I was so honored to recently be interviewed by Epic Careering, a great company out of PA that helps others with their resumes and enhancing their careers. I thought the questions they asked were very thought-provoking on not your normal career questions. Take a look at the interview below which touches on how to face adversity and still come out on the other side with an amazing career, and listen to the full interview here: Marji J. Sherman’s Interview on Epic Careering.
1. What did you grow up believing about your future? How did you envision it? I grew up believing that I was going to work in New York and be one of the successful career ladies you see in some of the movies from the 50s. When I visited NYC when I was 16, we stayed at the Waldorf Astoria and my mom said she just knew I would end up living there someday. I did end up living there for a phase of my career, and have kept that hotel key from the Waldorf Astoria in my wallet to this day. The most important thing to me as I grew older was that I found a career that helped people at the end of the day. I wanted to make sure I was doing something that fulfilled God’s purpose for me.
2. What did you perceive to be your talents and strengths growing up, and how has that evolved throughout the years? I was incredibly talented musically growing up and competed in piano and voice competitions. I was even composing music in elementary school. I was also passionate about writing and found myself spending all of my spare time writing novels in my room. I still have some of my musical talent, but writing took over when I made a decision about college and the career I wanted. There is something about writing that just feeds the soul. It’s something I have to do.
3. When did you become clear about the contribution that you wanted to make in Public Relations? What inspired you to become a Social Media Strategist in addition to doing PR work? I was inspired to be in PR because it combined my talent for writing with my passion for working with many different types of clients. I fell into becoming a social media strategist when my mom was diagnosed with cancer (she’s healthy now!). I moved back to Miami to help her with treatments and could not find a job in PR Research, which was my field at the time. I went to an interview for a social media job and made all of these promises on how I would kick start their social media, when I actually didn’t know one thing about branded social media. They said if I met their goals within a month I could stay and they would raise my salary. If I didn’t, they would fire me. I stayed up all night teaching myself social media and learning from all the great influencers, and met their goals within three weeks. I accidentally found something I absolutely loved to do.
4. What has been the biggest challenge of being so open, authentic and personal online? You share many deep and personal experiences with your audience through your blog. Initially it was challenging for me to be honest about the negative experiences, as well as the positive ones. This changed for me when I decided to be honest about the abuse I had endured in my marriage. I just felt that if I was so willing to share all of the positive aspects of my life, I also had to be willing to be honest about the difficult moments. My audience’s response to that post inspired me and helped me heal from one of the most traumatic seasons of my life. I suddenly felt less alone. The challenge now with being so open is that more people are reading my blog, including more of my personal friends and family. Everyone has an opinion and I am often times told that I shared too much, or someone feels like I shouldn’t have written about them. It’s a fine line, but I always remember the healing that came through sharing my story about my abuse, and know that someone somewhere out there might need to hear what I have to say. As far as people not liking me writing about them, I refer to the quote that says, “If you didn’t want to be written about, you should have acted differently.”
5. Talk about your top 1-3 career-making moments: A. My internships: When everyone else was partying in Miami, my parents stressed that I needed to have a job, even if it was unpaid. I went to see the director of my program who I was completely intimidated by. He was a tough professor and had very high expectations of his students. He was so kind when I met with him and expressed how happy he was that one of his students was passionately interested in PR. He connected me with amazing internships throughout college, and even led me to my very first job in NYC. B. Writing about My Abusive Marriage: My post about my divorce brought my blog completely to the forefront. While it was successful before that point, I saw many more meaningful conversations and posts birthed from the authenticity around my abusive marriage. I was in a place where I felt like I was going through this excruciatingly painful moment in my life and no one knew because I just kept posting happy marriage photos to my social media accounts. Then, one day, I just decided to come clean and let people into my world. That changed everything for me, professionally and personally. C. Following My Heart: This sounds cliché, and I know it’s not one specific moment, but it is super important in the growth of my career. I have always followed my heart, and made sure to make sure the jobs I accept are in places I want to live, around people I want to be around. I work better when I am happy with my surroundings, so it makes sense. I don’t think there is any shame in hopping around to different cities in your 20s and following your heart so you can decide where you really want to live and what you really want to be doing with your life.
