Change Your Career

Sometimes we think that the older we are, the less likely we can change our careers — to a successful degree. But it simply isn’t true. And this is why I love WordPress.

I love WordPress because the entire trajectory of my career has been changed.

My Backstory

I grew up poor. I learned office skills in high school, after a disastrous bus boy position. I needed to learn to type. That trade served me well all of these years.

My mom and grandmother told me I had to get a college education. They were right to push me. It took me seven years, three major changes, and a student loan balance, but I have that degree.

Shortly after I was married, we lost our business. Accountants, am I right? No offense, but this guy stole money and ran away with it. We fell on hard times.

I got my multiple subjects teaching credential and ended up teaching junior high and high school math at a private school at a church.

When I went for teaching I never considered parents. Whoa! No one told me there’d be so many bosses. No matter what I did, they were unhappy.

One year later, the school closed and I was out of a job. The church offered me a secretarial position for the same salary. That was fine by me, I never wanted to teach again.

Except for two years while finishing my degree at San Diego State and a year teaching, I’d been some form of secretary since I was 14. That’s a lifetime for some.

Look, office work is honest work. I’m good at it. I enjoyed it. But the potential for career (read: salary) growth is limited at best. Since my husband is retired, I was the sole provider.

I was feeling trapped.

Social Media Guru

In 2009, I started tweeting for Riggins Construction — along with my Office Manager duties. The economy tanked. Something had to be done. So I did it.

You know, there are people who talk about being self-starters and then there are those of us who go forward and ask permission later.

People started asking me questions. They saw something that, at the time, I did not. I was good at this social media stuff. Joking, I started this whole blog/persona: You, Too, Can Be a Guru.

I didn’t start content marketing at my former job in order to leave it. I just wanted to do something positive. I learned a lot from 2009-2015.

The WordCamp Era

I started going to WordCamp because of my friend Pam of Pam Ann Marketing.

With Carol Stephen at WordCamp Orange County 2013 - My very first.

With Carol Stephen at WordCamp Orange County 2013 – My very first.

There were a group of us who got to know each other on Twitter. Each of us were in the construction or industrial sector trying to make B2B connections. A joke about us being “The Pink Ladies of Twitter” turned into a Facebook group and the rest is history.

So when Pam mentioned she planned to attend WordCamp Orange County back in 2013, I didn’t know what it was or entailed.

We wanted to hang out with Pam and for only $40 there was no reason not to go. So, my other pal Carol flew down from the Bay Area and we loved it. Pam didn’t make it that year. We started a fun tradition. If you want to know what a WordCamp is read this post.

Social Media Mastermind

If you want to level up your life, you have to hang around people who 1) think differently than you do; and, 2) are smarter than you are.

I started attending a meetup in January of 2014 that I’d seen people tweeting about: SMMOC.

This mastermind group is a facilitated discussion. The people who attend want to learn from one another. To say this is an amazing group of people is an understatement.

Some of us went to lunch afterward, we became Facebook Friends, etc.

We bonded and the hashtag kept us together. It’s no longer running but those people are still my peers and close friends.

Apply For A Crazy Job

Sometimes, you have to apply for a job you don’t think you can do. Maybe you think you can do it. But this post wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging Buffer’s role. When their job posting came up for a Happiness Hero (and they post the salary because of transparency) I knew that a career in social media could be a reality for me.

I ran into a snag. They required reading two books before you could apply. Not being a fast reader, my SMMOC girlfriends told me to listen to them on Audible. In two weeks, I had applied to a new job.

But that’s not the main point.

One of the books they required was Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. Listening to it driving to work, I cried. And not just once.

I did not know people could be happy at work. I only knew that I needed a job — my happiness was not important. Someone had to pay the rent. That was my responsibility.

A few weeks later, I got an email from Buffer saying I didn’t fit. I was bummed, if I’m honest. They were right. If they had hired me, I wouldn’t have found my fit.

So, thank you, Buffer (I’m looking at you Nicole).

Change Your Career with Writing

The first step was believing what people kept telling me. It’s a sad commentary on my psyche, maybe, but true. I thought people were just being nice. They were being honest.

