Curtis Cunningham

Career Tail End Spin

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” –Mark Twain

As professional communicators, we all strive for excellence. We also strive to be masters in our fields and mentors to the next generation.  Eventually, through hard work and determination, we reach that magical plateau.  This goal may be to own of your own business.  It may be to reach a certain title or place within a company.  It could also be financial; hitting a certain income level.

Once we become the masters of our professional domain, then what? For me, that was when an unsettling complacency set in.  After 30 years, I became comfortable. The problem with comfort is that it can lead to self-absorption, boredom, and discontent.

Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, Psychologist and author of “Better Than Perfect,” says people who regularly seek out fresh experiences tend to be more creative and emotionally resilient than those who remain stuck in routine. “Breaking your own mold can only make you stronger and more confident to reach higher levels in your professional and personal life,” she says. To grow as a human being, I needed to become uncomfortable.

Bam. This past spring, I decided to shake things up. I went looking for a new opportunity.

I wanted to finish out my second half doing something meaningful.  Don’t get me wrong, my previous endeavors accomplished a lot of great things and I worked with wonderful people. But I wanted to be a part of something bigger. I wanted to be a part of a greater community good. And I wanted to be part of the arts.  Enter the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival.

I had known about The Gilmore for many years.  I was a fan and a vendor. I had often thought of how great it would be to work there.  In the Spring of 2017, their Director of Marketing and Public Relations position opened up. I applied and interviewed. Three months went by.  I continued to check in and was notified that a decision had not been made.  I continued to follow up.  They finally started calling all of my references.  I knew they were going to make a decision “tomorrow.”  As judgement day lingered on, it got to the point where I could not stand it anymore. I contacted them and said “what else do I have to do to get this job?”  I was told that I must have ESP and to stay tuned. Three hours later, I got an offer and accepted.

I could not be happier. I am working long hours, constantly challenged, discovering new things and loving it.  I truly feel that I am on the path to making a difference.

Is it time to step out of your comfort zone?  My advice: leap.

“I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.” –Mark Twain

The only thing worse than letting your career path be determined by random chance is having it determined by regrets.  Be alert for opportunities that may arise, but also go out and make them happen.

Curtis Cunningham is the Director of Marketing and PR at of the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo.  He is one smiling in the car next to you.