Nicole Emerick



Miami University – Finance, Entrepreneurship

Nicole Emerick was a young professional in Chicago with a promising career in commercial banking. But, like many post-college Millennials, she wondered: Is this really it?

She attempted to seek out answers and as a result, Ms. Career Girl, a blog for ambitious young professional women, was born. As the blog grew, Nicole developed a passion for social media. She pursued continuing education, networked like crazy, tested her what she learned on Ms. Career Girl and started speaking and teaching digital marketing whenever possible.

Today, Nicole is the director of social media at FCB Chicago, a global advertising agency. Along the way, Nicole switched careers, survived a layoff, experienced self-employment and sold her blog. Read more and learn about what Nicole refers to as the importance of “career insurance.”

People get people ahead. Be nice, form relationships and understand the immense power of loose connections.

How did you discover your current agency job?

A recruiter contacted me via LinkedIn when I wasn't even thinking about looking for a job. 

What responsibilities do you have as the director of social media?

I help global brands build social media programs. I lead the social media team for our agency, and my responsibilities include digital strategy, growing existing pieces of business, winning new business pitches and nurturing the skills and careers of a growing team of 10.

What’s it like to work at an agency during the digital era?

It's a really interesting time to be in advertising as things are shifting away from TV commercials and toward digital/social activations. The digital space evolves so quickly that every challenge is different and exciting.

I first heard about you through Ms. Career Girl. You started the site as a side passion project when you were only 24 years old. What made you want to create this community?

My entrepreneurial bug combined with having a lot of free time and free space in my brain prompted me to start Ms. Career Girl. My 9-to-5 day job at a bank had me doing a lot of detail-oriented work, so I had a craving for creativity after hours. 

I also kept hearing the same question from other recent grads in my social circle. We were all wondering, "Is this really it?" Life after college was nothing like we had expected, and we were all looking for guidance. After almost a year of tossing around different ideas, Ms. Career Girl was born.

What did the blog allow you to accomplish?

Many things!

First, blogging made it easy to meet so many amazing people: some of whom I coached and many who coached me along the way. I believe people are what get people ahead, and my experience as a blogger proved that. Ironically, my blog also helped me unexpectedly transition my own career. Finally, blogging gave me the opportunity to partner with several leading brands.

Eventually I sold my blog after five years, which was another unexpected accomplishment. Had I not started blogging, I'd have a completely different career story and life.

After you transitioned into your new career in digital marketing, you were laid off. How did this experience affect you, and what did you learn?

Only four months after leaving my great job at JP Morgan, there was a mass layoff at the startup I worked for.

My initial reaction was to become an entrepreneur so no one could ever take my job away from me again. I immediately started my own content creation service with some freelancers and did that for over a year before deciding to work for an agency. 

Today, I preach the concept of "career insurance." This means accept that things will go wrong in your career. Chances are, you will eventually lose your job at some point, get burnt out or need a plan B.

Now that I've survived a layoff, I know I could do it again. I feel less paranoid about it, but also make decisions (like saving money and keeping my skills sharp) that would help "insure" my career risk.

How do you strike a work/life balance, especially when you enjoy your work and can’t seem to “turn it off”?

Ever since I discovered the power of social media as a blogger in 2008, I've been really passionate about it. So, I can't help but want to dive in!

My secret weapon is working out. It allows me to deal with stress so much better and stay alert no matter what comes my way.

What are some of the rules you live by?

  • Read or write every day. 
  • Take care of your body and it will take care of you.
  • People get people ahead. Be nice, form relationships and understand the immense power of loose connections.
  • Look at the big picture. Our careers are typically about 40+ years long, and we will likely have many chapters, whether it's with the same company or a new one.  
  • You can have it all, but you can't have it all right now. (And it probably won't look exactly like you imagined when you get there either!)
  • The right partner can make or break your quality of life. Choose carefully.
  • Always have a passion project outside of work.  

Finally, little things are big things. Whether it's your approach to completing mundane tasks, the way you dress or the way you conduct yourself in front of co-workers, the little things will absolutely set you apart and set you up to fail or succeed. 

What advice do you have for other women in a similar “stuck” situation who want to make a career change?

I know so many women are dealing with this, and I urge them to do something about it!

I believe that job unhappiness permeates into many areas of a woman's life. If you're unhappy at work, you may choose to spend more, drink more, complain more, etc. and it becomes a vicious, all-consuming cycle. If this is you, the best thing you can do is focus on your passions. 

For example, if you like sports, join some local sports leagues. If you love animals, volunteer at a shelter. Meet new people, casually find out what they do and see where it leads you.

Another option is getting a side hustle. It could be working events on the weekends or selling jewelry (both of which I did). Making extra cash while meeting new people opens many career doors in a natural way.