Sunday, September 12, 2010

Connecting the Dots

Quote of the blog:

Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something--your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever--because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.” Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commemoration Address “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”


First off, sorry I’ve been MIA. I will not make excuses and will only say I’m glad to be blogging again.

One night, just about a month ago, while I was getting ready for bed in Oxford, England, I realized I’ve spent a part of the last seven/ten summers in Europe. I hadn’t thought about it like that before and paused mid-toothbrushing to look in the mirror and reflect. I thought about Steve Jobs’ 2005 commemoration address at Stanford University title “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”. He describes looking back at his life and “connecting the dots” (decisions/events) that lead him to where he is now. I love that idea. So, I stood there with my toothbrush in my teeth and looked in the mirror and thought about what brought me where I am now.

Where am I now? Well, I’ve been in Manhattan for over four years and I work for a company that coordinates summer study abroad programs in England, France, and Spain for students in 9th-12th grade. We spend the year marketing, advertising, and recruiting for the programs. I’m the Executive Coordinator for our 8th-9th grade program in Oxford so I’m there for six weeks in the summer.

When I tell people there are 150 students in 8th and 9th grade on my program sometimes their congratulations turn to congratudolences (a mixture of congratulations and condolences). But, that’s ok. I love my job. People often ask me how I got my job; sometimes I just want to answer “God” since a series of very specific events led me here.

Almost every one of these events could be their own story, but below is the Reader’s Digest synopsis of how I ended up here.

My dad was in the Air Force I had moved nine times by the time I turned 13 and had attended five elementary schools. Ever since I was a child I’ve loved moving and change. My dad retired just before I started junior high so I attended the same schools through junior high or high school.

After HS graduation, I opened my acceptance letter to Rick’s College (now BYU Idaho) in 1998 and saw the insert for a British Literary Tour. It was a yellow bookmark flyer. I knew in that moment I would go. When I graduated from Rick’s in the summer of 2000 I traveled with forty other students to England, Wales, Belgium, Ireland, Scotland, and France. We affectionately called the British Literary Tour the BLT 2000. It was amazing and sealed my conviction about study abroad experiences – which is basically that everyone should go if given the chance.

Three semesters later in 2002-2003, I became the president of the UV Leaders (now the UV Mentors) at Utah Valley University (then UVSC) – this organization helped teach students how to study and succeed in college. The experience I gained through the UV Leaders: presenting, coordinating, organizing, and leading, has been invaluable. I sometime refer to this time as my Glory Years. I loved them.

N.B. As I write this chronology I realize that there are quite a few events that will date me. My children will say things like, “You went to BYUI when it was Ricks??” and “That was waay back in the glory days when the UV Mentors were called the UV Leaders and UVU was UVSC.” Sigh. So it goes.

In 2002 I heard about UVU’s London Study Abroad Program. Students studied in London for six weeks and then traveled to Paris for five days. I volunteered to sit at the tables and pass out flyers, etc. not knowing if I would be hired or not, but I was excited to be involved. The enrollment for 2002 was small because of 9/11 that they didn't hire any student PA's on the program. But I really enjoy being a part of group planning and I am a huge fan of shared experiences.

I applied for the London Study Abroad Program Assistant in 2003 and was thrilled when I found out I got the job (so maybe I ran around the room cheering after Kate, one of the coordinators, called me). The job entailed marketing and recruiting and planning for the program from January to May. Since different professors teach on the program every year I had to apply separately for each summer. I was hired for 2003, 2004, and 2005. They are some of my favorite summers ever.

After I returned from LSA 2005 I found myself job-hunting. I was only submitting resumes in Utah, but one night my brother Ty, who had moved to New York a few months earlier called me. His roommate had just moved out and rent was paid through the end of the month. He wanted me to come stay with him. I wasn’t so sure. He called me a few days later, “Brook, we just went to a free philharmonic concert in Central Park.” That was Wednesday. On Friday I bought my ticket and flew out the next week not knowing when or if I would be back. I started temping at the Public Relations agency where my brother worked and The City started to woo me and I wanted to stay. Ty’s then-girlfriend, Erin, helped me revamp my resume and I started submitting my resume in NYC.

