Career Experiments: Madison

I was introduced to Madison by way of a mutual friend who loved her design style. Our initial emails about project ideas grew into lively brainstorming/editing sessions, where Madison would do her magic in real time, editing behind the scenes as our conversation progressed and then voila! - something better than I imagined would refresh on my screen. Her fun personal site is about as upbeat and friendly as she is. 

Madison is a true creative, dabbling in projects that build new skills while she investigates her interests. I'm impressed with her skill-building drive (Which is essential...the more skills you have, the more opportunities you have access to!) but I'm floored by her focus on building a community. We talk a lot here about "learning from your tribe," but she's taking it up a level and uniting her own. Wow. 


Who: Madison, 27

What: Graphic designer, artist, serial encourager

What career interest(s) are you currently exploring?

I’ve always had a passion for supporting local businesses - specifically artists and local makers. I live in a small town. We have tons of makers and creatives, but we don’t really have a place to make sales and gather with community. We kind of have to go into the city for that. Nothing against Atlanta, but I think that’s a real bummer! It’s all right here. We just don’t know each other yet. I have been thinking about creating a maker’s place - think retail shop and workshop space for classes alongside private artist studios. There are several wonderful models for this in the city, but not out here! (Yet!)

How did you discover that interest?

I think it’s always been in the back of my mind. I worked as an office and community manager for a while and I loved creating a welcoming environment. I worked with an arts nonprofit and enjoyed coordinating with artists and nonprofits to do workshops and art events. I worked as a brand manager for a blog and enjoyed connecting with large brands for sponsorships and paid posts. I enjoy making my own little line of greeting cards.

Through all these experiences, I was able to take what I learned and apply that to the next project.

Everyone has so much to offer and receive. So much to teach and learn. We just need to be mindful about putting the pieces in place. I really like putting the pieces in place.

What are you doing to investigate?

I am really trying to be gentle with the maker’s place idea and see if it’s a good fit. I am working with another small town evangelist, Small Town Creatives, to coordinate their first maker’s pop up shop at our local brewery. Pretty cool and special! It’s my own mini career experiment!

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I also started working part time at a local yoga studio to see if I enjoy being in a place at a certain time every day. Turns out, I do! The routine and consistency are so nice after 2 years of dry shampoo and #freelancelife. I’m learning a lot about customer service, about business operations, scheduling and how to solve problems. The owner of the shop is a very smart and thoughtful about her business, and I really enjoy learning from her.

What has surprised you most about your investigations so far?

While I’m in the experimental stage, I have been slowly whittling down the design projects I take on.

Starting a business is so freeing, but sometimes it can feel a little prison-like too. (Just me?) It can be tough to see how to grow beyond what you’ve built. It’s actually quite scary to think about pivoting or changing your business, “just when you’ve got it figured out.” Saying no to new work feels impossible because you’ve created this momentum and you don’t want to waste it! (While I totally get that - that’s a scarcity mindset and it has no place here!)

This experiment has created a much healthier balance of work and play for me. I've been working on my photography, my writing and illustration. I've been reading a lot. It's been fun! I’m excited to see where this goes!

Career Experiments: Celestine

The first thing that impressed me about Celestine was her number of interests, ranging from mastering languages to the great outdoors. The second thing was her determination to take advantage of all the opportunities that came her way.  

This is HUGE. I just read the brilliant Herminia Ibarra's article "Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers" about how leadership experience creates leadership identity. The way to become a leader is to do leadership stuff, just like how Celestine co-led a wilderness expedition with her class. Not only does action help you see yourself as a leader, but others start to see you that way, too. 

Nature might not be your thing, but if Celestine's experience of learning alongside others inspires you, consider Finding Your Tribe. A "tribe" unites people from different backgrounds around a common interest. A strong tribe connects you to people who are already rooted in the field, so you can benefit from their advice on getting started, getting ahead, and what to expect on the road ahead.

Break time: No camera can capture the true golden color of that canyon wall that stood before us. But never mind that, let’s learn how to read a topographic map and find out where we’re going!

Break time: No camera can capture the true golden color of that canyon wall that stood before us. But never mind that, let’s learn how to read a topographic map and find out where we’re going!

Who: Celestine, 20

Where: Kanab, Utah

What have you done recently to explore a career interest?

I recently took a leadership class that was required for my Parks and Recreation Management degree, with an emphasis in Outdoor Education and Leadership. Through that class, I had the opportunity to go backpacking for six days in the Kanab Creek Wilderness.

