The Work Seminar

Ep. 5: Christina Olson Hendrickson - MA in Public Address Turned Content Marketer

December 01, 2021 Jesse Butts Season 1 Episode 5
The Work Seminar
Ep. 5: Christina Olson Hendrickson - MA in Public Address Turned Content Marketer
Show Notes Transcript

Christina watched her adjunct spots, and tentative career plans, evaporate as the Great Recession exacted its toll on higher ed. 

Faced with fewer classes and less income, she opened her job search to larger cities where she’d have a better shot putting her MA in public address and background in graphic design to good use outside academia. And far outside academia she went.

Christina landed an entry-level marketing position at a motorcycle aftermarket accessories manufacturer. Self-described as “the least likely person to work for a motorcycle company,” she did make an earnest go of it. In time, the industry (unsurprisingly) didn’t stick. But marketing did. 

Since then, Christina has found her niche as a content marketer, a subset of marketing that educates and entertains people whether they buy the product or service in question. She’s now a marketing manager at an environmental services firm. 

And every work day she applies her knowledge of rhetoric, deciphering what the technical experts she works with offer—and what the people who need their help respond to. 

Books & other resources mentioned

Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

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Jesse Butts:

Welcome to The Work Seminar, the podcast for people with liberal arts advanced degrees considering work outside their fields of study. Hey everyone, thanks for joining me for another episode. I'm your host, Jesse Butts. Today I'm chatting with Christina Olson Hendrickson, an MA in communications and public address turned content marketer. Christina is a marketing manager at Cascade Environmental, a company that provides drilling, site investigation, and environmental remediation. Christina, welcome. Delighted to have you!

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Thanks for having me, Jesse.

Jesse Butts:

Yeah, absolutely. Before we dive into your work journey, and even what exactly content marketing is, would you mind explaining a little bit about Cascade Environmental? I, for one, don't know much about this industry? And I'm sure a lot of our listeners are curious, too.

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Yeah, of course. So the environmental services industry that Cascade Environmental is a part of has to do with preserving and cleaning up our natural environment. So the drilling part is where they will not check for oil, but they'll check for contaminants in the ground, take samples to see where the water table is, things like that. Once contamination is found or suspected, they move to site characterization. So they try to figure out what contaminants are there? What's the concentration of contaminants? Is it dangerous? Or is it low enough where it's safe for people to use the land or the water? And then delineate exactly where it is, you know, how much space it encompasses. If it's found to be dangerous. Then you go to the remediation stage, and that's the cleanup. Finding ways to get that out of the soil, get it out of the water, so that land and water is safe for human use. So Cascade Environmental actually does all of that. It's the only company in the country that from the very beginning of the project to the end of the lifecycle, we can do all of that field work. So I'm the content marketing manager there.

Jesse Butts:

Great. And what exactly is a content marketer, content marketing manager? What does that entail?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Yeah, so I like to think of content marketing as value-first marketing. Meaning what most people think of when they hear marketing or sales, they kind of lump it all together. Where you're saying, Hey, we're really great. Hey, our product, you should buy it. And instead of doing that, content marketing is saying, You know, we recognize you have this problem. Here's some information or here's something valuable that you can use to fix your problem. And starting with that content, first, that type of explanation or guide, or advice puts you top of mind, for your perfect client. So that when they're ready to hire an agency or a firm or they need that product. They're going to be thinking of you because you've already been there when they needed you. And you didn't ask for anything but consideration for the future. So that's kind of what my role is, is creating that content and getting it out there to people.

Jesse Butts:

Got it. Okay. So instead of the hard pitching, Hey, Cascade Environmental is the best damn company in the world. Why aren't you using us for all your drilling, site investigation, environmental remediation needs? It's more finding ways to help people with this before they even spend a dime with you. Is that pretty fair?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Yeah.

