10th Cup: Jacqueline Hughes – solution seeker, creative connector and passionate entrepreneur

The Place: The Hideout on Congress
The Hour: 1:00 pm
The Cup: Iced latte for Jacqueline and I opted for a sugar and half and half laced iced coffee

Background: If you read Cup #9, you may recall Diana who was a fellow coffee cupper inspired by a 500 cups in a year project a girl she met had done.  After hearing that story I just had to meet the original cupper.  After a little research I found her and that’s how Jacqueline and I ended up sharing a cup.

So where did the idea come from?  Funny story.  More on that in a second though. First, some background.

Jacqueline, fresh out of college and back from some extensive world travels found herself in Austin looking for a job.  This was 2010 and although the job market was alive in Texas, it wasn’t exactly thriving.  People were nervous about hiring and those who were adding to their teams were looking for experience – the one thing a new college grad lacks. Jacqueline tells me she sent out over 100 resumes which landed her a whopping one interview and precisely zero job offers.  I wondered how that must have felt and Jacqueline offered an answer before I even asked. “It was demoralizing.”

Her story made me think about my own experience out of college and how much things had changed in ten years.  Having gone to college in the town I grew up in (Grand Forks, ND – most famously known for a devastating flood in 1997 and a heated college mascot controversy still waging) I opted for an out of state internship so I could get some broader experience. I considered several options but eventually landed on one at a brain injury rehab facility in Galveston, TX.   The experience was incredible and proved more life-changing than I could have anticipated.  The first week of my internship I met a guy who is now my husband and as my internship was wrapping up, a job became available that I decided to throw my hat in the ring for.  The job wasn’t in my chosen field, but I saw the potential and knew it would be a stepping stone.  I was offered the job and officially moved to Texas a little over a month later.

I found it disheartening that things had changed so drastically. A college degree no longer meant open doors.  It just meant you were qualified to apply, along with the scores of other new graduates, the newly unemployed, those re-entering the workforce for countless reasons, etc.  I considered myself fortunate that I hadn’t had the same uphill climb.

So Jacqueline crawled into a cave wallowing in self-pity and waited for someone with a perfect opportunity to come knocking.  Hardly!

Nope, she took the the streets and decided there had to be a better way.  Since the traditional approach hadn’t worked out, she resolved to find opportunities her own way.  So THIS is how she started on the 500 cup journey?!?!

Well, sort of.  But the truth is, it really started because of a crush.  {Awww, isn’t that adorable?}

Yep, Jacqueline liked a guy.  That guy was on Twitter.  So she got on Twitter.  Once there, she saw applications for the tool beyond just scoping out what the crush was up to.  Having studied sociology in college, she was fascinated by people and enjoyed observing their behavior. She saw people using Twitter in really interesting ways. She realized the people who ran the companies and made the decisions for the companies she wanted to work for were on Twitter as well and they were sharing some useful information.  Particularly which events around town they were planning to attend.

So Twitter became the new door opener. Before an event, she might send out a note telling the person she too was going to be attending and perhaps they’d see each other there.  At the event she’d make a point to connect face to face with those she was interested in meeting and then followed up after with another note.  Simple, but brilliant.  And it worked.

So, on accident almost, in about nine months she’d met with over 300 people. Why not make it an even 500 by year’s end?  So she did. In one year, Jacqueline built an amazing, diverse network of 500 connections and perhaps even more impressive, attended 300 events.  And the 500 people weren’t folks she met, shook hands with and added to the list.  In order to make it into the 500 file, the exchange had to be substantive.  Perhaps meeting for coffee or at an office to talk in greater detail.  Or, my favorite example, which incidentally is how she rounded out the 500 – the grand finale if you will.  She delivered cupcakes to people.  Huh?

One day a friend tweeted that she wanted a cupcake. {mmm…cupcakes} Somehow, this simple request sparked a wacky little adventure with a cupcake maker sponsoring the cupcakes and had Buick sponsoring her by driving her around to the various cupcake drops. For an entire month, every Friday you could tweet Jacqueline that you wanted a cupcake and voila, there she was with some sugar and a smile.  She tells me she didn’t just drop and dash. Instead she used the opportunity to chat the folks up a bit, spending about 15 minutes at each delivery allowing her to meet a slew of cool folks in that month.  Jacqueline tells me, not surprisingly, that the project was so fun she’s thinking about doing it again. For the record Jacqueline, Melissa ALWAYS wants a cupcake so please add me to your first run.

So what came of this 500 person journey?  Jacqueline describes it like this, “I was interested in figuring out what paths people took to get where they are and the people became my classroom.  I learned so much from them.”  I can relate.  Granted, my 10 cups is a mere 2% of Jacqueline’s 500, but yet I know precisely what she means.  Every single cup leaves me enriched.  I learn about people’s journey, mistakes they’ve made, ideas they are working on, dreams they have for themselves and the world around them. Most important though, are the lessons I learn about myself.  What emotions rise up when I meet with these amazing people and what do those feelings mean?

To use Jacqueline as an example, here are some of the emotional reactions our meeting caused.

  • I was sad by this first hand account of the struggle bright new college grads have getting into the workforce.
  • I was curious. I wondered how different my life would be right now if I had encountered the same challenges out of the gate. Would I have been as enterprising as she had been and found a new and better way. I’m not sure.
  • I was envious.  For the most part my life is without regret but when I have to name one thing I would change, I wish I had traveled either during or right after college.  Once you get a job and people are depending on you, it gets harder to walk away from it for a year so you can “see the world”.
  • I felt old.  There comes a point in your life when you are sitting across from someone you admire who has seen the world and is full of really fantastic ideas and ambition.  You feel you are with a kindred spirit.  Then something gets thrown out (in this case a college graduation year) and you flinch.  Then you reluctantly start doing the math.  Then re-doing it because surely this incredible person cannot be a decade younger than you. But she is.
  • I felt hopeful. Jacqueline took that demoralized feeling and found a new way.  You read things about Gen Y sometimes and you wonder, “Where do they get off?” ,”How is this generation of trophies just for showing up going to handle the real world?” ,”They’re in for a rude awakening!”  I now know better.  If Jacqueline is any indication, they are going to change the world.  Just like every generation before them.  But they are going to do it their own way on their own terms.  When companies won’t give them a job because they lack experience, they’ll go out and make their own experiences and at the same time, create new kinds of opportunities.  And that gives me hope.
The final emotion I feel after my meeting with Jacqueline is inspired. In a time when we are more polarized and segregated than ever before, it is refreshing to sit with someone who sees her fellow humans as her classroom.  Fully aware of all the lessons that lie within each person and genuinely interested in hearing their story.  What would life be like if we could spend more time focused on all the commonalities in our stories rather than obsessing about the things that make us different?  Think of all we could accomplish and how much better off we’d be. It’s a choice really and I am inspired to choose the see the good and common ground.  We’re all in this together.  Thankfully.
Want to learn more about Jacqueline?  Follow her on Twitter or check her on LinkedIn. If you have an interest in reliving the magic that was cupcake pa looza, check it out here.


5 thoughts on “10th Cup: Jacqueline Hughes – solution seeker, creative connector and passionate entrepreneur

  1. I have known Jacqueline for a while (she is impressive!)… and I had never known that she would have brought me a cupcake if I had just tweeted the request. I missed that one. Hey, where is my cupcake? 😉

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