University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Rhetoric- Creative Writing/English
Britney Robbins began her career at a startup specializing in online flash sales for … dogs! But despite her job’s unusual nature, knew she hadn’t found her niche. Work still felt like, well, work. Hearing again and again that “finding the job you love means never working a day in your life,” Britney knew she was just getting started. While fur babies are fun, Britney really wanted to work with children while putting her marketing skillset to work.
Enter Future Founders Foundation, an organization that teaches Chicago area youth about entrepreneurship. Reaching over 25,000 kids and counting with its programs, it’s Britney’s job to make sure everything runs smoothly; from in-class mentoring sessions to social media. Her days require plenty of planning and a healthy dose of sticky notes, but on the flip side, she receives enough inspiration on the daily that the whole “never work a day in your life” thing is now a reality.
Don’t live through others; create the life you want for yourself.
How did you discover your current job?
I was working at a startup and really had the desire to work with students, but I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher. I happened upon this job on Idealist.org, did some digging and realized I had a few connections with the CEO. I sent a few emails and here we are, a year and a half later!
How do you organize your day?
As everyone probably does, I start off with emails – responding to the most important first. From there, I begin to create a list of the day’s tasks, based on priority level. I keep an electronic Post-It on my desktop and cross off items as I complete them. Things with me are based on routine, so once I get into a routine of doing something, it makes it a lot easier for the subsequent days. Each day is still different though, depending on if I’m going to a high school, the office or working from home.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
I’ve always heard people say, “When you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,” which is how I knew I wasn’t there yet. But now, the satisfaction I feel every night when I go home is what makes me know this is the right career for me. I’ve always said that if was going to be stressed about work or want to pull my hair out, at least it would be for a good cause; at least I’d go to bed knowing I helped to spark a light or inspire someone that day. And that, for me, is the most powerful thing I can do.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
Specifically with this job, I think it’s making sure our students have enough resources to help them succeed.
The program I manage requires me to bring volunteers into classrooms to help students develop business plans. We’re constantly searching for volunteers — entrepreneurs and business professionals — to get inside the classrooms. With sessions taking place during the school day and our volunteers’ ever-changing/busy schedules, it’s sometimes hard to get enough resources within the classroom to provide feedback for students. What keeps me up is figuring out how to make volunteering easy enough so our students get the best resources possible to develop their plans, giving them the confidence to realize they don’t always have to be products of their environment.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
So far, it hasn’t been an issue. I make sure I give enough time to myself and the things I like to do. I take boxing lessons in the evenings. I love to cook, so I try to make a new meal at least twice a week. I’m in the process of publishing my first children’s book, so it can get a bit busy, but I’m grateful that the job I have allows for so much freedom and customization of my schedule. Some days it doesn’t even feel like work. I know not everyone can say that, so I’m definitely conscious about making the work that I do count.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
I don’t think it’s happened yet. There have been small wins along the way; seeing a once-disinterested student light up about the possibilities they’ve now opened up for themselves, students realizing the importance of the opportunities they’re being afforded, seeing students take steps to further their education or push themselves out of their comfort zones — those are all small wins that keep me going. But I’m a perfectionist and I’m always striving for more. I don’t see a plateau anywhere in the near future.
What are some of the rules you live by?
- Be a good person. This was never taught to me specifically, I just had some really good examples. I see how much good you get back when you’re good to people – when you stop judging and start helping.
- Don’t live through others; create the life you want for yourself. You can will anything you want into existence. It’s about patience and perseverance, will and determination.
- Always find a way to give back. Whether it’s in encouraging words you give to your friends or a stranger, or volunteering, do something to put good back into our world. It’s the only thing that will keep things going. You also never know how much your words mean and who’s watching you.
- Be yourself. There are enough people trying to be someone else. Originality is such a unique trait. Use it to your advantage – embrace your flaws and always, no matter what, be true to yourself.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
I think some of the most important qualities are: patience, compassion, sociability, flexibility, ambition and the ability to think on your feet (amongst others). There are so many different facets of this job, you really have to be a jack-of-all-trades.
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
Always push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Growing up, I lived in the shadow of other people. I never felt comfortable, unless I consulted someone else for advice and found out how they felt about the situation. It wasn’t until I became an adult, finished college and moved to a big city that I learned to really trust myself. To constantly continue pushing myself and learning as much as I could about things I became curious about. I recently sent my nephew off to college and found myself telling him the same advice: life, from this point forward, is all about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. The more you’re willing to be uncomfortable, the more you learn and grow as a person.