Career Day

When I was sixteen years old, I had no idea what I really wanted to do with my life.

I dreamed of being the next Tina Fey (my hero at the time) since I was a lifelong “Saturday Night Live” fan and had done a few student written shows. I loved comedy and really enjoyed writing so it almost made sense to me.

But then I realized how that’s a million in one shot of actually happening. I needed a new life plan.

One day, my dad (a motorsports journalist) asked me if I wanted to accompany he and my mom to the NASCAR awards banquet in New York and work backstage. As a sixteen year old kid who was obsessed with all things theatre, this seemed like a golden opportunity.

I knew little about NASCAR by then. I mean, I went to my first race in July of that same year and could name a few drivers but other than that, I was still very much learning.

About a month later, I found myself helping out the NASCAR public relations staff by assisting on the red carpet backstage at the Waldorf=Astoria. I helped escort drivers down camera row to do interviews, was a runner for microphones and other supplies and pretty much just did whatever was asked of me. I was ready, willing to learn and wanted to soak up all that I could.

In a nutshell, that day changed my life. I went from wanting to be a comedy writer to a public relations professional in motorsports overnight. At least one of those dreams came true.

Just a year after graduating high school, I found myself working in my first internship (which later helped me eventually do five more). That ultimately led to the career I have now but that would have never happened had I had that first experience while still in high school.

So for the past three years, I have been a speaker at my high school’s Career Day discussing careers in sports and social media marketing. Having had the opportunity that changed my life while still in high school, I hope to inspire kids to figure out their path by letting them know I was able to do so at their age and that they can do anything they put their minds to.

Over the past three years, I have learned a lot just by presenting.

During the first year I spoke, I learned that all of my research that says high school students don’t really use Facebook is quite true.

I began the presentation by simply asking students by show of hands who used various social media platforms. First was Twitter. About half the room raised their hands. Then I asked about Instagram. Almost the whole room raised their hands. Then I made the mistake of asking about Facebook.

No hands were raised. Instead, one girl deadpans, looks right at me and says, “Um, no one uses Facebook. It’s for old people.”

And with that, I discovered it’s absolutely true that high school students are anti-Facebook.

The second year, I decided to change up my presentation slightly. I changed jobs from the previous year and realized most students not only were not race fans but knew very little about motorsports. Who was the one driver they all seemed to be familiar with?

Ricky Bobby.

So as an ice breaker, I included a quick scene from “Talladega Nights” in which Ricky Bobby tells a reporter he doesn’t know what to do with his hands. That was a hit and from there, I had their attention at least for a bit.

The third year (just a few days ago), I brought some swag which was a handful of items from a program from the year before. I asked students to answer questions at the end of the presentation for a chance to win. Suddenly, I had their attention more than ever.

With each year, I learn a little bit more about how high school has changed since I was a student there. I also learn how much I have changed in the nearly ten years that has passed since I roamed the halls daily.

Ten years ago, I was just getting over being painfully shy. I had an all-star team of theater directors, choir leaders, vocal coaches and so on who helped me go from a quiet kid to a slightly less quiet lifelong theater kid. I may have graduated years ago but I will never forget all of the great memories I have had on the stages there.Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 11.57.51 PM

It was great that I was even able to stop by and say hello to some of those teachers this last time by and thank them for everything they have done for me. I would have never imagined that being involved with theater would have helped so much but I can see in the long-run that it did.

So while my life might be going more than hundred miles an hour sometimes nowadays, I’ll never forget that the road that put me here began when I was in high school.

** Featured image from my most recent experience as a Career Day speaker

Spotify = Love

I have to admit. I was a little late to board the Spotify train but now I can’t live without it.

For those who are unfamiliar, Spotify is a music sharing service. What’s especially interesting is you can link it to your Facebook page to see what your friends are listening to.

As a creative professional in the social media marketing industry, I strive to be inspired to come up with the most interesting copy to engage my clients’ customers. For me, I get a lot of inspiration from listening to music. If I tailor a playlist to music that my target demo. would probably listen to, the words just seem to come to me.

