My Transition from a 9-5 Office Job to the Health & Fitness Industry (Part 1)

How I Transitioned from a 9-5 Office Job into the Health & Fitness Industry (Part 1)I picked this photo for my story because it seemed like a good representation of how I got into the health & fitness industry: I have a confused look on my face and I’m pretending to fake run (??) while really just looking like an idiot. 

One of the most common questions I get asked in reader emails and comments is for advice about getting involved in the health & fitness industry and making it a full-time career. I actually don’t think I’m the best person to be advising people on the subject because I wouldn’t recommend doing it the way I did. Nonetheless, I want to do a few posts on the subject with some tips for starting a health & fitness blog and/or launching a group fitness/personal training career, and I thought a good place to start would be to just share my personal story, which I’m titling Universe Guides Dumb, Unprepared Girl into Fitness Industry. My hope in sharing it is that you’ll feel assured that no matter where you are now, it is possible to get where you want to be–whether that’s a career in fitness, blogging or something else entirely. Everyone starts somewhere! And if something makes you truly happy, it is worth pursuing. As you’ll see, I had no idea what I was doing (and still don’t), but fumbled my way along until the pieces started to come together.

I drank coffee for the first time in two months while writing, so this story of mine ended up being quite the literary saga. I’m going to split it up in three blog posts and will post one each Sunday for the next few weeks. I don’t normally post a lot of personal stuff to the blog, so these are definitely different, but hopefully you’ll enjoy them and get to know more about me and how I got to where I am today. If you’re interested in getting into the health & fitness industry, I hope this mini series is helpful; and if you’re just looking for some Sunday afternoon reading material, I hope this mini series is entertaining. 🙂

Universe Guides Dumb, Unprepared Girl into Fitness Industry

Part 1 | The Background Story: How I Ended Up at My 9-to-5

Chapter 1 | School & My First Year as a Post-Grad: The Hot Mess Era

college-woofMost people talk about college as the best four years of your life. Not this girl. You could not pay me all the money in the world to relive college. Not because UNC wasn’t a great school (it’s wonderful!); not because I didn’t make great friends (they are my favorite girls in the world!); and not because I didn’t have fun times (too many hilarious memories to count). I was the problem. I had no direction, I was emotionally unstable, and I was struggling with depression and awful body image issues. I was all over the place, unhappy, restless, and changed my major six times—dancing around the health & fitness field and then accidentally (literally) graduating with an English degree.

Towards the end of high school, my interest in fitness had really picked up, so my first declared major in college was Exercise & Sport Science. But I got a lot of raised eyebrows from old teachers and even some extended family members about it. They made me feel like it was a waste of my intelligence and that I should be doing something “more” with my career. Eventually I convinced myself that I thought that too, so I decided to go the Pre-Med route and became a Biology major. That was miserable so I switched over to a Nutrition major (still on the Pre-Med track). Looking back, I wish I had stuck with the Nutrition major, but gone the RD route—not Pre-Med.

While hindsight may be 20/20, my current vision was totally blind. Business major it is! Sure, why not? Seems practical. Oh but wait, I hate business. Ok, Italian major. Because that makes a lot of sense and is very useful in real life. Nice work, Nicole. It’s halfway through junior year and I’m panicking because WTF am I going to do with an Italian major, and now I probably won’t graduate on time, so I log into my student account to schedule an appoint with an advisor and see that…I’m actually not an Italian major?

Turns out, when I switched my major to Italian, the advisor had accidentally switched me to English. At this point, I didn’t even care what I graduated with, and I’ve always loved reading and writing, so I just went with it. See, I’m not exaggerating—I was a disaster in college.

Just about the only thing productive that happened in college was my increasing interest in fitness and my roommate introducing me to BodyRock.tv (I honestly don’t follow the blog anymore, but I LOVED it back in the day when Zuzana started it). It was my first introduction to both high intensity interval training and this weird new thing called blogging.

After graduating, I was able to get my sh*t somewhat together—emotionally, anyway. I was happy, emotionally stable, and my body image issues and unhealthy relationship with food were behind me. But I had NO CLUE what I wanted to do as far as a career was concerned. I moved to Boston anyway and started looking for pretty much any entry-level job I could find. 2010 wasn’t a great year to be entering the job market, but I can’t blame the economy—I had no experience. Every summer during college, I was faced with the decision to get an impressive unpaid internship in some culturally enriching city to add to the resume or … go home to the Vineyard to lifeguard on one of the most beautiful beaches on the east coast and make over $20 an hour. I mean, c’mon—I went home! And I don’t regret it. I’m not sure I’ll ever be as carefree as I was during those summers. lifeguarding

Unfortunately, even a talented exaggerator like myself found it difficult to spin “life guard” into a resume builder. I’m, like, really good at applying sunscreen and swimming and telling small children to stop diving off rocks. Plus, I still didn’t know if I wanted to put my English degree to use and go the writing/editing route or pursue this health & fitness passion that was growing slowly inside of me day by day.