Now I knew I had the instinct for social media and marketing, but I didn’t have the business, journalism, or English degree. I lacked almost every requirement on any job posting I saw on LinkedIn. If that wasn’t that, it was a lack of remote work opportunity.

I knew that by building a self-hosted site I could build my brand — one post at a time. BridgetWillard(dot)com was going to be my resume.

I had to write my way out of secretarial work. I had to write my way into social media.

And so, because of my friends, my new-found experience, and some courage from DesktopServer, this site went live in April 2015.

Of course, I wrote about it here.

Reviewing Plugins

I suppose it helps to have a super BFF who is an Admin in the Advanced WordPress Group on Facebook. She posted my debrief there and introduced me to Matt Cromwell through email. Thanks, Heather. You’re the best!

Matt (my Matt) from WordImpress sent me an email asking if I’d like to review plugins. Sure he asked the wrong person, I gave him the top ten list for why I’m not a good match but I’m super flattered.

Seriously, he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. I did try to get out of it. I’m glad he didn’t give up on me.

What I didn’t realize is that he wanted a series written by a non-developer with a background in business-to-business. That’s how the Normal People Great Plugins series was born.

Volunteer at WordCamp

In the summer 2015, I was asked to tweet for WordCamp Los Angeles. I had a blast.

Volunteering at a WordCamp was totally under-rated by me. I am way too shy to ever have volunteered on my own.

I’m thankful that Alex reached out to me because people I’d only seen on Twitter a few times, I had a chance to talk with more substantively. Of course, I got to meet the speakers and some of the sponsors. and that enriched my experience, too.

After that experience, I was asked to do the social for WordCamp San Diego in 2016.

WPblab

Jason Tucker, of WPwatercooler fame, sent me a message one day in October 2015. He wanted to start a weekly show answering WordPress questions on Blab. He asked his wife who he should pick for a co-host and they thought of me — because I “was everywhere.”

I tried to talk him out of it, but he thought it would be a good combination: an IT geek and a Twitter Nerd.

It turns out, he’s right. It’s been a great show so far.

A Job in WordPress

I didn’t use WordPress to get a job in WordPress. I didn’t go to WordCamp to get a job in WordPress. I wanted a social media job.

I went to WordPress because the software was easy for a non-developer like me. I went to WordCamp because I learned valuable business, writing, and other skills.

I went to WordCamp to learn at first. Then I met people and made friends. It’s amazing how generous the WordPress community is with their knowledge. The WordPress community has a nose for people that don’t really fit in.

Director of Marketing

Slowly by slowly, I was given more side work from my friends at Thought House and WordImpress (now Impress.org), including the twitter account for GiveWP, which I grew from 167 to 1000 followers in two months. I guess they were impressed.

We hung out at their office one day and had lunch. We hung out at WordCamp Orange County in June and then I spent time with each of the guys (Devin, Jason, and Matt) at WordCamp Los Angeles. I presumed they were feeling me out for a culture fit.

In late November of 2015, they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I started December 1, 2015 and ended as Director of Marketing in October of 2017.

Yes, You Can Change Your Career

That fall of 2015, for the first time in my adult life, I took a risk. A big one.

I quit a stable job to take the scariest adventure ever: working for a tech startup in a niche market. In 2015 that was scary, but in 2017 I started freelancing. There were tears. Two years in, I am happy, over my revenue goals, and highly respected in my industry.

It’s been a long road from 2001 in roofing to being a marketing freelancer but I would do it all over again.

If I can do it you can, too.

Say “yes” to yourself. You can control your career. You can change it.

 

27 Comments

  1. Matt Cromwell on February 11, 2016 at 1:40 am

    Seriously can’t be happier WITH or FOR you Bridget. What a great and amazing and fun story. So glad to be part of it!

  2. Carol Stephen on February 11, 2016 at 11:46 am

    There are so many things about this that I love!

    One: “there are people who talk about being self-starters and then there are those of us who go forward and ask permission later.” I love that about you!

    And thank you for being my WordCamp buddy for the past few years. It’s a tradition I hope we continue into the future.

    You’re the best!

    Carol

    • Bridget Willard on February 11, 2016 at 12:06 pm

      Thank you so much Carol. Suffice it to say my life is better with you in it.

