I am a planner, no doubt about it. I get something on my mind and I will set a plan to accomplish it. I have been that way ever since I was a little girl. As with everything, there are positives and negatives to this trait. The positive is I set the goal, no matter how big or small, I plan for it and strive to accomplish. The negative is what happens when it turns out part way through, it’s not at all what I want?
Here is a story I will dub, the NASCAR story.
I grew up in the DC area, there is not a lot of NASCAR talk in this town. Down in South Carolina, that’s another story. My sophomore year at University of South Carolina, I ran across a NASCAR marketing class. I thought, how cool!!! Combines my love of cars, my love of sports and the ability to be creative in sponsorship sales. I decided right then and there, that was what I wanted my career to be post-college. Taking the class just confirmed it even more. The professors were from Darlington Raceway. (I am getting giddy remembering those times!) In the class we went through everything it takes to have a successful race, even put together a mock proposal. Mock proposal – let me explain: Each year, the racetracks get assigned a driver to help promote the race. That year, Darlington Raceway had the one and only Tony Stuart. If you don’t follow NASCAR, he has quite a fun personality. So we all came up with the idea and presented it to the class. Right before the race, there was a press conference with Tony Stuart at the track. I was invited down to see how they work and meet Tony. During the press conference, they mentioned the project our class was doing and that one of the students came up with him driving around a number 20 school bus and picking up kids. He was not thrilled with that plan, to say the least. After the conference, he came up to me, asked me if I was the one who came up with that idea (I did not, I had him yelling out bingo card numbers on the radio), he laughed and jokingly said whoever did would fail if he was the professor (Tony has personality).
I was hooked. NASCAR was it. I spent the next three years in college figuring out how to get a job when I graduated. I would go down to Darlington Raceway on Fridays (a day without classes) and helped where they needed me. I went to a bunch of other tracks race weekend, spent time in the media room, in the pits, in the garages. Anything that would teach me the ropes and land a job. As you can imagine there are more males than females in that industry, so of course I wore pink slacks and a black jacket to the track once. I even made a website – MyFutureisNASCAR.com. It doesn’t exist anymore but I had my resume and why I wanted to work for them. I created business cards with the website address… I really wanted a job.
One weekend, I was in Atlanta for a race, I had volunteered to help so we were putting things together the day before the fans showed up. We had a break and a fellow volunteer and I decided to walk around the pits. As we turned a corner, surrounded by Goodyear tires, I stopped dead in my tracks. Looked at my friend and said that is Mike Helton, President of NASCAR. She said, well go say hi! My hands were shaking (gosh I was so nervous) but I walked over to him, said “Mr. Helton, I am Megan Eunpu and I am going to work for you one day” then handed him my card. He shook my hand and said it was nice to meet me. I walked away before I embarrassed myself (I was 20…).
Fast forward to May 2007, I just graduated, received my degree in Business Marketing from the University of South Carolina. I hadn’t yet landed the a job in NASCAR at that time but I was bound and determined to get there. From May until June (when my lease ended at USC), I drove up to Charlotte, knocking on doors. Still nothing. June I moved back up to the DC area to live with my parents. I was doing some odd-end jobs for money while cold calling/cold emailing everyone in the industry.
Finally, I got a bite, a marketing agency I had talked to said they would interview me! Wahoo!!! I got ready, drove 6 hours, sat down with the recruiter and started talking about how much I love NASCAR, telling them everything I know, how I would be useful, everything and anything I could. Halfway through the interview he stopped me and goes “Megan, the position we have open is for Indy Racing League… not NASCAR”. Oh if only I had done a little research on IRL… back to the drawing board…
A few weeks later, I got another bite!!! This time it was a team, I had convinced them to interview me to be in sponsorship sales (which was what I really wanted to do). Again, got ready, drove 6 hours, sat down with the recruiter. This time I knew it was for NASCAR, I did my research on the team, I was ready. Then he asked “you are 21 years old, never had a sales job, how can we trust you’ll bring in $20 million in sales per year”. My response “give me a chance, I won’t let you down”. We parted with an “I’ll give you a call”, a handshake and some cool memorabilia. A week later, no dice. They couldn’t take a chance at that point in time. Awe man!
That didn’t get me down… okay maybe for a day or two but I bounced back. By this time it was November. The season was just about over and I still didn’t have my dream job. I decided to make a huge leap… massive leap… move down to Charlotte and continue my job search. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t have a job, I had saved up enough money to get by for a bit, if I didn’t land a NASCAR job by February, I wouldn’t be working for them that year either. It was something I needed to do. I called an apartment complex I had been eyeing, said I would be moving in that weekend. I didn’t have any more time to waste! I needed to be where all the action is, if I ever wanted to get a job. I had from November to February to make it happen, then I would be increasingly difficult being in the middle of the season.
So I packed. I had a blow up mattress (that had an inconvenient hole), a cooking set and my clothes. Everything fit in my little Civic. Then I drove. Beaming ear to ear as I got closer.
Three more months of networking and job hunting, I was finally offered an internship position at a marketing agency supporting one of the drivers. AHHHHH my dream job!!! Come true! After all the hard work, it paid off! I would be traveling to every other race, providing support in the tent, talking about DLP HD TVs. First race, Daytona 500… oh man was I excited!
Unfortunately, by the third race I attended, I wasn’t having as much fun as I thought I would. I kept at it. By the 11th race, I definitely wasn’t having as much fun. I started looking at my current position, what the promotion position would look like and I realized it was not at all what I wanted to do. I still loved NASCAR, I still wanted to do sales but I didn’t think the position I was in was going to get me there. I didn’t want my life to be what it was shaping out to be. I can’t tell you how devastated I was… Something I worked so hard for, went to so much effort, and it’s not what I thought it would be?!? What would I tell my parents? What would I tell all my friends? I was so confident this was what I wanted to do the rest of my life, will I be looked at as a failure for no longer wanting to do it? How could I waste so much time, effort, for something I don’t like doing? Do I stay because I worked so hard for this? Do I leave and potentially be embarrassed? All of these thoughts and questions went through my head. I was 22 and I felt like my life was over.
Of course, my life wasn’t over, it was just beginning. I ended up resigning and started the process of figuring out what was next for me. Ultimately what I went through helped set me up to be where I am today. I didn’t see it at the time but it did…
Check back soon for “If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV”.