Jesse Butts:

Okay. Great. So now that we have a pretty good handle on your employer and what you do, can you just tell me a little bit about why you decided to enroll in grad school? What made you want to go beyond undergrad?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Yeah, I came up with a really profound reason for going to grad school. It was to buy time to figure out what to do with my life. I don't know if anyone else relates to that. I'm sure I'm the only one who's ever done it. My undergrad degree was in graphic design. And this probably shows my age, but when I was in that program, my professors were telling me, Oh, yeah, you're going to design websites and build websites for the rest of your life. This is what you will be doing. And I realized I don't actually like building websites. I mean, sure, websites are cool, but that's not what I envisioned when I enrolled in this program. By the time I had this conclusion, though, I had completed most of the coursework for my major. So instead of double majoring and extending the time I was in undergrad, I said, Okay, well, screw this, I'll finish my degree, and I'll go to grad school, and that'll give me at least two years before I have to make any big decisions about my life.

Jesse Butts:

You mentioned you didn't think you'd be designing websites. I mean, did you think it would be like concert posters or corporate logos? What did you think you were going to be doing with that degree before you learned kind of the reality of what it would be?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

At 18? I did not know the warning signs that the print industry, the print publication industry was nosediving, I thought I'd be doing, you know, maybe magazine work, advertisements, logo design like you said, different things like that. Even catalog design, which is funny, because I've done all those things in my marketing work, but I was told, Hey, you're gonna be a graphic designer. You're not going to do those things anymore, you're only going to do websites. And that just didn't appeal to me. So hence, grad school.

Jesse Butts:

Instead of pursuing an MFA in design, you went the communications and public address route. Can you tell us a little bit about why you decided to study that in particular?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Jesse, you're gonna lose so much respect for me by the end of this interview. So I enrolled in the program that I enrolled in because it was a new one at the same school that I did undergrad at. And they said, Hey,you're great. We like you, you seem pretty smart. Do you want free tuition for grad school? If you teach some classes, you can have free tuition. I was like, Well, since I'm doing this because I don't know what to do with my life, I'm not focused on a specific goal, the less money I spend on this, the better. If I drop out because I realize it's not for me, I haven't lost anything but time. So that's why I decided to enroll in this program. And then once I enrolled in the program, I had to choose an area of concentration. And I talked to a few people who were in it and some of the professors and they said, Oh, well, do you like numbers? Are you good at math? I said, Oh, no, not at all. And they said, Okay, we'll steer clear of these concentrations. There's one left for you, you should do that one. And so I studied public address.

Jesse Butts:

For the record, I think I've gained more respect for you for considering the financial consequences. Unlike so many of us who are just signing those promissory notes like, Oh, it's all, you know...This won't really ever affect me. It's so hypothetical. So, no, that makes a lot of sense. So yeah, could you tell us a little bit about what your thoughts were during the program? Were you liking it? Were you starting to get an idea of what you wanted to do as you were doing that coursework and that teaching?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Like I said, I studied public address, or rhetoric. But I was really fortunate in that I had a professor who said, Rhetoric, people think of it as ancient texts or studying things that are really dry. Or speech, writing, things like that. That's what the word conjures up in most people's mind, he said, But that's not what it is. Rhetoric is how we organize information and why we organize it the way we do. And it tells us something about the person who is conveying that or the community or organization that's conveying that information. It says something about the context in which it exists in. So there are a lot of different applications to this type of study. And so I started thinking about that, and I decided to focus my research on visual rhetoric. So it really did end up tying into my graphic design study and degree. And suddenly, I had a vocabulary to talk about the things I've always really valued about art and design. Because now I was learning how to talk about it in a way that made sense that connected all the dots. So I really, really enjoyed that degree to the point where I started thinking, Well, I'll just get a PhD in this. And then I can do research all the time for the rest of my life because I love that. I can teach about it. And that'll be wonderful. And I can just immerse myself in this world. And I really enjoyed teaching too. You know, I didn't expect to. When I took my first public speaking class in undergrad, freshman year, first semester, I was so terrified. I was not looking forward to that at all. And here's me, sharing too much information. Everyone will lose respect for me. The reason I stayed in that class, I wanted to drop it. I was terrified. I thought the teacher was super intimidating. But my second class that I attended, I realized there was a really good looking hockey player in there. I was like, Oh, well, I mean, okay, maybe we'll have a group project. So I stayed. But that was something I used to share with my students too. It doesn't matter why you're sticking in this class. But as long as you're here, we can learn something together and get something out of it. So that was something that I really valued as well because teaching freshmen students, no matter what course you're teaching, I was teaching comms 101, you're not just teaching them the subject matter. You're also teaching them how to be college students and how to be adults. And so I felt like the work that I was doing was actually really important because I was helping them prepare for the rest of their college career, and learn things that can help them be successful. And some of the schools that I ended up teaching at over the years are community colleges or colleges that attracted first-generation students, first in their family to go to college. And so that seemed really important to me. And I really took a lot of that myself a lot of satisfaction from my work.

