By Heidi Isern (Contributing Writer, Women 2.0)
Upon graduation, Calgary born Maeghan Smulders was offered not one, but 29 different jobs.
Overwhelmed with choices, she decided to do something innovative. She decided to “date” her companies: “Rather than just pick one, I decided to see if I could try out all of them first!”
Pick a Career Like a Spouse: Date Around First
Most college graduates take a traditional route and accept the first job offer they receive, often knowing little about the job or corporate culture. Just like rushing into marriage, rushing into a job can often be disastrous. Maeghan didn’t want the take the standard approach and blindly choose a career that may not fulfill her.
Thus, Maeghan created ProjectONE12, an entrepreneurial experiment to try out short-term internships at different companies all over North America. Maeghan’s goal? “I wanted to try out 10 jobs in 112 days. Afterward I hope to learn more about all the options and find a place I am really passionate about!”
Maeghan wasn’t just looking for a career soul mate, she was also inspiring students all over Canada to take the same approach. “Hopefully by watching my effort, more students won’t feel such an urgency to rush their career,” Maeghan said. “One student wrote me and thanked me for encouraging her not to settle.”
From Biology to Jobs, Experience is the Best Teacher
Maeghan was raised by a family that believed in doing things differently. They felt that experiences provided greater life lessons than desks and textbooks. “We were homeschooled,” she said. “Part of homeschooling was allowing us to learn about whatever we wanted with textbook or sans textbook. For Biology ‘class’ we threw a cow on the kitchen table and dissected it.”
In addition to dissecting cows, Maeghan also traveled to Mexico to build homes for the poor and to work with children. Mexico taught Maeghan things that a classroom couldn’t including “being more grateful for what I had in my life.”
Many of Maeghan’s “old school” peers never thought she would be accepted into college. “Everyone told me that I was too stupid to go to college because I didn’t go to “real” school,” Maeghan said. “At first I believed I was different because they said things that I couldn’t relate to. However, I had things that they couldn’t relate to as well.”
Due to her smarts and tenacity and zeal to try the unknown, Maeghan was accepted into college in Calgary, despite the naysayers’ sentiments. At the university, her passion for experiences and “doing things differently” only increased. In addition to leading volunteer organizations and studying abroad in China, Maeghan created a program with 4 other students called “Snatch the Pebble” where she taught military wives how to start their own business.
With Maeghan’s business tools and support, multiple women created companies in fashion, wellness, and landscape design. Her success lead an award by HSBC for “Top Woman Leader of Tomorrow” as well “best research paper” at an international conference in Sweden. “My grades were good, but I still believe I learned the most from my extra curricular activities. These opportunities were more valuable than a 4.0 GPA!”
With all of Maeghan’s success in college, it was no surprise that so many companies wanted her. Maeghan, however, wasn’t one to pick the first thing that came along. She preferred to learn from multiple experiences, building a solid road for success.
Experience is the Spice of Life: A Job Sampling
Maeghan is about a quarter of the way into her project and has learned something unique from each internship.
Although she hadn’t found her soulmate yet, she has gathered a better understanding of different possibilities and what fits best with her drive and personality.
Fotolia: One of Maeghan’s first Project ONE12 jobs was with Fotolia, a crowd sourced stock image company. “At Fotolia, I learned a lot about startup culture and the necessity to be self directed and ensure you are adding value. No one was going to stop and check in with you every minute.”
Adobe MAX: Maeghan also spent some time with Fotolia at the Adobe MAX helping them with a trade show for a new plug-in. “It was crazy to be in Los Angeles! I learned that in many industries, going to parties is business development!”
BBDO: In Toronto, Maeghan interned at advertising agency BBDO. “There I learned more about the layers of policy and procedures in a large international company. If you don’t know the loopholes, things can take a long time. Reviewing a blog post can take two weeks! You have to be okay with that.”
Dealmaker Media: Magehan’s most recent internship was at Dealmaker Media in San Francisco, a company that connects influential corporations to disruptive startups. “There I learned about improvement through freeform discussion and ideas. For them it wasn’t how good they were, but how good they wanted to be. It was also so empowering to work for a woman CEO and a team of smart, successful women.”
Trico Foundation: Maeghan’s next few gigs include a project with the Trico Foundation. “With the Trico Foundation I hope to understand more about social entrepreneurship and how not for profit models differ from for profit ones,” she said.
From the large to the small, Maeghan has already seen a gambit of jobs in her first month. I asked Maeghan what she had learned so far about the career quest.
“Number one, don’t doubt yourself,” she said. "Negative perceptions are a choice you make. Remaining positive is how innovation happens.”
She looked at me, “Secondly, one of my bosses told me it’s not about your net-worth, it’s about your net-work! I wouldn’t have found all of these job had I not met and connected with the right people. If you let people know what you want they will find ways to help you!”
Let’s put off the soul mate thing a little longer. Dating around never seemed so promising.
This post was originally posted at Heidi Isern's blog.
About the guest blogger: Heidi Isern is a writer, strategist and entrepreneur who is based in San Francisco, California. She is the founder of Chameleon Endeavors, a boutique consulting firm that helps both start-ups and Fortune 500 companies grow their brands. In addition to working with Women 2.0, she also sits on the advisory board of the Fearless Women’s Entrepreneur Network and is a regular contributor to blogs and online publications that serve women’s audiences. Follow her on Twitter at @hisern.