I got an unpaid internship writing blog content for a start-up e-commerce site so I could put something on my resume, but the money I’d saved during the summer was starting to run out, and I couldn’t bear the pressure of not having a job much longer. Not even from a monetary standpoint—it was getting to the point where I just wanted any job so that I could avoid the uncomfortable silence that arose anytime someone asked me, “So, what do you do?” *hangs head in shame*

I decided I should eventually go back to school for Nutrition or something health-related, so I ended up taking a job at one of the major health insurance companies in Massachusetts—it wasn’t what I wanted to do, but I figured it would look good on a grad school application. IT WAS THE MOST MISERABLE JOB I’VE EVER HAD. And I’ve had a lot of jobs. One time two of my college girlfriends and I were hired to give out samples of MGD64 (that disgusting 64-calorie beer from Miller) in the aisles of Harris Teeter while wearing boxy yellow collared shirts on Saturday mornings. Nope. This health insurance job was worse.

Guys. I don’t even know how to express how terrible it was—my blood pressure is rising just trying to type this and I can feel an anxiety attack coming on. I had to sit on the phone all day talking to people who either A. didn’t get covered for a medical procedure and wanted to literally reach their hands through the phone cord and murder me or B. were hysterically crying over a recent diagnosis or inability to pay for a necessary procedure and wanted someone to comfort them. And I couldn’t help any of them. I had to respond to these heartbreaking human situations with the most unfeeling of policy restrictions. I cried every day, lost all faith in this country’s healthcare system, and have never hated a job more. On paper, I was supposed to be resolving insurance claims; in practice, I was a human punching bag for health insurance members. It was emotionally draining and completely traumatizing. I am NOT cut out for that type of work.

One day I spoke with a woman whose husband had just lost his job (their insurance coverage was through his employer). They had an ill child who required regular medical attention and procedures. She was trying hard to keep it together but her voice was trembling as she asked me when their coverage would end. I could hear her child crying in the background. The coverage had already ended.

After about three months at that job, I had a massive meltdown and quit via hysterical phone call in which I’m pretty sure I hung up on my supervisor, but who knows—I think I blacked out. What I do know is, I then dealt with the fallout by simply ignoring phone calls and deleting voicemails, if that gives you any idea of how mature I was fresh out of college…

One positive that came from my time at that job was my first blog. I needed an outlet—something creative, something fun, something to take my mind off of how miserable I was at work. I think of that first blog the way I think of my first AIM screen name (dreamgurl6464) or email address (QTpiePerry33@hotmail.com): brutally embarrassing, but a rite of passage of sorts. The blog, called Nicole All Day (I’m turning red with embarrassment just typing that), was the definition of random. I’d post funny articles, news stories and videos I found around the web and then write a post with my own humorous commentary. Sometimes I’d share random thoughts, like a post I did exploring the deeply philosophical question: Is dipping almonds in almond butter cruel and unusual punishment, similar to forcing a chicken to eat scrambled eggs? Yup. I seriously did a whole blog post about that.

The blog was beyond stupid, but in my very biased opinion, it was actually pretty funny. And I loved doing it! The content creation process, the thrill of getting a comment (which was either from my mom or my aunt…literally no one else)—it was all I thought about and all I wanted to spend my time doing. But as more friends and friends of friends found out about it, I started feeling really insecure about it and uncomfortable with doing something so public. At that age, I was still very concerned about what people thought of me, and the pressure got to be too much. I deleted Nicole All Day. RIP.

With my first blog—and Job from Hell—behind me, I was all gung-ho about putting my English degree to good use after all. That summer I got an amazing paid editorial internship at a company just outside of Boston. Did I feel a little insecure about the fact that I was a 23-year-old intern? Admittedly, yes. But it paid well, everyone at the company was wonderful, I enjoyed my work, and the office environment was super laidback (which lord knows I needed after that last job!). We even had a gym in the building that employees could use whenever they liked, and twice a week a trainer would come in and lead an interval training group class for us—um, hello! I loved it, and was thrilled when the summer internship turned into a permanent job offer that fall. I was officially a nine-to-fiver.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next Sunday!