Jesse Butts:

If we can backtrack just a second, I was really hoping when you were talking about considering a PhD and researching, that some advisors said, Oh, you're just going to be researching websites for the rest of your life. But I guess that didn't come to pass. But that that aside, you were enjoying grad school, perhaps more than you thought you might initially. You were enjoying teaching students not just in the art of communication and public address, but also the art of being a student in college. And so it sounds like, after you graduated, you went straight into teaching at the community college level, is that right?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

I did, yes. So I worked as an adjunct professor at four different schools at different times, and sometimes simultaneously. So I taught a lot of entry level 100, level 200 classes. So that that was a great experience for me, but if anyone else here has ever been an adjunct professor, you know that is a hard way to make a living. It's a hard way to pay the bills. And it's, it's never gonna get you very far. I mean, some people end up on a tenure track, which I admire and like I said before, I had dreamed of that at one point. But a degree in communications, there's a lot of people who have them. And getting a PhD, I did look into it, I applied for a few programs. And I looked at the cost, and I started thinking about, Hey, this is how much it's gonna cost me, how much it's gonna put me in debt. And here's the average salary, even if I get tenured, even if it's at a school that pays, you know, what's considered well for academia. The numbers just don't make sense. And so that's when I decided, Okay, maybe this is something that I can continue to do or do in the future, again, as an adjunct where it's not for my financial survival, it's for my enjoyment and for giving back. But this can't be my career path.

Jesse Butts:

And how long after graduating, and how many years of teaching, did you start to, to come to this realization or this mindset?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Yeah, so I taught during grad school, so for those two years, and then I taught for about another two years after that. And that's when...actually I can't say that I made that decision on my own. The recession also helped. The recession of 2008. So I finished grad school in 2008, started adjunct teaching at a few extra schools beyond the one that I had been working at. Andthe thing about enrollment and registration is there's a one-year lag. So it was in 2009 that they started seeing extremely low enrollment in a lot of colleges. And so that was when I had maybe half of the contracts that I had previously. And that just, you know, I had barely been getting by on the four that I had, so to only have two, it wasn't going to work. So that's when I really sat down and said, Is this something I can continue to do? Is it something that I can force through maybe other jobs to supplement? And I just had to make that call and say, No, no, this isn't going to be good for my career. It's not good for my mental health. I've got to find something else to do.

Jesse Butts:

If you don't mind me asking, how tough of a call was that? Was it like, giving up a dream? Or was it more like Option A didn't work out, so let's...I'm going to re-huddle and and think about something else? Can you, if you don't mind, could you give us some sense of that?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Yeah, I mean, I think it was a little bit of both to be honest. There was a part of me that was very disappointed. It felt like I'm giving up a vocation. And not that that meant that I couldn't find something else that I would enjoy and be good at. But it really felt like I had finally found something that felt bigger than just making a paycheck and, and I had to give that up. And that was frustrating. And that was disappointing. But I think I just tried to take a pragmatic approach to, you know, it doesn't have to be forever. But for right now, I have to figure out something that works.