I’m a huge fan of just about every genre of music. It’s not odd for me to go from listening to a song by Barbra Streisand to Usher and then to Carly Rae Jepsen. I’m a little all over the place.

So as a fan of so many genres, Spotify allows me to create as many playlists as I choose, and even subscribe to playlists created by other users. For example, I subscribed to a playlist of songs about Chicago, my hometown.

Basically, if you’re a professional who finds work easier when you’re listening to the right tunes, or a person who loves being able to listen to all the music they love for free via their computer – Spotify is absolutely for you.

Waiting for My Turn

About a year or so ago, I was watching “Piers Morgan Tonight” when the guest was the legendary star, Carol Burnett. She spoke about her career and her life but what stood out to me was the following quote,

“When I was young and auditioning at cattle calls in New York, I got close to getting a few jobs but didn’t. Then I realized it wasn’t my turn. It was that girl’s turn. My time would come so I never got discouraged. You never should. Just wait for your turn.”

Immediately after hearing this, I posted it as one of my favorite quotes on my Facebook page; a sign of my status as a proud millennial. But I just had to. Why? The quote just resonated with me.

It made me think of every time I didn’t get a job I applied for, or every time I didn’t get the part I wanted in a school play. It’s a great philosophy on why some things work out and some things don’t.

Last night, I went with my mom to a show at the Rialto Theater in Joliet, Ill. It was a Q & A session with Carol Burnett. It was basically the live version of that interview I saw a year ago.

A person from the audience asked for advice about how to succeed in comedy. Ms. Burnett once again told the story of the cattle call, and once again, I could relate.

There’s been a number of jobs in the past several months I felt I would be perfect for. I was not only confident that I was everything they needed but I had stellar interviews. I followed up how one should. I did everything I possibly could to get that perfect job. And then I didn’t get it.

Again and again this has happened.

Hearing Carol’s cattle call story again made me realize one simple fact: it was not my turn.

Each of these jobs I thought I would be perfect for were not meant for me. As a big believer of everything happens for a reason, I realized, these did not work out because they were not supposed to.

Wherever I get my next job, I know one thing; it will happen because it’s my turn.

What A Beautiful World With Instagram

Launched in October 2010, it’s interesting how Instagram has changed the way people look at their daily life. Instagram users seem to share a desire to spread the beauty of the world that comes into their daily lives. Be it the flowers they pass on their way to work, their new favorite shoes, or some of their best friends, Instagram seems to be helping the average person look at their world in a new way.

I personally love Instagram for that reason. After moving to Charlotte from Chicago, my entire outlook of how I perceive home has changed. I never really realized how beautiful Chicago was until I moved away from it. I even found myself loving being at an “L” stop in the middle of the winter with the cold wind freezing my body.

As I continue to visit home, I’ve found myself shooting photo after photo on my iPhone for new backgrounds for my phone. I have since posted many of these on my Instagram account: sarahbonk (check it out!). Such as the photo featured in this post.

For marketers, I think this use of Instagram in which users seem to find beauty in their everyday life critical. For brands, users may just snap pictures of their favorite products all on their own. Marketers can find clever uses for their Instagram accounts.

I’ve noticed various sports teams tapping into their fans love of the game to take photos. For example, some baseball teams are taking photos of their ballparks at different angles showing how marvelous a field can be. Some teams are also taking photos of their key players doing everything from interviews, to autograph signings and in-game play. I think this gives fans an artsy, fun way to get a new insider’s perspective of what it’s like to be on a baseball team.

The possibilities are endless. Fashion brands can find clever ways to shoot their new items. Food brands can shoot their newest products to draw more attention to their launch. In short, I am a fan of Instagram and plan on looking for ways to use the application in future positions as it grows.

Instagram makes me think of one of my favorite songs which I think is a pretty good way to sum up this post:

“I see trees of green. Red roses, too. I see them blue for me and you. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” – Louis Armstrong

A Trip Home to Chicago

About a week ago, I returned home from a trip to my hometown in the suburbs of Chicago. I spent almost three weeks at home. I ended up deciding to go home in the early hours of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. After about four hours of sleep, packing and picking up a rental car (because my poor 21-year-old T-Bird probably would not make it back), I was on the road in a 2011 Chevrolet Malibu.