If you’ve had any similar experiences, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section!

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Jump to PART 2 

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Comments

  1. I really loved reading this! I’m still in college and it’s always refreshing to read that there isn’t a direct or correct “path” to take in life. Looking forward to Part 2 🙂

  2. Oh gosh. This sounds just like me. In college, I went from Mechanical Engineering to Business to Nutrition (I wish I would have stuck that out, but I was vegan at the time and didn’t want to take the required beef studies class and cat dissection class at my college) to Communications. Same as you, Comm was just a means to graduate. It took all my random classes as electives and allowed me to graduate early.

    I took a random marketing job in IT in Houston, and am now working a random marketing job in Pharma in NYC. I would love to switch to blogging/working in the health & fitness industry.

    Looking forward to your next post!

    Hugs,
    Bridget
    http://sweatstretcheat.com

  3. I am really enjoying this series, Nicole! Thanks so much for sharing. I have been all over the place a bit too. I have a degree in English Literature because I needed a “real degree” instead of theater which I really wanted ot pursue. I sort of fell into advertising and marketing and now have a blog and am working towards transitioning towards a career in fitness. I like your story because it shows there is no one path and that sometimes we move around a little bit before we start to figure things out. Have a great Sunday!

  4. Wow that job in health care sounds horrible! I wouldn’t say it was similar but I worked an internship for a nursing home while in college, and well I was right by rehab so I talked to the residents everyday and that one day one of them was missing it was horrible! That is when I decided I wanted nothing to do with any sort of health related company! It is just too dang sad!

  5. I loved reading this and I can definitely relate. I hopscotched between different science majors during my university days and after I graduated I ended up working with kids with autism. Go figure. I envied people who seemed to figure out what they wanted to be in highschool and stuck with it all through college and afterwards as well. I really enjoyed reading part 1 of your story and can’t wait for part 2!

  6. Thanks for sharing! I’m looking forward to the next one!

    Your college experience sounds a little similar to mine in the lacking direction area. As a result of my addiction, I also had to go to jail for 9 months, so trying to find a job after that was a little dicey. When I finally did get one I ended up working for a Scientologist run chiropractic business and by the end was crying and hating my life. No bueno.

  7. I’m so glad your doing this series! I’m working that job from hell right now. 2 of them actually! You sound so much like me. I actually started and stopped college a NUMBER of times in my 20’s and eventually went back, online, when I was like, 27? And got the boring ole business degree. Which I hate. And don’t use. But have 100k in loans from it. The ONLY thing it did for me, was give me confidence that I COULD go to school and do what I put my mind to do. For the first time in my LIFE, it gave me a passion for research and learning. High school was a social event for me and I have no idea how I even graduated. They probably just wanted me gone since I was dubbed ‘a ring leader’. haha. I can’t wait to hear the rest of your story and get some fire and tips on how to turn my fitness passion into a career.

    • Haha oh man, I hear you–I’m sure my high school couldn’t wait to get rid of me. I think I got suspended three times in the last six months of senior year. Go me.

  8. Hi Nicole! Oh man, I’d love to see some posts from the original Nicole All Day blog. I’ve also transitioned from the corporate world to fitness and writing full time. And I can say, I had no idea I’d ever end up here, but am so glad I did. I look forward to the rest of the story in this series! Thanks for opening up with us.

  9. So honestly I have never really read any pages on your blog…I just look at the workouts, pin them, and then do them. However, today for some reason this one caught my eye. It was actually one of the most interesting blog posts I have ever read. That probably isn’t really boosting your confidence because I am just one single “blog reader” but not really a blog reader at all. Anyways couldn’t agree more about the college thing and also kudos to you for all your hard work and finding what you love. Your workouts are great! That’s all