Jesse Butts:

So you're at this point where you've decided this isn't viable. What do you do? At that point, then do you start looking? Do you have something lined up? What is your role after you leave adjunct teaching?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Well isn't necessarily what I think is considered good advice...What I did was I started searching. Craigslist, job ads basically in all the cities that I thought, Yeah, I know people there. I could couch surf while I get my first few paychecks and get an apartment. So I started applying to all those jobs that I found that I thought I have at least 75 to 80% of the skills that are required here. I think I could do this. And obviously, I tried to choose things that were interesting. But at a certain point, it was like, this is a survival issue. I don't have to do it forever, but I need to be able to pay bills. So I ended up taking a job in Washington state, which is where my family is and where I live now, working for a motorcycle aftermarket accessories manufacturer. So I know this is not, there's no video here, but I look like the least likely person to work for a motorcycle company. And going from academia to the motorcycle industry was kind of a culture shock. But at the time, I was like, well, that's kind of a swerve. That's kind of fun. Okay, I'll do that. And I did. And it got me to a city that there were more opportunities. And that was part of the goal, too, to be somewhere where I could see finding another job more easily in the future.

Jesse Butts:

What is that process like of you learning not just a new job but an industry that, to your point, you knew nothing about before and had no interest in? How did you pick up the skills but also learn the lingo? And you know, what, what really mattered to people looking for these type of things?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Well, I think that's where my graduate work actually came in really helpful. Because that's why I had been studying, right, is rhetoric. I've been studying what people value and how they communicate that, how they organize that information. And so I started researching where do people talk about the stuff online. Let me read everything I can so that I absorb how they phrase things, and the things that they care about, whether it's gear, or the trips that they take, just all that sort of research and that's what I love about pretty much every job I've ever taken. It was because there was something to learn. And it allowed me to research something new that I was getting paid to learn about and dig into. So that part was really rewarding. And the company that I was working with, you know, I, like I said, not a motorcycle person myself, but I have to give it to them. They really were trying to do something new. The motorcycle industry at the time...I don't want to call it backwards. It wasn't backwards, but it hadn't really progressed in terms of the internet age. A lot of the websites were pretty static. There were not a lot of people trying to engage with their audiences and really respond to what they were saying. And so this company tried to do that. And I got to be part of that. And, again, that rhetoric degree came in handy. I didn't expect it to. I don't think they expected it to either. But it did.

Jesse Butts:

And for a little context, so this is the early 2010s?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Yes.

Jesse Butts:

Roughly? Okay. That was your first marketing role then correct?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Mmhmm.

Jesse Butts:

What was it that prompted you to look for something else? Or to take a role with another company?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Yeah, so I was there for just under two years. And the reason I left...There were a couple of reasons, but they kind of all rolled into one another. The company was a startup and so it had that startup pace, like long hours long days, lots of weekends. I was traveling all over the country for different rallies and trade shows...

Jesse Butts:

On a motorcycle?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Luckily not on a...well sometimes on a motorcycle, on the back of a motorcycle. I didn't have my certification. But often camping, you know, these were at campsites. And they were like, We're of the people. Which was a way to not pay for a hotel. So I did that for two years, but the pace kind of burnt me out and around that time my dad started having some severe health issues. He almost died. And I realized I need time to be able to spend with him. I need time to be able to check in with my parents and see them because they are getting older and I want the freedom to do that. I don't want to be out of town every other weekend for these these rallies. So I looked for another job and ended up in another job.

Jesse Butts:

You've been in marketing for roughly 10 years at this point. What have been the things that you've been really interested in? And that when you started out, you might not have known much in those areas but have really become some of the facets of marketing that you really have enjoyed and honed your craft in.

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

So the parts of marketing, not the industries that I was in?

Jesse Butts:

Either. Yeah.

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Well, I really have jumped industries, several times. And like I said before, I really enjoy learning about different things, different important things that these companies have been doing and the industries that they're involved in. How people are making a difference, and finding ways to support the people who are doing that work through my marketing. The things that I have enjoyed about marketing and growing as a marketer are related to communication and helping people position themselves as experts. That's a lot of what I do as a content marketer is, I might ghostwrite something for a subject matter expert, which allows me to learn what they know but also helps them to communicate more clearly what they know, and get the recognition that they need as an expert, both for the company's sake, but also for their own professional growth. And so I find things like that really fulfilling. I also really enjoy connecting with the audiences and the customers and understanding what it is that they really care about. Because so much of the time we we think we know what people want, and we act on that and we don't take the time to just ask. And you can really get some good insight that way, when you just take the time to ask. People are pretty free with their opinions people like to tell you.