For the first time ever, I drove all the way back home by myself. It was almost 800 miles – and I managed to drive straight through. Somehow I managed to do this without coffee and was fueled by a desire to go home — and Dr. Pepper.

It’s funny how losing a job, and what feels like everything else, can bring a fresh perspective to your life. I found myself appreciating the drive home in a way I never have before. Driving through the mountains of North Carolina and in to Tennessee, I was reminded of how vast and beautiful this country of ours really is.

The only downside to the trip was my usual luck. Somehow, I wound up with the only rental car on the lot that must have had a small whole in its right rear tire. I had to stop about five times along the way to fill up the tire with more air but I was determined like Steve Martin in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” to make it back home to Chicago for Thanksgiving.

By the time I arrived back home, it was 3:30 a.m. CT on Thanksgiving. I made it in one piece!

Had I not been laid off, I would have not been able to have gone home since I would have had to work Black Friday. In some ways, it was a blessing in disguise. It was great to have a home cooked meal with most of my family (my dad had to work) and just feel truly at home.

I spent the next couple of weeks meeting up with various contacts to see what jobs may be available back home in Chicago. I was hoping for something with a PR or marketing agency working with sports or entertainment, but really anything would do.

During college, I worked my butt off interning as much as possible. In the course of three years, I managed to complete six internships. I feel this truly paid off by being able to meet with so many wonderful people who were ready and willing to give advice and let me know if anything is available. I feel truly blessed to have people like them in my life.

Also while I was home, I was able to catch up with many of my friends. Maybe it was just what the doctor ordered but being reminded of how many great people I know back me who support me in anything and everything I do, really helped me feel more motivated to continue my job search.

With a trip to Outback with my best friend, a night out on the town in the city with another, and numerous other outings with friends, I found myself missing home more than ever since I can’t see so many of my closest friends as often any more. I started to wonder if maybe God’s plan is to bring me back to Chicago in some new, fabulous job? Only time will tell.

After a couple weeks of seeing family, friends and former colleagues, I found myself back on the road but this time going back to Charlotte. Somehow I managed to once again drive straight through all the way back to Charlotte.

Feeling more motivated once I returned back to Charlotte, I was reminded of a quote from Lance Armstrong, “Never lose your beginner’s spirit.”

Time to get back to the job hunt…

Checkers vs. Wolves

A few years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to my favorite sport – hockey. To me, it’s like football on ice only fighting is not only encouraged, the refs will stop a game for it. How awesome is that?

After having attended a few NHL games back in Chicago (go Blackhawks!), I decided to attend my first AHL game with a friend in Charlotte. Ironically, the Charlotte Checkers (the town’s AHL team) were playing the Chicago Wolves.

It’s funny how certain things make you appreciate home after you move away. Those little reminders of the time you and a friend did this, or you and a family member did that, bring you home for a little bit in your mind.

When my hometown played my new town, I was reminded of this. My best friend in Charlotte replaced my best friend in Chicago as my new hockey buddy. Every time I heard the word Chicago, I wanted to smile knowing back home hockey was not only a big deal but it was always loved. From what I understand, people in the south are not the biggest hockey fans.

I started to think to myself, maybe the winning team should help me indicate where I put more of a focus on finding my next job. If the Chicago Wolves won, I should start looking for more jobs back home. If the Charlotte Checkers won, I should keep the search going in the south. I felt that God would help me narrow my search by the outcome of the game.

The Chicago Wolves won. Maybe it’s a sign? I’m not really sure. I’m still searching in both cities.

Maybe I should try the same thing and go to every Chicago Cubs game I can? Maybe they’ll win the World Series. Probably not but it’s worth a shot.

I think this quote from the Chicago Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews best sums up my thoughts on my job search: “You know what? You’ve just got to go out there and try to control the things you can control, deal with things and stay mentally strong.”