Happy accidents

It’s funny how we sometimes stumble into the things we enjoy. A chance encounter, a sliver of opportunity, a mention in passing. Sometimes it’s a new hobby, other times it’s a new genre of music. It can even be a new job or a new role in an existing job.

I never intended to be an event planner. Comfortable (sort of) in my role as a marketing analyst, I attended my first company sales meeting many years ago–13, to be exact. After two seventeen-hour days of information cramming and intense networking with the same 50 people (read: meetings all day, followed by carousing till the wee hours), I was exhausted and frustrated.

After the first few hours of each day, my brain was fried. The intense format, followed by zero downtime to process the information presented, left me questioning whether I would retain anything at all. And if I wasn’t retaining much of the information, I wondered if anyone else would. If not, why were we even there? There had to be a better way.

Following the meeting, I made a list of the things I didn’t like or that I thought were ineffective. In an uncharacteristically bold move for my young, upstart self, when the VP of sales later asked me what I thought of the meeting, I told him that I thought it could have been done better. (Yikes!) Ever gracious, this man suggested that we get together for a more detailed discussion. The next thing I knew, I had a slot on his calendar.

Appointment made and back in my office, I panicked. I couldn’t go to this man with my laundry list of complaints and simply drop it in his lap. Unless I also brought some specific suggestions for improvement, I’d be lucky to get a pat on the head and a kwityerbitchen–and I’d probably never be granted another audience with this guy.

With four days till the appointment, I worked frantically to come up with a plan. When the day came, I was nervous but ready. We sat down together and the VP gave me the stage. He asked me to tell him what I thought in specific detail, and then he listened intently. When I finished, he posed the question I knew was coming:

How would you make it better?

I have never been so thankful to have been prepared. I presented him with three alternative meeting formats, and it took him all of about 36 seconds to tell me that I had just earned the next year’s meeting planning duties. I walked out of that meeting stunned but thrilled.

After that, I planned a lot of meetings, eventually adding trade shows and a few other events. That chance opportunity helped build a bridge from my then-job to corporate communications, which is my current playing field. I love what I do today, but you wouldn’t have found it on my radar all those years ago.

Sometimes, life’s best opportunities are happy accidents. Pay attention; don’t miss the next one that crosses your path.

P.S. Thanks, KMN. Every day I realize something new about how you quietly mentored me.

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