  10. Hi!
    First I really love Your blog! and your writing style;-)
    My own experiences with jobs alfer MA studies ale really different.
    I live i Poland and this is the main reason of those differences.
    We’ve got a specific education system.
    After high scholl we can study on BA or MA level, at the public university ora private scholl = privete university (read – worse than public).
    Every student (stationary or exramural) have to take unpaid or less paid interships or joba, during his studies and from the first year of studies. Your CV is better seen when you have a lot of interships, jobs and courses and of course a very high grade point average. I is of course an absurd. But our country system ich ill. Young people usually work for big companys, like call centers or just work in services – like Zara or another schops (it is an 8 to 8 job). Most of us just dream about 9 to 5 office job. Our salaries ale ridiculously low (1500 PLN x 2 (1 PLN x 2 = $). And live prices ( maintenance,all monthly expenditure) ale almost twice higher than salaries.
    So now it is very hard to do what you really dream about. You have to conform your qualification to the crazy labour market and “hide you real dreams very deep in your pocket”.
    Also for fitness carieers beginners, now is very hard single-handedly to start a starry and illustrious jobs. In our fitness industry there is a lot of space for fitness celebrities and media icons, but less pay vacancies for hard-working lucky dreamers, who earns 35 PLN ( 1 PLN x 2 = $) for an hour of group classes and 14 PLN (a very funny salaries, ;-(( P) for na hour of personal trainings in big city gyms (Warsav – our country capital ) for example, comparing this to celebrities salaries which are : 100PLN for na hour of group training and 5000PLN for 5 days (8 hours per day) jobs as a personal trainers…
    How (NOT) funny it is?;-)) You may goggle your eyes in astonishment. BUT IT IS , I’m affraid, all TRUE about our SOCIETY….

    • Wow–what discrepancy! Thank you so much for sharing this–it’s always eye-opening to learn more about other societies. Wishing you all the best in following your dream career path despite the barriers! xo

  11. Great post! I recently made the same switch so I understand how scary it can be. The money isn’t always great but I wake up every day happy and to me that’s better than money.

  12. Wow! What a whirlwind! Thanks so much for sharing your story, I will definitely be staying tuned!

    XO Chloe
    A Latte Lipstick

  13. HlakaniphileG says:

    I’m soon looking forward to part 2 🙂

  14. The adviser switching you to an English major was fate! You are a great writer!

  15. I was a little nervous when you mentioned hating your first job, but very happy to hear about your internship turned full time. You are an amazing writer, motivator, creative thinker, positive spirit and damn funny! That office benefited so much having you there to guide them through the blogging process!! I know I enjoyed working with you and knew you were destined for bigger and better things! 🙂

  16. this is amazing, lady! So fun to see a little more about you and your personal life. I always like hearing stories about people who make the shift as it’s something I *hopefully* will be able to do some day!

  17. I LOVE everything about this post!! I thought I wanted to be a doctor my whole life (even though what I truly loved was art and creating things…), then switched to environmental science, then education, and now I’m finally figuring out that I can make a career out of all my true passions and quit my job last summer to figure out how to make it work.

    It’s so scary and hard to redefine yourself, even if that side of you has been there deep down all along!

  18. I’m so excited about this series — and can relate on oh so many levels! I applied to college on the second to last day it was possible to (because: slacker), majored in Italian (LOL) and moved to Italy with no direction, plan or career in mind. I’m only now discovering that health & fitness is my jam so I’m pursuing everything I can like a madwoman. P.s. I can also relate to Nicole All Day, reading through my first blog posts is cringgggeeeworthy!

  19. I relate on so many levels! I was also a mess in college with body issues and I also had one of those jobs sampling disgusting alcohol. Ha! And sadly, that wasn’t my WORST job either! I worked as a temp at a pharmaceutical company and they treated us like trained monkeys and everything about it was unethical. I wanted to gouge my eyeballs out on the daily. I quit via e-mail and never looked back.

    I also worked for one of those online universities where you convince low-income people who hardly have a GED to take out insane amounts of student loans to go back to school when there is no way they can handle the courseload so they drop out after one semester and are left in horrible debt – meanwhile the CEO of said “University” is making MILLIONS off their loss. I began to just hang up on anyone who answered their phone because I couldn’t in good conscience try to persuade people to buy something I knew wasn’t a good fit for them. I quit that job via text message!

    I promise I’ve grown up since then! 😉 I now love my job and blog on the side and couldn’t be happier. I’d love one day to be able to blog full-time but right now it’s only enough for extra spending money and to supplement my income from my non-profit job.

    LOVE reading your story! Can’t wait for the next post in this series!

