I am incredibly excited to announce that I’m starting tomorrow at my first ever, full time, big girl job! I’ll be working as a marketing associate for a consulting group designing and building websites, doing SEO/SEM, plus lots of other general marketing tasks!
I wanted to write out a blog post describing the process I’ve been through in transitioning from bedridden to working full time for other people with vestibular migraine who are looking to get back to work. Below is a step-by-step description of the working-with-vestibular-migraine-and-POTS journey I’ve been on for the past 2 years.
I have to preface this by saying I have been extraordinarily lucky in the opportunities I’ve been given, and I don’t think every part of this process can be replicated. That being said, I think there are certain aspects of what I’ve been through that could possibly apply to others and be helpful!
1. Worked on Amazon Mechanical Turk
When I was bedridden with vestibular migraine and POTS, there wasn’t much I could do. But, I was fortunate enough to have internet access and a laptop computer, which made it possible to work from bed. Lucky for me, a friend suggested I try working on Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk): an Amazon website in which workers can complete simple tasks for small amounts of money. For example, a typical ‘job’ on MTurk could be confirming that a certain item was purchased on a receipt and typing in the date for 1-5 cents. Or, taking a 15-minute survey for a couple of bucks.
In a period of 4-5 months, I was able to make over $1,600 on Mechanical Turk from my bed. Not a ton of money, but significant for someone in my position! Almost more importantly, I was able to feel like I had a sense of purpose again, and I was able to be productive. I had a reason to get up in the morning: I wanted to start work!
Part of working on Mechanical Turk is using scripts (fancy computer codes) to speed up repetitive tasks. In order to utilize these scripts, many of which were created by other workers, I began to teach myself basic HTML and CSS (website coding languages) using free courses on sites like codeacademy, edX, Coursera, and Udemy. (These sites are amazing for learning about all sorts of topics.)
2. Created the My Migraine Brain Website
Then, when I had the idea back in April of 2015 to raise awareness of vestibular migraine and POTS by creating a website, I had the basic HTML and CSS foundation I needed! I taught myself the basic fundamentals of the WordPress website platform, and built my own site.
It was a fantastic exercise in learning how to do basic web design, blogging, etc. (P.S. if anyone is interested in gaining experience in WordPress by joining the My Migraine Brain team as a contributing blog author, shoot me a message!)
3. Started Building Websites for Local Businesses
This was where my first really lucky break came into play: a friend of mine from high school saw my site and showed it to her company’s marketing director. Shortly thereafter, they hired me on a single contract basis to take on one of their website projects.
Once I completed my first website contract, other local businesses who had known me before my health crash and were familiar with my work ethic asked me to build their sites. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed the branding/designing process, and was beginning to wonder if working in the web design/web development field could be a possible career path for me!
4. Took A Free Career Compatibility Test
In yet another fortunate happenstance, a friend recommended that I try taking a career placement test at the University of Delaware’e ACCESS center. The test was 100% free and involved about 30 minutes of answering simple personality questions on a computer, followed by a career advising session about a week later. The name of the test that I took was the Strong Interest Inventory, which matches you with people who share similar interests and are happy in their jobs. (If I had to guess, I’d say that these types of services are likely to be available at other colleges and universities.)
As it turned out, my top 5 placements were in marketing, business, finance, psychology, and, of course, science. The results of the test made me realize something I had known about myself for all of my life, but hadn’t ever considered: marketing would be an absolutely perfect fit for my skills and interests.
5. Hired as Marketing Intern for Consulting Group
With this newfound information, I went back to the group for which I had built a couple of websites and expressed interest in starting a marketing internship, working 12-15 hours per week. Yet again, I was extremely fortunate in that the marketing director was able to find me work in a concerted effort to help me get experience in this new career field.
This presented an amazing opportunity for me. Even though I wasn’t making much as an independent contractor at $10/hour for 12-15 hours per week, I was gaining invaluable experiences: working in an office setting for the first time, plus starting a part-time job in a safe environment and with an understanding supervisor.
6. Accepted My First Full Time Job
As I continued in this part time independent contractor role, the company I was working for had an availability for a full time marketing associate! To test the waters, I tried my hand at working a 40-hour week in an office setting (pictured above), again as an independent contractor, and my migraine brain hated me for it. The fluorescent lights, the swivel chair, my poor desk posture, and the computer screens were just too much at 8 hours per day, 5 days a week.
I knew from working essentially full-time on the My Migraine Brain site that I was capable of putting in these kinds of hours from home. So, as part of my new employee on-boarding, the company was able to grant me the accommodation of working from home in the mornings, and in the office in the afternoons! The arrangement couldn’t be more perfect. I can absolutely handle 4-5 hours of office work per day, and it gives me time to make myself a migraine-diet-friendly lunch! I love the work I’m doing and my co-workers, and my supervisor is a remarkably understanding and talented director who makes an effort to develop his staff.
Working With Vestibular Migraine
In my time as a POTSy vestibular migraineur, I’ve read an awful lot of posts from other people who say that they’ll never be able to work again with migraine. And while I absolutely respect every person’s expectations of what they are physically capable of accomplishing in living with chronic illness, I knew that this would never be enough for me. I LOVE working, and I always have. Even as a kid, all I wanted was to be an executive in a big corporation.
There was absolutely no way that I was letting this illness keep me from achieving that dream. Right now, I’m in an entry level position, but some day, I will be an executive. I may never be back to 100% health-wise, but that doesn’t mean I can’t reach my goals; they may just need to be adjusted a bit.