looked up to as an intern!).  More months passed, and my involvement with the team allowed me to learn more and more about things like strategy, measurement, blog post positioning, and even how to counsel my clients and colleagues on how to bring social media in to their day-to-day business. 

Okay, fast forward another few months.  After countless interviews, the company still hadn’t found “the one” for the Community Manager position.  And then they realized the problem: they were looking outside of the company for a person who was supposed to represent our brand in a very public, social space.  That someone needed to really KNOW the brand and strategic direction and, more than anything, understand the very unique culture that the company has to brag about.  Who better to hire than someone who already knows the company inside and out? Hmmm…. 

Once again, as luck would have it, the social media team I had been working with brought up my name as a potential candidate.  A few interviews later, I had the job.  It felt pretty good to just jump off that ladder – but as with any big leap, it was pretty scary, too.  Not only was I completely veering off the traditional career path, but I was moving in to a brand new role to the company – one that makes strategic decisions and works with senior leadership and one that is supposed to heavily impact brand influence in the marketplace. No pressure! 

Without any precedent to follow, I chose to look at the opportunity as a totally blank canvas I could paint and draw on and color in with any ideas I wanted.  And I still am looking at it that way.  The best part about it (besides the fact that on a daily basis I get to work with amazing people around the world, build relationships with others through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, read and share inspiring content, and have fun while I’m at it)? By throwing my heart in to the opportunity, I’ve gained the confidence and trust from senior leadership that I need to really drive change inside the company and out. How many people can say they are doing that just two years out of college? 

With a little bit of luck and a whole lot of ambition, I was able to move in to what I consider the single coolest job at my company.  Here are my top tips for doing the same at your company:

–          Know your passions and figure out how to bring them in to your work routine.  I was interested in social media’s effect on business. I spoke up, and opportunities presented themselves.  As a result, I started to love working even more than I already did just because I was able to bring my own interests into my job.  And when you love what you do, you naturally do better work – and people notice!

–          Ask questions.  Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you know everything about it.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions to other experts in your company.  You can learn a lot from them, and they can probably learn from you, too.

–          Get to know your leadership team.  I know sometimes these people can be scary and intimidating, but if you work in a company where it’s as easy as dropping by someone’s desk, making a quick phone call or sending an email to say hello, take advantage of that!  It’s just as important to network within your own company as it is when you’re job hunting – how else will these folks remember your name when the time comes?

–          Be bold sometimes!  If I didn’t go out on a limb and raise my hand for a position that seemed totally pie-in-the-sky for me, they would never have thought of me when the search turned internal.  You know that cheesy saying, “Reach for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”?  It might be cheesy, but it’s true!

Amber Rinehard is the Global Community Manager for Text 100, a global public relations firm.  She graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Public Relations in May 2009, and currently resides in Rochester, NY.

14 thoughts on “Leaping Off the Ladder: How I Got the Coolest Job in my Company

  1. Truly this was inspirational for me. Your life experience and advice has really opened up my mind to the different possibilities within the work place. At the end, the advice you gave reminds me of my childhood. My father always told me that cliché quote “shoot for the moon and if you miss you will at least land on a star.” I try and tell myself all the time that I should put my passion forward and that I would be rewarded from it in the future and I see the truth to that every day. If I am driven by my passion then everything that I do with my passion turns into fun rather than work. Thank you so much for inspiring me and motivating me to be a little bold, within reason, and show my passion.

    1. Sarah – Thanks for your lovely comment! I’m so glad you found some inspiration in my story. It’s so true that if you find a job you’re passionate about, it becomes less work and more fun – and you’ll ultimately do even greater work as a result!

  2. This story is very uplifting to me! It really gives me hope that there is something out there for me and I (hopefully) wont be left with nothing to do after I graduate from college this year. What really spoke to me in this article is that I shouldn’t be afraid to take any chances and if I fail, then I’ll just try again. Life is short and I need to live it to the fullest and finding a job where I love to work at is only the beginning. Thanks for your story! It really has taught me to take chances everywhere I may go in life.

    1. Maria – So glad you liked my blog post. Taking that leap of faith can definitely be a little intimidating, but so worth it in the end. It’s not about how hard you fall – it’s about how you pick yourself back up. Best of luck to you in your last year of school!