  20. Hi!!

    I just quit my corporate marketing job in July to pursue a health and fitness career! Now I’m a personal trainer, group fitness and barre instructor! 🙂 I got both my NASM and my ACSM certifications (as well as Zumba!). I always knew that was what I wanted to do, but I thought I should do something more financially secure and “practical.” I am so glad I stopped listening to those voices in my head. I couldn’t be happier! Still dealing with the MAJOR pay cut but making it work while I build my clientele. You can check out my blog lifeinspandex.com ! I don’t post as often as you but I love having it there on the side as a creative outlet 🙂

    Would love to connect if you’re interested in sharing advice/stories. Email: lifeinspandex10@gmail.com 🙂

  21. Oh man, I think you’ve connected to everyone on some level here. I started in college as a music major (what can you do with that?) and then switched to art to do web design. Awesome decision until I was 24 and hated what I did. Ha! My husband’s job moving us from Maryland to California afforded me the opportunity to quit my job and go for a personal training certification. Now I’m trying to figure out how the hell to put that to use and network in a city that I know next to no one. Ahh such is life, right? 🙂 So glad you’re sharing.. can’t wait for part 2!

  22. Thank you for sharing your story! It is a great read and I think you went through all that to be where you are now. Love your blog and workouts.

    Christy

  23. Thanks for sharing your story! You are quite funny and inspirational. I currently work a 9-5 job without any creativity in place, and writing in my blog is the only thing I look forward to at the end of each day. Can’t wait for the next post!

  24. I don’t think many people know what they want to do when they get out of high school. Their is still so much to discover about ourselves. I was just like you. I changed my major so many times that eventually I just needed to graduate. I graduated with a degree in mathematics. I was not very happy about that for a long time. I’m about to hit 30, and I’m just discovering who I am.

    simplykendi.com

  25. Oh my gosh I’m so happy to see this haha. I just quit my job like you did, I’m 23 and looking for something that will lead me toward what I love to do. Your story is inspirational, especially since I’m stressing the F OUT during this transition lol.

  26. OMG!!!!! I feel like I’m reading a portion out of my own journal, if I had one. Fitness & wellness are my passions, yet like you, I feel like my time in college was not what I dreamed of it being. I too started off as an Exercise Science major yet now I am on track to graduate with a Spanish degree. -___- not entirely useless I suppose but still not my goal or passion. Thank you so much for being so candid about your journey. I’m now not only in the process of finishing up my last year, finally, but I am in the early process of studying for my CPT certification through NASM. Also, I am in the early stages of also training for my first figure competition as I want to knock a couple goals off my list and also have the body I’m truly proud of going into this industry. Thank you so much Nicole and you will definitely be reading more comments from me ! 🙂

    • You’re WAY more on top of things than I was–that’s for sure! haha. That’s so exciting about the competition–best of luck with training! 🙂

  27. Ashley Moore says:

    I just discovered your blog.. and I’m already hooked! I can’t wait to get to Part 2, but I wanted to leave a quick comment. I closely can relate to your experiences, and LOVED reading about it. Thank you for being so honest and sharing. I was a Business major at IU (don’t ask me how I chose business..) and have been working in insurance for 3 years (also… accidentally landed there and feel similarly to how you described your experience). I went back to school part time for Physical Therapy this Spring (I’ve been craving a career in the fitness/health industry and also would have studied Nutrition or Health Science if I went back in time to Freshman year of college). I decided I did not want to go back to school for 4 more years so put the PT path behind me.. but still have the strong desire to make a shift. Part 1 of your blog is really inspirational to me, and I can’t wait to keep reading 🙂 I am 25 and am looking to pursue a career that fits with my passion for health/wellness/fitness.

  28. Gabriela Fano says:

    I don’t know you personally (that’s a given) but I’m proud to see you and anyone else who can openly talk about where they came from/where they are going. In a world of people competing to be better, it’s really REALLY refreshing to relate to someone who looks for answers and are willing to share their experiences. THANK YOU! I loved reading the article and feeling like I got to know you through your personal touches. Love, Gabriela Fano

  29. Great story Nicole. And for your readers still stuck behind a desk I say: GET A TREADMILL DESK. I’ve been using one for two years and typing from one now. I know Treadmill Desks seem gimmicky but THEY WORK. I typically walk 12,000 steps/day and over six miles BEFORE I hit the gym. I am sharper mentally and never get that afternoon lethargic feeling and that’s with zero caffeine

    Full disclosure: I got so into the Treadmill Desk thing I sold all my office chairs on eBay and now own a Treadmill Desk company, http://www.UnSit.com. We make very cool under desk treadmills and Treadmill Desks. Whether you buy an UnSit Treadmill Desk or not, GET UP AND MOVE, its the best thing you can do for your body AND your mind.
    ~Rob Jacobs
    Chief UnSitter
    http://www.UnSit.com

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