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From Intern to Agency Partner: An Inspiring Action Story

By: Desiree Cortez

My largest obstacle was finding a career that inspired me.

From the very first time I can remember thinking about what my career would be, I always knew I would be an attorney. As a child and teen, I prided myself on being able to argue with the best of them – and win. I entered college knowing that I was four years away from entering law school and finally being close to fulfilling my destiny. The first dent in this dream was being waitlisted by my law school of choice. I was devastated to learn that the rest of the world didn’t see my destiny as clearly as I did. The second dent occurred when I “settled” on a different law school and spent the first semester painfully bored in every single one of my classes and finding nothing in common with any of my fellow students. I wasn’t nearly as in love with being a year 1 law student as they were. I was stunned to realize that my own heart and mind weren’t in line with this dream I’d had since childhood. The third, and final, dent occurred when I took the second semester of law school off and spent a few months temping at a law firm. I thought that maybe living and breathing inside my ultimate goal would reignite my passion, help me find my way. It didn’t. It only solidified what I had slowly come to realize. I didn’t want to be a lawyer. But what does a twenty-something do when the one and only dream she’s ever had is no longer the reality she wants? I love to read and was an English major in college, so I explored going to graduate school for literature. But I was tired of listening and talking. I wanted to do. I’ve always loved tutoring and studying with other people. So I eventually ended up in the Golden Apple program, a competitive program that offered an accelerated path to my master’s in education and my teaching certification. I started my teaching career in Chicago and spent three years in education, contributing what I could to the community and my school. But I started to realize that while I absolutely loved my students, I still wasn’t in love with what I was doing. I was happy and comfortable. But that comfort didn’t feel right to me. I started to wonder if maybe my path needed to lead me outside of the comfort zone of Chicago, where I grew up and where my entire family lived.

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So my husband and I packed up our car and moved to New York. From that first scary night in a new city, I knew that we had made the right move. The day I was offered an internship at DiMassimo Goldstein, I just knew that, again, I was on the right path. My entire family and all of my friends thought that I was crazy taking such a big risk. That, at my age, an internship, followed by a full-time position as the agency’s first-impression manager, was a huge step back from my years as an award-winning teacher. But I told them to have faith, because it felt right to me. Even with how strongly I believed that I had finally found my path, I never could have imagined the amazing 11 years that I’ve had with this agency. Eleven years of inspiration, challenges and amazing growth. From intern to CFO and partner. What an amazing dream.

What are the lessons that I’ve learned from this incredibly long story? Don’t settle. Use whatever opportunities you’re presented with to seek out what inspires you. What makes you feel challenged. What helps you grow. What allows you to feel alive and engaged. Look for chances to make yourself uncomfortable. Allow yourself to feel the butterflies and the nervous energy.