Media Maven and Entrepreneur Jillian Sanders on Building Your Dream Career

It’s my job to know what’s up in the world; I have worked for over fifteen years in lifestyle and entertainment. I start my day with a large iced coffee and the morning news, and from there, I listen to a steady stream of podcasts until the late afternoon. Most nights, I watch a documentary or human interest piece (crime shows are my favorite). However, I also love anything about a person of interest who isn’t a criminal; that can be a musician, an actor, a politician, an author, a designer, or even a local restaurant owner. I’m a big fan of old films, too – anything on TMC or the Criterion Collection usually makes me happy. Oh, and then there are cooking shows. I can’t resist those! Travel and design get me, as well. Anyway, you catch my drift. I have a lot of interests surrounding arts, culture, and entertainment.  Career

I am what some might call a culture vulture – “a person who is very interested in the arts, especially to an obsessive degree.” This is good since I chose to make a career out of that. I have spent nearly two decades supporting and surrounded by creative individuals and entrepreneurs, working as a personal assistant, theatrical talent agent, Equity stage manager, and book and magazine lifestyle publicist at three of the top publishing houses in the country. When people ask how I was able to secure these jobs in the most competitive of job markets –  New York City – they’re usually surprised to learn that I nearly flunked out of high school and didn’t graduate from a four-year college. I moved to New York City at age twenty to attend a two-year acting conservatory, but after graduating, I quickly realized that my true talent was behind the camera. I was a continuous follower of my passions and sought out opportunities that compensated me for them, if not heavily. I voraciously pursued my interests, which drove my career and got me to where I am today. 

This was not easy. It has taken me nearly two decades to establish professional freedom and financial security. I have lived paycheck to paycheck for most of my adult life, never having had someone else’s money to fall back on. Until I was in my mid-thirties, I always had a roommate in New York – either sharing space with a friend, a stranger, or a boyfriend. I had a second job until I was 31 (either a waitressing gig, a babysitting gig, a dog walking gig, or a side hustle of some kind) that supported my decision to choose full-time jobs that interested me but were not high-paying. These were significant sacrifices I made to pursue a career that felt genuine and stimulating to me. 

Friends with more security settled down, and at times I doubted the path I was on. Once or twice I was offered the chance to interview at companies that allowed for higher pay, but they made me feel funny. Deep down, I found solace in knowing that my only option was to stay the course. I was experiencing the world in a way that felt true in my mind’s eye, even if that meant I wouldn’t see big bucks.

Somewhere in my mid-thirties, things started to pick up, pay bumps began to happen, and the challenges of youth started to fall by the wayside. The connections I made were becoming more prominent. I felt more comfortable sitting at the head of a table. I rose to more senior positions. I could shortcut my way around obstacles because I had spent over a decade learning how to navigate them. All the sacrifices and years of a thankless grind were starting to pay me back in spades. I was no longer a young girl following her passions: I was an executive working in media.

In January 2020, after seventeen years of working and living in New York City, I moved to Denver and started my public relations firm, Jillian Sanders Public Relations. It was always a dream of mine to move to the mountains, and by that time, I had more than fulfilled my big city career goals. I support myself entirely and am fortunate enough to run a women-operated team representing women-owned businesses. Every day I am inspired, and I get to continue to immerse myself in the cultural dialogue that interests me. I am living out my dream career.

I believe a career is a work in progress – you never stop pursuing it, and it grows and changes and develops with you. I have worn many hats in the 20+ years that I have worked in the media, and my entrepreneurial identity will evolve as I do. But, if you keep pursuing what interests you and let yourself be brave enough to follow it –  allow yourself to grow, take risks, not give up when the money doesn’t flow as freely, and believe in yourself and your purpose; your career will become whatever you will it to be. 

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