For the past couple of years, I’ve been called an anomaly – by both friends and acquaintances alike. Apparently working the same job you started out of college for a decade isn’t very mainstream these days. I started at Naylor Association Solutions two weeks after I graduated from the University of Florida. This was back in June 2007, and today, July 7, 2017, I’m sitting here reflecting back on the past 10 years. It only felt appropriate to think about what I’ve learned, experienced and, most importantly, what I’m grateful for.
“Gratitude makes sense of your past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” —Melody Beattie
1. Relationships – both internally and with clients.
The relationships I’ve created while working at Naylor have been the highlight of my career. From my coworkers who became lifelong friends, to the clients who I’ve built meaningful relationships with, this by far tops my list. I’ve learned that without meaningful relationships at work, there’s hardly anything to get excited about. To this day, I’m still friends with the old GACS executive director on Facebook, and I enjoy watching his retired chronicles and volunteering for the Red Cross; I’ve watched an old client’s children grow up for the past seven years as she went through both adoption and having one of her own; I bet that I’ll keep in touch with these people for a very long time. To those of you who I was lucky enough to call a friend, thank you for your friendship over the years. You’ll never know how much it meant to me.
2. Learning how to be insanely organized and paying attention to every little detail.
The jobs in our department force us to be obsessed with organization and, of course, all the details. These skills honed over the past decade, I know, will prove invaluable moving forward. I’ve been able to develop the systems that work for me, adapt to new clients and projects, and have the autonomy to figure out what works for me and the client and then run with it. This has actually always been something I’ve been grateful for – I love that there never was just “one right way” to do things.
3. Turning into a badass copy editor and a better writer, even though I never thought I was one.
Although I graduated from UF’s College of Journalism and Communications, I never considered myself a writer. I just wasn’t. And I actually loathed it a bit. Working here forced me to get comfortable with the idea that I am a writer and capable at it, at that. I will admit, too, that coming out of school, I wasn’t the best copy editor. I knew my basic grammar, but I sure as heck didn’t know anything close to what I know now. After nearly 10 years of copy editing, fixing others’ errors and being responsible for the final product, I feel like an editing badass. And I’ll tell you what: This is an extremely valuable skill – both professionally and just in life in general.
4. The opportunity to work in so many different industries and the random accumulation of knowledge I’ve gained over the years.
I’ve had the chance to work with clients from every walk of life – from the Florida Trucking Association to the Professional Beauty Association, to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (the folks who helped with the Ebola scare a couple years back) and the Georgia Association of Convenience Stories – and literally everything in between (architecture, hospitality, hospitals, chamber of commerce, long-term care, HR folks, natural resources, etc.). It’s been fun to dive in, learn and leave with a bunch of random knowledge that I know will win me some trivia games down the road.
5. The freedom to think on my toes and figure my own path, learning by doing and therefore not being afraid to jump in and make things happen.
Never done a monthly magazine before? No problem! We know you can figure it out, and that’s exactly what I did. Never interview an international CEO before? No problemo! You got this. It’s been challenging and full of growth opportunities to be given difficult things to do – from the early years up until literally last month – that I never thought I could overcome, but with support and encouragement, I was able to accomplish and overcome. The confidence gained through figuring things out on my own – with the support of others – has been invaluable, and I know this confidence pours into every other part of my life.. way beyond just professionally.
6. How to run a magazine from inception to delivery – it’s been a fun ride and one of the ultimate creative processes that I’ve really enjoyed.
Before Naylor, I honestly didn’t know much more about magazines beyond the fact that I loved Glamour’s Dos and Don’ts section, that TIME had interesting (controversial) covers, and that I thought fashion magazines would never be my thing (they still aren’t, BTW). After my experiences here, I can confidently say I feel like a true expert. Knowing how to conceptualize, create and deliver a magazine from beginning to end has been a super fun and creative process to learn. While I’m not sure I’ll ever be in the professional position again to do this type of work (although I hope for it!), knowing these processes will prove to be a great asset in whatever I do in the future. And, it’s actually been a dream of mine for years to start my own online magazine, so now that I’m not in the trenches working on them every day, I actually might jump off the ledge and finally do it – putting everything I’ve learned here to work.
7. Seeing the U.S. through travel and going to more trade shows than I can remember.
Coming out of college, I had traveled some – even abroad a handful of times – but I was still a newbie and really hadn’t seen much of our own country. Traveling on behalf of Naylor to meet clients was a privilege, and I’m so grateful for the many experiences I had. Naylor turned me into a badass traveler – going from being nervous about flying on planes to feeling like a veteran and thinking nothing of it. A highlight for me was to fly out to Phoenix one year, where I then (on my own) rented a car, drove myself around the city and then to and from my hotel to the show – picking up Troy Woodham every morning. He even commented on how he was surprised that I had it in me to do all of that. It’s the confidence I gained through traveling that made me a bit fearless when it came to trying new things and “putting my big girl pants on.” It’s been fun to realize that I can jump in my car in Atlanta and end up checked in to a hotel in Times Square in the matter of a morning – and it was a fun adventure every time I did it. From LA and Vegas, to Phoenix, Denver, all through Texas, D.C., NYC, Chicago, Indianapolis, Atlantic City and even Oklahoma City (and the list goes on), it’s been a true privilege to see all these beautiful places on Naylor’s behalf.
8. Flexing my creative muscle.
I’ve learned that I have to indulge in my creativity every day to be fulfilled, and Naylor has pushed me to learn and grow in many different ways – from photography to mastering design in Photoshop to learning how to build websites on WordPress and guiding the design and inspiration for layouts and magazines. We’re all creative beings, and being able to do professional work that brought this out in me every day has been something I’ve been grateful for from the beginning. I don’t take the creativity that my work brought to my life for granted, and this is why I’ll continue in the creative field, learning, flexing my creative muscle and finding fulfillment in my work every day.
9. Switching our gears from being just “editors” to true content strategists has pushed me and made me grow in ways that I’ll be forever grateful for.
As soon as our titles changed and we put more emphasis on consulting with our clients and being true content leaders, I knew we had good and exciting things in store. Taking on a leadership role with clients and actually being fearless enough to tell them, when it was true, that they weren’t always right has been an amazing learning opportunity – and a great way to grow and become more confident. We all, in our own rights, are experts and really know what the heck we’re doing. We shouldn’t ever doubt that.
10. I’m grateful for being in the position to witness – and participate in – some pretty cool stuff.
From the chance to photograph Urban Meyer, to seeing countless celebrities and accomplished leaders speak at industry events (including Tom Brady right after he won the Super Bowl), to having dinner with Olga Korbut and seeing my cover of BeautyLink on the TV screen while being featured on Good Morning America, to most recently meeting and interviewing huge hotel chain CEOs and attending a Trump Hotels press conference with both Eric and Donald Jr., these are invaluable experiences I’ll never forget.
It’s been fun to reflect on my career here over the past decade, and it’s even more fulfilling to reflect on what I have to be grateful for. While I’ll miss a lot about being a part of this team and doing great work for our clients, I’m very excited about the future and where it takes me. As someone in this very department said to me before, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” so I guess, in essence, I’m going to go out and continue living life – to the fullest and challenging and growing along the way.
It’s been a great ride, Naylor. Really. Truly.