Jesse Butts:

One thing I'm curious about, I'm wondering if you could help our listeners with too is, I know now that you're a manager. Can you talk a little bit about the difference in work and expectations of your work as you've been promoted throughout the years?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

When I first started out in my first marketing job, they expected that I would be reasonably good at writing because I had a degree my master's degree and had been writing before on different websites, and they could review the work there. So they had a grasp of what I could do. So that was kind of what they were expecting. And they were expecting some event management and things like that, you know, coordinating and organizing. So those were the basic skills that they they were hoping to see. And I was able to grow while I was there. But as I grew beyond just the basics, and started anticipating challenges and problems before they arose and coming up with either backup plans or solutions or being able to take on more of the strategy part of it, that's when I was able to move up to a different role or a different title along the way. It's also allowed me to move to bigger companies as well. I think that gets overlooked when you think about a career, but it's not just about the title. It's also about how big is the organization that you're supporting? Because the same title can mean different things. If you're at a smaller company, they might try to provide you with a better-sounding title, because they can't give you the financial compensation that a larger company might give you but not with the same title. So things like that are good to keep in mind too. Stuff that I didn't know when I was first starting out.

Jesse Butts:

So yeah, that's definitely a great point. For any listeners curious about those kind of differing titles and hierarchies, they can vary quite a bit. One thing I was curious about that you mentioned is doing more of the strategy. What does that mean, in your terms as a marketer? What is marketing strategy versus what would be tactical work, for example?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Yeah, so let's start with tactical work. If you work in marketing, especially at an entry or reasonably junior role, you're going to be given projects to do or you're going to be given certain areas where you are supposed to kind of accomplish X, Y, and Z. So that might be social media, you write the posts, and you schedule them, and you make sure that there are pictures. You schedule blog posts to go live on the website at certain times. Maybe you make sure that certain things get printed, or that everything got packed for a conference on a pallet and shipped off on time. And these are concrete tasks that you are assigned at junior levels in marketing. As you move up and become more strategic or more involved in strategy, you start doing things like the planning and organizing. So for that same conference, maybe you pulled together the task sheet that needs to be planned out before every single event and make sure everything is getting done by the deadline so that you don't incur rush fees, or everything actually gets done, or that you've booked all the tickets for the people who need to travel. And that can progress even further where, when you're a little bit further along in your career, you're talking about the messaging for that conference. And how are you going to reach the right people? And how can you engage them? And how can you measure whether this was a good investment of resources by being at this conference? And just so on and so forth? So you just keep moving up and thinking bigger and bigger picture.

Jesse Butts:

Do you, and this is something maybe listeners should think about too, as you moved up, as, excuse me as you've moved up, have you really looked for more and more strategic roles? Or is there a part of you that still loves to write the content? Maybe, you know, do some of the peripheral work around that? Do you like a balance? Or have you kind of enjoyed moving in one particular direction with your career?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

That's a great question. I would say that it's somewhere in between. Probably like I, I definitely work more on strategy for content specifically, in my current role. I think about the type of content we need to get out there and how we're going to distribute it, how we're going to measure its impact, how we tie this into other initiatives. I'm really fortunate I work for a company that most of their marketing is focused on content, that that's where the emphasis is, so I get to kind of just throw myself into it. Both the creation and the strategy.

Jesse Butts:

And when you talk about measuring the content, what exactly do you mean by that?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Yeah. So even though content can be a really cost effective way to build a marketing program, it isn't free. There are costs like building a website, building a new functionality, hosting that website. There are costs associated with email campaigns, because of whatever platform you're using to send them out. And hopefully, there's some sort of measurement behind that. So you are paying for that. If you have a customer relationship management system, a CRM, and that's hooked in, you're trying to measure through that who opened, what other activities they've done, where they saw you last, what they engaged with, meaning clicked on, or opened or did something with. That's how you're trying to measure it. You're trying to figure out is the time and money that we spent on an individual piece of content or an individual campaign, is it worth what we got out of it? Did enough people open it? Is that the metric? Did enough people click the link? ? Is that the metric? For some companies that maybe have a different sales cycle, it might be, Did we make enough money off of that particular campaign? Every company's going to be different, and the metrics that they say make something worthwhile. But that's what they're looking for when they say they want to measure the impact.