I went into the trip not knowing what to expect and being fairly confident in my leadership skills. I got to put these skills to the test for two days during this trip.

It was a great setting to get helpful feedback from the group and my professor. I learned that I need to have a stronger voice in my leadership. Previous to this trip, I would have felt too rude to interrupt the group’s conversation and get us all on task. Now I know that as a leader, it’s my job to speak louder and make sure we’re accomplishing our goals. I have to work on being louder and prouder in my voice. 

There were also some things that I did well on the trip. I was recognized as very compassionate, patient, and communicative. So although we may not have stayed on task as much we needed, at least I made sure everyone’s needs were being met, whether it be taking it slow and helping people climb down a dangerous part of the trail, or taking the time to listen to someone if they were having a bad day.

I learned a lot about my own leadership style and observed other peoples’ styles. Now I know where I need to improve as well as what I need to continue doing.

Look for the big green back back on the bottom left. There she is!

Look for the big green back back on the bottom left. There she is!

Best moment from this experience?

What I loved about being a leader on this trip was my ability to teach others and problem solve. Beyond the leadership aspect, this trip was a good reminder of how simple life can be. Whether you’re teaching a friend how to climb up a rock, sharing a moment of admiration for the natural surrounding beauty, or eating peanut m&m’s, I was reminded that I can find happiness and reward in the little things in life.

Now, I know that sharing the outdoors with others is my calling. I plan on finishing my degree and one day working in wilderness therapy.

Career Experiments: greg

A few days ago my besties and I wrapped up a 93-mike backpacking trip on the Wonderland trail, which circles Mount Rainier in Washington.

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After our first (and only!) bear sighting, we rounded a curve to find this storybook log cabin with an incredible view of Rainier. 


I wanted to know who the lucky person was with such a dream career in a remote cabin, greeting trekkers, enjoying peek-a-boo views of bears nibbling on berries. Lucky for us, he stopped to say hello (and check our permit...) on his way to get water.

Greg is a quiet man, but he let me snap a photo and ask a few questions about his journey to this job. It's a neat story about a dramatic career change. These can seem like scary things, but if you take it one little step at a time it becomes much less daunting. (And, slow career change are more successful anyway.) 


Name: Greg

Job Title: Park Ranger

What steps led you here? I was a marine in the Military, and then completed a degree in outdoor education from Prescott College. Due to my military background I was a strong candidate for a role with the Park Service, since the government is proactively hiring veterans. My education prepared me to interact with visitors and help them get the most out of their outdoor experience. After working at Yellowstone I transferred to Rainier to be closer to my girlfriend. 

What's one skill you learned as a Marine that you use in the Park Service? How to work in a bureaucracy. 

Career Experiment: Emerald

I can't say enough about this woman. She's actually leans in when you give her feedback, wanting to know what she can do better and how she can grow. Thank you, Emerald, for sharing this part of your story here...and good luck in your next adventure!!


Who: Emerald, 20

Where: Standing in front of the Capitol where I interned for the summer.

Trace the steps leading you to this moment; What were the three most pivotal experiences that led you here?

I was not interested in environmental sustainability or political science as a major until I entered college. Sustainability was simply just a lifestyle I tried to live by. I was the girl that always encouraged others to recycle and became vegetarian for the environmental benefits. However, I did not envision a career in sustainability.

As I became an intern for Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) my freshmen year, my entire view for my future changed.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby focused on passing environmental legislation and framing the environmental conversation in a way that appealed to anyone’s values. Through CCL, I saw the hope that one person can bring and the possibility of a better future for the environment and all life. After attending a CCL conference in Washington DC, where I actually lobbied members of Congress, I saw the intersection of environmental sustainability and politics.

I know I can make a great difference in the world and I believe working on environmental legislation is the best way I can do that. I interned in the United States House of Representatives for this summer in Representative Tom O’Halleran’s office in order to gain more knowledge about politics. My hope continued to grow as I saw all of the wonderful, inspiring people working on the Hill fighting for the environment. While my position did not have me working on environmental legislation directly, I was able to see the behind-the-scene work that goes into crafting legislation. I saw how important the lobbying and research from environmental organizations is when drafting legislation or deciding how the member of Congress will vote on bills.

I was surprised to learn that environmental lobbyists are truly crucial to the way a member of Congress will vote.

The research and petition signatures that groups bring to a congressional staffer legitimately help that staffer recommend how to vote to the member of Congress.

My internship on the Hill solidified my desire to create environmental policies that benefit the world.