1 girl. 10 jobs. 112 days.
That’s the premise behind Project ONE12, a journey that, so far, has taken Mount Royal University business grad Maeghan Smulders across North America to work in 9 different jobs at 9 different organizations, ranging from tech start-ups to advertising agencies to non-profit organizations.
It’s not that Maeghan couldn’t hold down a job – like most of her friends, she had some solid offers when she graduated last year. What Maeghan struggled with was picking the right opportunity.
“I wanted to make sure I could choose one that I really loved. Why can’t we pick a job too that really embodies the person that we are?” she said.
One day, after she had vented her frustrations about her school-to-work transition, her mentor suggested she try all of the jobs she was offered. At first, she brushed it off as a crazy idea, but the more she thought about it, the more she liked it. But, and it was a big but, she had been working at the same company since she was 14 and she would have to quit her job to pursue the project. Ultimately, she decided to take the risk.
Maeghan started by creating a marketing package about herself that showcased her skills, education and experience. She also outlined her goal, which was to find a job that she’s passionate about. “I started pitching it to employers who had already offered me jobs; they really took well to the idea and they even gave me great feedback.”
Sept. 26, 2011 was the first day of Project ONE12 and her first week-long internship was at Fotolia, a stock photography company in downtown Calgary where she worked on developing a social media plan and even had the opportunity to work in a business development capacity at a conference in Los Angeles. Can you imagine confidently selling for a company you’ve only worked at for a week?
From there, she went to Toronto and spent two weeks at large, international advertising agency BBDO, where she worked on two television campaigns, conducted research and pitched to clients. That’s dream job stuff right there, people.
Her next stop was Dealmaker Media in San Francisco, where she coached entrepreneurs, attended strategy meetings and conducted research. She also had the opportunity to visit the super cool headquarters of Facebook, Google and Twitter – yes, they actually exist in the real world.
Along the way, Maeghan stayed with friends and acquaintances, and used Airbnb to find accommodations when she didn’t know anyone in the city she was staying.
“Travelling out of a suitcase for work is exhausting because every Monday I have to be ready to go, ready to work,” she said at about the mid-way point of the project, after completing 5 internships. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I can sleep when I’m dead.”
All of her short internships were unpaid, so to help pay for her travel and accommodations, Maeghan asked some of the organizations she worked for to sponsor her project.
Through the rest of Project ONE12, she continued to criss-cross the continent, working at Trico Charitable Foundation in Calgary, ImageX Media and the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs in Vancouver, and Pinpoint Social and BNOTIONS in Toronto.
Maeghan was reluctant to say which employers were her favourite, but her favourite cities were Toronto and San Francisco.
“I promised myself that I wouldn’t pick favourites because I don’t think it’s fair to the companies. There are aspects of all of them that I loved. There are also aspects that I didn’t like at all,” she said. “It’s funny how, when you’re exposed to different things, you quickly realize you don’t like this and you can better focus your efforts to what you do like.”
Jan. 20 was supposed to be the 112th and final day of Project ONE12, but Maeghan’s last internship fell through at the last minute. She’s still planning to finish what she started, just a little behind schedule. She hasn’t been slacking off, though – right after finishing her ninth internship, she went to Mexico to help build a home for a family in need.
Although Maeghan isn’t exactly sure what what her next steps will be when the project is finally finished, she said wants to share her experience with others and help students figure out their careers by creating a mentorship program that brings alumni back to their universities to share their career experiences.
Her advice to students and recent grads who are struggling to figure out their next steps: “Don’t be afraid to call up someone you’re interested in or a person you find really inspiring in your industry and just say, ‘Do you have five minutes to talk? I want to ask you some questions.’ The opportunities that come from that and the people that you meet are invaluable. You never know where you can end up from that,” she said.
“It allows you to take more control of what you really want to do and figure that out, so that by the end of your degree you can go to an employer and say, ‘This is research I’ve done – I’ve figured out what I really want to do. Here’s my resume, this is what I can do for you.’
“Think bigger than just going to school to get a job. Think of it as a tool or an opportunity to figure out what you really, really love to do and actively pursue it, slowly and steadily, so that by the time you get to the end you know exactly what you want to do.”
To learn more about Maeghan and Project ONE12, and to check out her blog posts and videos about her experience during each internship, visit www.maeghansmulders.com.