6. Tell everyone about your decision to work with ministry and what inspired you to do so: I’ve always had a close relationship with God, and it’s only grown stronger through the tragedy and obstacles I’ve faced in my life. At one point, I felt a strong calling to incorporate my view of Christianity into my blog because it is such an important part of who I am. I loved the conversations those posts sparked, so I started writing more and reaching out to people letting them know I was praying for what they were going through. This all just naturally led to a calling to ministry. When I first decided to go into ministry, a follower replied, “You are already a minister through your writing. It is your ministry.” I thought that was such a cool way of thinking about it. We all can be ministers exactly where we are in life just by helping others.
7. What did you learn about yourself that you think will help you continue to achieve EPIC success in your career from this point forward? I am an introvert and prefer writing my feelings and opinions rather than verbalizing them. This has been called out in numerous business situations. I learned quickly that being an introvert was not something I could, or needed to change about myself. It was something that I could use to my advantage. Introverts have a bad reputation in business and once you can value your place as an introvert you can learn to ignore the stereotypes thrown against you and succeed. While verbal confrontation is important, so is knowing when to stay quiet and think through your argument. You don’t have to be outspoken to make an impact.
8. What is the next big personal challenge on your horizon and what is your next big professional challenge? Personally, I just had two emergency surgeries that threw a bit of a wrench into things. I will be spending the next couple of months learning how to recuperate and move forward with two fewer organs. It’s been a challenge so far because I am very independent and have to rely on others to help with a lot of things. However, that challenge has been a blessing in disguise because I have discovered so many friendships I did not even know I had. When you convert negative energy into positive, it’s amazing what you can do with your life. Instead of viewing this as a time when I’m stuck at home with cabin fever, I’m viewing it as a time to reflect and enjoy quiet time with God that is harder and harder to come by these days. Professionally, my biggest challenge is to decide where to take my blog from here. I’ve struggled between writing about social media tips and writing about the real-life experiences I go through. So far, the blog has done well as a hybrid, but I think there are so many more places it can go. It’s a powerful platform and I would love to see even more powerful stories posted, as well as stances on big issues happening in our society right now. One of my thoughts is to start incorporating more third party stories where I am interviewing people who have been through tragedy and have overcome obstacles with grace. I don’t think you can have too many positive, fearless stories out there.
9. Besides helping others find their voice and helping brands to be more authentic on social media, what does your career provide to your life? I am so lucky because my career allows me to meet incredible people everyday. I get to hear other people’s stories that inspire me to move forward in my own life. I also get to see other people grow. I’ve had many people contact me on Twitter about how a piece of writing has inspired them and then they will follow up a few months later with where they are then in their life. It’s a dream to know that my writing is positively impacting even one other person. If one person can learn from the tragedy that I’ve endured in my own life, that’s everything.
10. Social media can be a difficult space to work in. What advice would you give people who are afraid or distrustful of the medium? If you’re afraid of social media, you are afraid to be yourself. If you are doing social media correctly, then it is simply an extension of yourself (or your brand). It’s another ‘medium’ in which to communicate with others and express yourself. You don’t have to hop on social media and share all of your secrets, but there is certainly nothing to be afraid of if you are having conversations on social media that you would have with someone at a store or on the street. Be yourself and there’s nothing to fear.
11. What is the biggest takeaway from your own career experience that you want everyone to know? Don’t let others tell you what you are good at and what you can do with your career. While their advice should be listened to, it should not deter you from making your own path. I had a PR professor tell me that I would never, ever be able to have a career in communications, let alone PR, because of my immune disorder. If I had listened to that advice, I would not have the career I do today. I wasn’t going to let one person decide what I could, or could not do. People are going to tell you that you can’t do things, but only you know your complete self and understand your limitations. Take risks, be kind and follow your gut. You can never go wrong following those three rules.
Check out Epic Careering for more tips and stories on how to inspire your career, and a free resume review.