Jesse Butts:

So, and I'm asking this because I have my thoughts on this, but when you were in grad school or teaching or right in your first marketing role, and please correct me if I'm wrong, but these were probably questions that weren't even on your radar? As you got more involved in marketing, these type of questions that are never in a grad student's mind about what their career might look like, if they choose something outside of their field, or are they interesting to you right off the bat? Or were you really focused on that tactical work, and then it was just, it was more of a matter of time before thinking more broadly, about how your work actually resonates with people? On how you can figure that out? When did that become something where you decided that you wanted to do more of that in different roles in marketing?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Yeah, so when I was in grad school and even undergrad the idea of working with data and numbers was not on my radar. You're absolutely right. That was not what I was hoping would be part of my life. But I did discover that it's helpful and not just for the company, but for me. I think I first became interested in this before I technically started my marketing degree. Something that some people don't know about me, but for about a year or so, a little over a year I think, I ran a celebrity gossip blog. So I got to see Google Analytics and try stuff out and see you things instantly were impacted. I learned a lot about SEO, basic SEO, because again, this was like 12 years ago or more, but I started to see the value of numbers and tracking. Because this also had an impact on whether or not people would want to advertise on the site, or if they wanted to acquire this site as part of a network, I needed to know how we stacked up against competing sites and what they were doing differently than what I was doing. And if I should try that, or maybe I shouldn't. Maybe what I was doing was actually much more effective. I just hadn't been around as long, and so Google didn't rank me as high because of the age of the site, so that's when I first started seeing that the benefit of data on content. And then, I feel very fortunate that, as I started my marketing career, there were tools that are nowhere near as advanced as they are now. But you know, providing analytics in a pretty clear way, like Survey Monkey and MailChimp were my best friends for a long time. Being able to explain because they offered a lot of education, they did their own content marketing. Here's how to use the tool, here's why these tools are helpful, here's what you can do with the information that we provide you. So being able to see, okay, this is what makes people open an email. And then this is what makes them click not only told me that I was on the right track, but it also helped me identify other things that maybe they would be interested in. Other topics to write about, other types of information to provide. What they didn't like, and maybe language I shouldn't be using because it didn't resonate, it kind of killed the vibe for them. There's a lot of information you can get just through basic free data tools.

Jesse Butts:

And just for any listeners who are unfamiliar, SEO is search engine optimization, which is basically making your site as relevant as possible to what people search in Google so that it will be at the top of the results. But, Christina, as I was listening to you, and you started talking originally like you weren't a data person or a math person. I think one of the things that's important for some of our listeners to consider is that, what may sound unappealing to you now, it might not be that it's the numbers or whatever in particular, is unappealing, it's that you don't yet have the context for why they matter and how they can benefit you. Because it sounds like, if I'm understanding correctly,once you understood how that impacts or how you can see what people respond to in your writing or figure out how to do things differently to make people more interested in what you're doing, that was kind of where it all clicked and came together?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Absolutely. Yes.

Jesse Butts:

One thing I've been curious about, and something different guests have had different takes on is...Some guests I've interviewed, they've really latched on to a certain employer, institution. They felt very passionate about that, the mission the employer has or what it does. So they've found different roles, or they found the one role and have loved it. And some others are not as concerned with the company or institution they're working for. Can you tell me a little bit about your thoughts on the work versus the institution?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Yeah. So I think that's a really great question. For me, I think the institution matters, it's not that it doesn't matter, I wouldn't want to work with an organization if I thought, you know, just its very existence posed an ethical question, right? There are certain types of industries and companies that I wouldn't work for, that I wouldn't apply for, that I just have zero interest in being a part of. And no shame to people who who work there, just it's not for me. So I do care to an extent, like there's a baseline for me where I have to care enough or see the point of the company. And I am attracted to companies that have a really interesting story or a mission. So when I talked about the motorcycle company, I thought what a great story this would be that I went from academia to the motorcycle industry. And you know, I worked for a tourism company for a while that kind of took people's through parts of Seattle that they wouldn't normally see and I thought that was really cool because I think Seattle has a really interesting history. I've just worked for a lot of companies where I really felt like their mission was important to the world. And so that part is, is the part of the institution that I think yes, I do care about. But you're right. And I haven't chosen a specific industry or a specific company where I'm like, nope, this is where my loyalty is forever and ever. And again, I don't blame people who do that, I really admire them, in fact, but for me, I want to do something that resonates for me, that is interesting to me. And not that I got bored, but I'm a research person, and I'm a learning person. Those are the things that I care about. And so a new job can be really exciting because it's something to learn, it's something new to dive into. And that's one of the things I really love about the company that I'm with right now is I work with some really smart people. Some of the types of remediation that they work in, there's only like maybe 10 people in the entire world who do that type of work, who are even qualified to do that type of work, and I get to talk to them, and I get to learn from them. And there's just a lot of people like that in this industry in general. And so I've been with them for a few years, I don't see that changing, at least, not on purpose. Because I just really love it, and there continues to be stuff to learn about.

Jesse Butts:

So you've talked a bit about it throughout, and you were just now saying how much you love research and learning and seeing the visual rhetoric of things, and you've been able to apply that to your career. Is there any thing else or any relationship between what you do now and those skills that you honed in academia, what you learned, that we haven't discussed yet?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

In marketing, there's so many areas that you can focus on that it almost doesn't matter what you studied. If you are curious about people and what they need, right? So I apply the design background that I have, I apply that every day, the writing I apply every day, the research I apply every day. Even more the philosophy of rhetoric goes into the psychology and messaging, is this about ethics? Is this about emotion? Is this about facts? All of that gets applied. And so it's just interesting to me, and I've thought about this before. I don't emphasize the fact that I have a degree in public address or rhetoric when I'm in a job interview because it makes people scratch their head, and they're like, why are you here? It doesn't make sense. But I really do feel like there are skills that can be applied, just because they help you to understand and be curious about people and what they need, and how to give it to them.

Jesse Butts:

Do you still consider whether sometime soon or in the more distant future, taking up an adjunct class like you had mentioned earlier?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Yeah, my husband and I sometimes talk about what retirement would look like for us. And I think the freedom that we're looking for as we grow in our careers, is that at some point maybe we don't stop working because we've accumulated all this expertise, but we get to choose jobs that are about giving back. And we don't have to worry so much about the income associated with them. And I think that would be my second act career or maybe third act, maybe there'll be another career in between. But I think that that's kind of the plan for me, that's what I'm aiming for, is to maybe scale back work that's based on generating as much income and leveraging this window of opportunity to invest or plan for retirement or whatever else people need to do, and I hope I'm doing it right. But yeah, just get to spend those years saying, Okay, I've got all this knowledge, maybe I can pass some of it on.

Jesse Butts:

As you have transitioned from academia to a variety of industries, and you stayed within the marketing discipline, what are your thoughts on, Do you need to love a job? Is liking it better? Does it have to be something you're as passionate about as what you studied in grad school or undergrad or wherever? What have you realized about yourself in that relationship to work?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

So for me, I recognize I can't hate my job because it's going to make, it's going to poison the rest of my life. And I've had a few jobs just like I think everyone has that really It became kind of toxic for them, even if it didn't start out that way. So that's, that's a no go for me. I think I need to at least like it, and I need to feel competent in it. It's nice when you love it. But I think sometimes, at least for me, when I get to the point where I think regularly, oh my gosh, I love my job, like everybody, well hopefully everybody at some point has at least a few of those days. But when I feel like that all the time, I feel like I'm in too deep. Or my identity has maybe gotten too wrapped up in the work I do. And that's not really a healthy place. For me, I really enjoy the work that I do, and I enjoy the company that I'm with, and I enjoy my co-workers. But I do it because I get paid. And you know, it's not volunteer work. And I don't want to get so wrapped up in it, where, if something were to ever happened to this job, I'd feel like some part of me was torn away. Because I've been there, I've had that happen. And I felt so hurt and so crushed by it, that it's just not a place I want to be again. So I don't know that that's necessarily advice for other people. Everyone's wired differently. But I think it's totally okay to just say, I like my job, and I'm good at my job, and I will keep doing it. And for that to be enough. If it can give you the rest of your life and you love the rest of your life, I think that's a beautiful thing.

