At 23 years old, most people are trying to begin their careers, not leave the ones they have already established. In their early 20s, some of my peers are still in school or working necessary, but soul-sucking jobs they hate. Let’s be honest, no one wants to be on the other side of the counter from the old lady cursing at you because your store’s policy of not accepting her expired coupons. Thank you for shopping with us, please never show your face in this establishment again.
So while some young adults are dealing with those situations, I was grappling with a very big change that would ultimately impact my career. I quit my job as a radio news anchor in Florida to move to South America.
My last few days in the United States were filled with tears and doubt. Yes, I would miss my friends and family, but I was mostly struggling with the guilt of quitting a job that I had worked so hard to obtain. I had wanted to be a broadcast journalist my whole life and it felt like I was throwing it all away to move to South America. But with time comes a little perspective, and I realized that I wasn’t throwing something away, my priorities had just changed. My desire to live abroad, become completely fluent in Spanish and step out of my comfort zone outweighed my desire to be on the radio. That is what ultimately motivated me to get on that plane even though I was terrified.
Adapting to Limitations
When I arrived in South America, I still had the desire to work in the news biz. I had secured a news writing internship with an online Peruvian news organization that publishes in English. I was overqualified, but I considered it a way to get my foot in the door. But once I got to Peru, things didn’t work out with the internship and I headed to Bogotá, Colombia to try to find a journalism job. I found job openings with Colombian news organizations, but they all required fluency in Spanish and my Spanish is still less than eloquent. Knowing I only had 3 months to find a job before my tourist visa expired, my standards dropped each week I got closer to D-Day, aka Deportation Day.
Learning New Skills
About a month after looking for jobs in Bogotá, I stumbled upon a posting for a marketing writer position. It wasn’t journalism, but the job came with a work visa and that sure beats marrying a Colombian to legally stay in the country. (Just kidding, I would totally marry a Colombian. These men are gorgeous.)
This job in marketing is challenging me in new, but exciting ways. I’m learning to write “copy” instead of “stories.” I’m learning that crafting an appropriate message is more important than finishing a project as fast as humanly possible. (News deadlines are no joke.) I’m learning about our products and how to best present them to possible customers.
I recognize that there are so many concepts and strategies related to marketing that I don’t know about because I’m coming from a newsroom. But I am so motivated and eager to become a successful marketer. When I’m waiting for edits back at work, I look for talks about marketing on YouTube or seek out the latest trends and methods in my new industry. I reach out to my colleagues who actually studied marketing and ask them for advice and guidance. I embrace the critiques and edits my bosses make to my copy instead of getting defensive about my work.
Setting New Goals
This marketing job was originally just a means of making money and living in Colombia legally. But it has turned into so much more than that. I have new career goals that center on marketing. I want to eventually run my own campaigns and possibly even own my own agency. I know that I still have a lot to learn before I come close to reaching those goals, but I feel so motivated to thrive in this new environment.
Along with learning more Spanish and connecting to my cultural roots, this move to Colombia also blazed a new career path.
Don’t be afraid to dabble in other subject areas and learn something new. By expanding your knowledge, you become more valuable to current and future employers. When I was a journalist, I would leave the newsroom every week to attend social media strategy meetings. I wasn’t required to go, but the knowledge I obtained from those meetings helps me be a better marketer. These days, when I’m waiting for edits back from my bosses in the marketing department, I turn to my coworkers to expand my knowledge about graphic design, WordPress, Google Analytics and of course, Spanish.
You’ll never have to pay the extra baggage fees to pack your skills and experiences if you so happen to jump on a plane and start a new life.