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Showing Up on Accident, or, How Game Night Got Me a Day Job

As a young professional SHE, you’re going to stumble–but what are the odds of stumbling into a job you didn’t even know you were qualified for? Brittney Whidden shares how game night got her a day job, and what you can do to leave yourself open for possibilities in the same way. Brittney is an opinionated Florida native turned disruptive Nashville local who writes things down for a living. If there isn’t a deadline floating in her agenda, she’s either heavily encouraging a sports team or reading a book she forgot she owned. Oh, she also likes her cats as much as her husband. Find Brittney on social media @whiddengem and on the net at www.brittwhidden.com.

Once upon a time, I saw Peggy Olsen on Mad Men and thought to myself, “Yeah, I can do that.” I went to school for it. I started interviewing after college. I was told I didn’t have the experience or portfolio they were looking for. I’d tell them I do have work experience. They’d change their statements to say “industry” experience.

I worked myself through school so I didn’t have a ton of debt. After graduation, I was still working several underpaid jobs to make ends meet. I didn’t have the time to get myself more portfolio pieces.

After a few years of the same conversation over and over, I believed them. I settled into an office job that a friend referred me to in Nashville. It was double what I was making at my retail jobs so I kept on it for two years. I used my nights and weekends to go out with friends and read books. I could breathe without concern of on which credit card my next meal (or bill) would go on to. I thought life had figured itself out for me.

I was wrong.

 

 

 

 

One night, a group of my friends came over for a game night. We played classic games and broke out a new one we’d seen at Target: Utter Nonsense. It was a small box with phrases like Cards Against Humanity but each person said them in funny accents for that round. Did I mention that all these friends are improvisers like you see on Whose Line Is It Anyway? Each round was funnier than the last. They broke out their favorite characters and personal comedy flavors.

I looked around and realized this game night was the best one yet. We brought everyone together and no one was on their phones. It was a magical moment for me.

I wanted more of that feeling so I said for the next game night, I’d find the expansion packs. A game this fun was likely a piece of a game family. It wasn’t.

Utter Nonsense had been fully-funded on Kickstarter. It was brought into Target and achieved start-up status. Something felt off so I continued further into their brand. Maybe their following was on social media? It wasn’t.

My professional training kicked in. I started reviewing their whole brand identity.

The creators of Utter Nonsense liked it enough to share it with the world. What was happening now? The Utter Nonsense website was short on content and featuring the same messages on their game’s box. Their social media presence was also off-putting to me with hardly any engagement or a clear brand message. Who else but Chrissy Teigen can have a “Chrissy Teigen Tuesday”?

What if someone found them and didn’t buy their game because they don’t talk about themselves the right way? I was nervous for them. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had so much fun with a game, let alone a brand.

I messaged the Utter Nonsense Facebook page. I told them I admired their game and wanted them to know my friends and I appreciated them. I told them about how I’d been searching for expansion packs. I shared with them some white papers I’d gotten in my email that week about social media. With a start-up budget, I thought it
couldn’t hurt to share resources.

Two hours go by and I get a response. “We’re not hiring right now. Glad you enjoyed the game.” I told them I wasn’t looking for a job but I wanted them to succeed. I told them I had ran social media for some parents of my friends while their business started. I hadn’t ever made money at it before but I knew where to go for marketing research.They sent back another response: “Email us your resume.”

I talked to my family about it before I sent anything back. It had to be a bot response, right? I wasn’t looking for a job. I thought I was in a great situation with my career as an administrative assistant. Instead of sending them my resume, I emailed them asked for a conversation about social media. It could have been the resources I sent were too jargon filled to make sense to them. I thought I could explain a few things.

Forty-five minutes later, I got a response from a co-founder and the CEO, Tim. He agreed to a conversation and wanted to know more about me. He asked for my resume or LinkedIn page.

I set up a calendar invite and we talked. We talked about comedy, business, how to find the right audience, and social media. At the end of the hour, he asked for a social media proposal for what I would do if Utter Nonsense were my company. I asked for a couple of weeks, since I had a day job. He was cool with that. He had one too.

On the eighth day, I sent him the proposal. On the tenth day, we talked again on the phone and he sent me a contract where I could name my own price. Tim told me to make it my baby. He introduced me to Shannon, the Director of Ops, who did most of the day-to- day. Shannon was kind, challenging, and one of the most responsible people I’ve ever met to date.

Holy smokes. Is this real life? Did I get the job I’d been told for years I wasn’t qualified for? Had I shown up on accident?

Yes, to all above. I had arrived. I was immediately aware of how unhappy I was as an administrative assistant. I regretted wasting my time believing other people’s opinions of my work and lack of experience. I signed on the line  for a month-to-month contract. We agreed that it would go until it wasn’t necessary anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like that, I was at the helm of the Utter Nonsense social media channels. I took care of content creation, posted to each channel as needed, and found people to engage with the game. I was able to take my thoughts and work them in as pieces of the Utter Nonsense brand.

I started researching comedy writing, copywriting, and where they intersected on Twitter. My family would tell you I often talked in tweets. I got caught telling the same joke to different people at parties until it got a true laugh.

After six months of working for Utter Nonsense, I was feeling the outer limits of my mind, body, and soul. I hadn’t stopped full-time as an administrative assistant. I was volunteering as the marketing director of the Nashville Rollergirls.

Something had to give. I couldn’t sustain this lifestyle with three full-time responsibilities. I left the administrative assistant life in October 2016. I’d had some less than appropriate situations in the months prior. As the new year approached, my term with the Rollergirls ended as well.

It was such a relief to have room for my brain to breathe again. Shannon told me about an idea she had for an expansion game. It was going to be a family edition of the game that would be suitable for ages 8 and older. She asked if I could write some phrases for her to get samples made for their next category review with Target.

Target loved it and wanted it only on their shelves. It was big news and I was full of pride. Tim, Shannon, and I agreed that a PR firm was necessary to market two games. They’d also greatly benefit from having an agency in Chicago.

In March of 2017, Utter Nonsense and I parted ways. I haven’t gone back to an office since then either. To not go stir-crazy, I picked up some odd jobs to get me out of the house. It helped me meet people. An added bonus was getting new ideas for the next time I needed to show up.

How to Show Up On Accident

  1. Notice where your work and play intersect. For me, it was game nights and social media. It could be sports and music for you. Be open and try new experiences! Not sure where to start? Check out apps and resources like Bumble Bizz, Shapr, Eventbrite & Meetup to start finding your people.
  2. Be honest about your skillset. Share where you learn from so other people can feel good sharing with you too. If you can’t figure something out, ask for help in your network to get someone who can.
  3. Be available. If you’re venturing into start-ups or opening a small business, be ready to address an issue at the drop of a hat. For example: Imagine a big family dinner. Next, imagine a famous person talking about your brand during that dinner. Then, putting it all over her Instagram stories. It happened on a Friday night and that person was Julianne Hough from Dancing With The Stars.
  4. Set boundaries. I know I said to be available to the client but you’ll need to be available to you too. Take breaks, drink water, and turn off your phone one Sunday or weekend a month. It’ll feel refreshing and wonderful.

 Want more Britt Whidden? Make sure to check her out at www.brittwhidden.com and sign up for her email list!

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