  3. Her top tips help me the most. To find my absolute passion and somehow bring it to the company, it could bring some new potential clients or help with the potential brand. Another tip that helped me is to not be afraid to ask questions. Rinehard said, “just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you know everything about it,” which is true and to still ask questions when your unclear about something.
    Overall, I really liked this article and it taught me to not be afraid of going after something I’m truly passionate about, because if I don’t then I may be unhappy in the workplace….and that is never good.

    1. Danielle – Thanks for your kind words. Asking questions is really the only way you will continue to grow and learn, not only in the workplace, but as a person. Follow your passion and you can do no wrong!

  4. This story truly brought inspiration to my dreams and aspirations of working for a theater and applying public relations to their team. I can’t believe how successful you are two years out of college. It makes me feel I need to always be the one to go out on a limb whenever something that interests me comes up. Not only in the workplace, but in my own personal life.
    No matter where I end up working, or what I am doing, I will always aspire to follow those tips you posted. Be Bold. Now that’s something I can do. Being a theater minor, and a lot of experience in that area, I feel I have a great knack for it. Who knows where I’ll end up going, and like you said, it will be something I thoroughly enjoy doing, so in turn, a better workplace for myself and others.
    Before my grandmother passed away, she would always tell me that cheesy line. “Shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” It’s always had a special place in my heart, and I always think about that line, and my grandmother before going in for an interview or doing anything that has prevalence in my life.

    1. Hi Madeline – So funny you should mention theater PR as I used to intern at our local stage while I was in college, and it was such a blast – not only was the work interesting, but I got to attend all of the shows for free! 😉

      That’s really touching that your grandmother used to say the same quote – as cheesy as it sometimes sounds, it’s SO true. Never let that thought get away from you!

  5. This is a really inspirational and motivating article. Currently attending the last year of college this really gives me an idea of things to think of when starting my own career. The tips that you have provided are very helpful as well. Just knowing that you have to really put yourself out there is very intimidating but knowing that is how to reach the place you want to be within your career just gives perspective on how you got to that point. Only graduating two years ago and having a job this cool, just shows that there may be a place out there like this for the rest of us.

    1. Emily – Thank you for your compliments! I am glad you found this to be motivating for your own journey. Stick to your gut and follow your heart, and I’m sure you’ll end up with a great career and life – good luck to you!

  6. A very motivating article! what really stuck out to me is how bold someone might have to be in the workplace to have the possibility of succeeding even more than what he or she originally expected. I enjoyed reading about you taking the initiative to learn even more about a certain feild such as internal social media and using that to your advantage. That shows me you can never know to much and always think ahead to be prepared!
    When you said, “It’s just as important to network within your own company as it is when you’re job hunting – how else will these folks remember your name when the time comes?” I feel like this is a great piece of advice! It shows a very smart way of being noticed!
    Very helpful advice for trying to succeed and making it a little higher on the ladder!

  7. Congrats on getting what you essentially deserve. After working so hard, doing your research, and always making yourself known you definitely deserve the chance to go out on a limb by yourself.
    Thank you for taking the time to write this too. As students, we have to remember that we just never just sit back in the crowd, whether as interns or in our first entry level job.
    Whenever I get my internship and enter the work-force I’ll have to remember all your tips on how to succeed and get your name known. I especially like your tip on bring your passion to the workforce. You were so interested and passionate about social media and even though your first few positions weren’t related to it, people remember you by your passion for social media and that’s how they remembered you. Even though you’re job doesn’t relate, you can’t forget what you’re really interested in.
    Thanks again for showing us this story and telling us it is possible, even with this job market, that we can get the job that we will love.

  8. Great article! This was very helpful and insightful. It showed me not to be afraid to be bold in the workplace and take chances to try and be noticed. When you wrote, “It’s just as important to network within your own company as it is when you’re job hunting – how else will these folks remember your name when the time comes?”, that made me want to be even more outgoing in my profession! Something that stuck out to me and made me want to work harder is when you said, you took the initiative to learn more about public social media. That made me think we can never know too much and every little bit helps!
    This article gave me more confidence to take chances and not to be afraid to speak up or put myself out there in fear of rejection. Very helpful article!

  9. I find your story very helpful as a student getting ready to graduate. Being bold would be one of the things I will always remember after reading this piece because it is very true now that I think about it. You have to go out and get what you want in life, it won’t be handed to you. Also being passionate in a certain part (ex. social media) and striving to work more in that department than just an average PR position will make your work experience more joyful. I can honestly say I am glad to have read this right as I am about to go out into the work force, because it has giving me some inside tips on what I should be looking for and how I need to be in order to get ahead.

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