      • Carol Stephen on February 11, 2016 at 12:09 pm

        As is mine (short version).

        Thank you for being such a great friend!

        Carol

  3. Robert Nissenbaum on February 11, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    Awesome story and proud of you for taking the leap and doing something you really love.

    • Bridget Willard on February 11, 2016 at 8:08 pm

      Thank you, Robert! That means the world to me.

  4. adam fout on February 11, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    Dang dude, I got goosebumps reading this post! You might not know this (and knowing you, you might not believe it), but your story is really, truly inspirational. Knowing the kind of job situation you came from, knowing the REASON you had to stay there, knowing the kind of dedication to family and patience and fortitude and strength that it takes to do something like that, and knowing that you knew something better existed but had the PATIENCE to wait for it to come to fruition—man, it’s almost inconceivable to me. Your story about WordPress is incredible, but to me, that’s something big and powerful moving your life the way it needed to go. To me, the real inspiration is how you made it through the whole thing intact—you survived what was truly a horrible work situation, and you did it out of loyalty, love, and a conviction in your principles (not to mention a powerful faith).

    You’re awesome Bridget—and you inspire me to one day have a strength and depth of character that is half what you have. Good on you.

    Uh, also, awesome post, lol.

    P.S. Riggins still has all the followers you built up for them, but not a single new tweet. I feel like you should petition twitter to migrate the followers you rightfully built up over to @youtoocanbeguru

    • Bridget Willard on February 11, 2016 at 9:14 pm

      Wow, Adam. Wow. Thank you. My eyes are leaking now.

      I appreciate you and learn from you every time you publish.

      Thank you for being part of my new journey. My life is better with you in it.

  5. Adam Silver on February 11, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    Yo B!

    You deserve all that you have. You’ve earned it. You did the work.
    Simple. As. That.

    Looking forward to more great things from you in 2016 and beyond.

    • Bridget Willard on February 11, 2016 at 10:28 pm

      Thank you, Adam. This means a lot coming from you.

  6. John Locke on February 12, 2016 at 8:05 am

    What an awesome story, Bridget!

    • Bridget Willard on February 12, 2016 at 8:10 am

      Thank you, John. I appreciate the time you took to read my story and comment.

  7. Patricia on February 17, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    Congratulations Bridget! So glad to read you are really happy.

  8. Maria on February 27, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    See…..you rock! Love mom

  9. […] happened. I got the job I wanted from this blogging hobby here. But then what happened to being […]

  10. Tess Wittler on August 21, 2016 at 9:12 am

    Thank you for being so transparent about your journey, Bridget. You will continue to inspire others.

    • Bridget Willard on August 21, 2016 at 9:53 am

      Thank you so much, Tess. I appreciate your friendship all of these years.

  11. […] On December 1, 2015, I was offered my dream job doing marketing at WordImpress. You can read all about that transition in my blog post here. […]

  12. Amy Hall on November 23, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Very inspiring! I have a similar type of story to yours, except my last boss killed 3 people and that’s why I’m in digital marketing now. (That’s a whole other story!) It’s so nice to know that there are others with similar stories and similar backgrounds that are successful because of WordPress. Thanks for sharing yourself with us.

    • Bridget Willard on November 23, 2016 at 2:20 pm

      Oh wow, Amy. That must be a crazy, scary story. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it.

  13. Vaidehi Singh (a.k.a. Vaidus) on May 3, 2017 at 7:54 am

    What a story! I am a blogger, marketer, and someone who is absolutely in love with WordPress. I don’t know why I was smiling while reading this blog post… may be, because your story looks similar to mine. Same challenges… same community that helped… and similar kind of amazing people who believed in me. All I can say is very interesting read and I can’t stop myself sharing it further on my favorite place (apart from WordPress)… Social Media! 🙂

    • Bridget Willard on May 6, 2017 at 11:40 am

      Oh my gosh. Thank you so much. It’s good to hear we all have a similar story!

  14. Ronnie Zehender on June 19, 2019 at 10:19 am

    A lot of factors to consider when we are about to change something in our lives and more in our job. Great post.

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