One Saturday after we went sailing on the Hudson I got a call from UVU asking if I could interview for an advisor position that Friday. I happened to be going home for a niece’s baptism that weekend and I would actually be in town to interview. I flew to Utah, interviewed, and was hired as the Advisor for the School of General Academics a few hours later. I moved back from New York and started the job almost immediately. I loved that job. I got to meet and help so many people. My boss KD was amazing and I met some of my best friends through that job. I felt fulfilled when I went home. It was fantastic.

Then one day, just a few months after I started at UVU I got a phone call from Tamica at Fleishman-Hillard (FH), a Public Relations Firm in New York City. She told me that she received my resume and understood that I was going to be in NY the next week and they would like to interview me. My sister and I were indeed going to visit Ty the next week, so I agreed to interview. I figured if nothing else the experience of interviewing at a global firm would be good experience. After I hung up the phone I called Erin - FH was the company where my brother’s girlfriend worked.

She answered and I said, “Erin, I just got a call from FH and I have an interview next week.”

Erin gave a guilty giggle, “I hope that’s ok! I turned in your resume and I figured if they called you then great and if not I wasn’t going to say anything!”

The first interview went well and I had a second interview through FH – this time via the internet a few weeks later. The company wasn't hiring until the end of the first quarter, which worked out perfectly because I didn’t want to leave UVU in a bind. When FH called at the beginning of April to offer me the job I told them that I needed to finish out the semester. It took a lot of praying and weighing the pros on cons of moving. I loved my job at UVU but I felt like an opportunity had come to me that I shouldn't pass up. I knew that five years down the road I would regret it if I said, "I could have moved to New York...I just didn't." So, I moved to Manhattan on April 28th, 2006 and started work on May 1st.

I worked in the health care department on biotech and pharmaceutical accounts. And long story short, after a few months I knew that PR wasn’t for me. The science behind the drugs was interesting but I had gone from helping people every day to writing press releases and fact sheets. I used to say that corporate America was sucking my life away and I started looking for other jobs. Then one day in September 2007 (I should write this full story sometime), a year and half after I started working at Fleishman, they laid off 11% of the healthcare department, including me.

It was one of the best things that happened. I walked out the front doors of the News Building on 42nd street and have never missed it since (except for maybe that art deco globe in the entryway).

I had received a severance package and had some savings that offered me some time to reevaluate life and what I wanted. My friend, Amy, had me do the “Flower Exercise” in What Color is Your Parachute (I actually recommend it) and did a bit of research to figure out what types of jobs I would most love to do. I promised myself that I would only apply for jobs that fit that category.

- I actually have a diagram connecting the dots of the next series of events that led me to my current job. I won’t share them all, but one of the more important ones happened in Utah.

I flew home to spend the month of December in Utah with family and friends. One day I visited my friend Jeff, who was an adviser at UVU. He gave, and still gives, some of the best advice I’ve ever received. It was during our conversation that he reminded me how much I loved coordinating study abroad and how it was a pretty specific skill. He recommended I look into it. I kind of laughed. My only experience with study abroad had been short-term work during the year that was something someone did for fun and not for profit.

But I did a search for “study abroad” in Manhattan on Craigslist and a job posting for Oxbridge Academic Programs popped up. The company had posted it just a week before. The job description was almost everything I did for UVSC’s London Study Abroad programs but on a larger scale and was a full-time position. I sent in my resume and had an interview two weeks later. It was just what I had been searching for.

I’ve been with the company for almost three years and I love it. The job allows me to travel, work with people I really like, and feel like I’m making a difference. And that, my friends, are the dots that led me to where I am right now. And honestly, for this stage of my life, I can't imagine a better situation.


  1. Brook, I love your post! I feel like I too have been placed where I am meant to be. I live vicariously through you, you are Monica from the TV Show "Friends"! One day I hope to be your friend "Rachel"! :)

  2. I hate you Brook, I'm supposed to be working but your blog post popped up on my RSS feed and I enjoyed it so much I completely forgot what I was working on!

    It is funny. I was around for most of the latter half of these events and yet I feel I didn't know the full story until now. How great that it all worked out for you like this!

  3. Oh Brookie. I'm glad one of those dots landed you at 137 College Ave, Rexburg. That's when my life changed forever!