Jesse Butts:

So I'd like to wrap up with two final questions for you. One, going back earlier to our conversation, whatever happened with that hockey player?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

(laughin) I didn't end up with him.

Jesse Butts:

It's like Chekhov's gun. You mentioned it, now we've gotta know. It's the third act of this.

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Wouldn't that be a beautiful story if that was my husband, but it's not. It's not. I met my husband on Twitter. That's a different story.

Jesse Butts:

All right. Fair enough. Um, alright, but on a serious note now. What questions would you suggest someone in a similar situations start asking themselves about the possibility of working outside the field of study? And is there anything you'd recommend they read? Any videos they should watch? Anything along those lines that might help them answer some of those questions?

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Yeah, that is a great question. So I think I would recommend asking yourself, what is most important? How do you envision your life? Is it that you want to be happy? Or is it that you feel like the work that you had planned on doing was really, really important? And it doesn't mean that those have to be different things. But which one is the most important thing to you, and I think you can be happy in either way. But if it's, you want to enjoy your life, or your family, or experiences like travel, your life might end up looking a lot different than if you say, My mission is this work and accomplishing X, Y, and Z, and I will sacrifice other things to get there. For me, the answer was, no, I want to enjoy the rest of my life. And work is a way that I get to do that. I ge to pay to and fund the rest o my life. But I respect peopl who come to a differen conclusion because they're the ones who have really change the world in a lot of great wa s. I would also say, if you ma e a decision and you follow a path, and you find out it's n t right for you, that's totall fine. I kind of envision life l ke a pendulum swing. You get se off from one end and you swin

Jesse Butts:

I'll make sure to leave information about that wildly to the other direction. nd maybe that's not where ou need to be either. So you sw ng back in the other direction. nd this time, you're a little b t closer to center, right? A ittle bit closer where yo 're going to finally end up a d where you're supposed to be w en the pendulum stops. Each swin brings you closer. Every ti e you take a job, or you make a ecision about your career you're learning something bout what works for you and wha doesn't. And so even when t ings don't work out the wa you want, you're still getti g valuable data that you can u e to make your life closer to hat you want it to be and what w ll make you happy and feel fulf lled. In terms of a boo to read, gosh, I meant to look his up before I read a really good one recently that I wish had read way back when I belie e it's called Design Your Life. nd it's about applying design thinking to decision making. A d, you know, I'm somebody wh , despite how it sounds when I m ke these crazy decisions or ake it on like weird rational s, I often end up wit decision paralysis where it's eally hard because I want to ake the perfect decision. And what the authors are pointing ut is kind of what I was talki g about with the pendulum only uch smarter sounding. Like it's kay to make a decision, just m ve forward with it, you'll lea n something and then you can pivot or you can change some, so e aspect of it. Tweak it so it its better and kind of applying that systems thinking to your ife. And so I would recommend th t book for sure. book in the show notes. Christina, great conversation. Thank you for being so candid. And I really appreciate you joining me. Thank you so much.

Christina Olson Hendrickson:

Thanks, Jesse. It's been a good conversation. I appreciate it.

Jesse Butts:

Absolutely. Thanks for listening to this episode of The Work Seminar. If you like what you've heard, please take a minute to rate the show on your favorite podcast app. Know someone who'd be a great Work Seminar guest? Or have a suggestion or two for the show? You can reach me at jesse@theworkseminar.com, or @TheWorkSeminar on social. And special thanks, as always, to Jon Camp for the music and Isabel Patino for the cover art and design. Until next time, never cease from exploration.