So many of us grew up with this notion banged into our heads that we should find a career path, maybe switch positions or be promoted on it, but above all else–stick to it.
This idea is certainly ingrained from our parents, who had the opportunities to stay with a company for 30-40 years, earn a pension (what’s that?) and retire. I get it; it’s easy to rail against a generation ahead of us for what seems like cushy way of doing things. But let me gently remind you with the advent of the interwebs, we have plenty o’ opportunities too.
I remember the first day of my first-ever corporate job well.
Cue the old-lady sitting in a rocker moment.
Walking around in my big-girl pantsuit and Target heels (because entry-level-ish corporate jobs don’t exactly pay the big bucks). I was excited to have a laptop bag because it meant I got a company laptop! I could actually take home my work and proudly power walk to my nearly-paid-off car, casually holding said laptop bag.
Who me? Oh yes. I’m taking work home. So much work to do. So, so much. I’m important.
I was pumped I got to work in a cubicle! I wish I were kidding. You guys, this is how much the notion had been beaten into my head that if I worked for some big corporation, I had made it!
Insert life plan here: Work my way up, coast into my 60’s and retire with a nice party thrown at 3pm on a Friday so people don’t get annoyed they are wasting their limited lunch hour to celebrate a good 40-ish years someone had put in. Plus, then they could leave for the weekend afterwards and that makes everyone at least fake a smile, right? Maybe I’d even get a little plaque with my name on it…
Cue to early fall in 2008.
The financial crisis heard ’round the world. Sound familiar now, no?
The Big Three (automakers for those who aren’t from Detroit) were near bankruptcy or days away from declaring it.
I worked for one of them.
In a matter of weeks, the entire make of cars that my marketing team worked on, dissolved. Boom. Done. Over. No more.
20% of us lost our jobs in one day of mass layoffs.
I turned in my badge. My oh-so-exciting laptop. Was escorted to the elevators. And made my way to my nearly-paid-off car. Empty laptop bag in one hand. Cell phone, holding back tears telling my now-husband, in the other.
This corporate getup was bullshit.
That slap in the you’re-laid-off-what-the-fuck-are-you-gonna-do-with-your-life-now face gave me the necessary time I needed to stop listening to the noise and evaluate what I really wanted.
I didn’t exactly have much time either, it was early on in my career! There was a 3-week severance package, barely a savings account, lots of student loans and now a really expensive COBRA to pay to keep the benefits I needed. (This was before ACA.) If I wanted to keep my benefits, I paid and paid big time. For me, it was to the tune of $850 month.
It was daunting.
I listened to that barely audible voice which told me to go back to school and get my video broadcasting certificate, something I regretted not doing while in college.
I pushed the voice down and told her that she was silly. The appropriate thing to do was to put my head down and get another big girl job.
But this time, I had another chance to listen to her and she yelled at me.
Go and see what happens!
So I did. I went back to school. I added on more student loans. Worked at part-time jobs that (barely) made ends meet, questioned myself the whole freakin’ time, and stayed in a holding pattern for a few years while the now hubster applied and waited to get into medical school.
You know what sucked more though? Being at a job that crushed my soul simply because it fit some stupid notion that’s what good girls and boys do to make their way in the world.
I made my way into a copywriting job once the hubster started medical school. Part of the reason I got it, is because I put up a website to showcase my work as a video producer, which had a little ol’ section with a blog that displayed my writing prowess. Combine that with my degree, previous work in the ad world and–BAM! Hey ma’, look made I made it.
From there, I worked my way up, fell a bit into climbing the corporate ladder again, BUT learned this time to leave when it turned into something I didn’t feel-in-my-bones was good for me anymore. That’s when I dove head first into to starting my own copywriting business.
How many of us stop at the previous step though?
NONE of this would have happened if I kept my head down like a good little girl and found another job pushing papers when I got laid off.
The last decade could have easily been spent bopping around from agency to agency wondering if I should do something else.
We stay at jobs we hate because we convince ourselves of the myriad of reasons why it’s a good job, even if coworkers have caught us crying in the bathroom stall, our cars or over our half-eaten Taco Bell because we’ve been too busy trying to complete the task of fulfilling another madman’s request?
The benefits are good. The vacation schedule is better than my last job. They’re nice to me sometimes. It’s better than my previous boss/team/manager. If I get to 10 years, I’ll get 3 weeks vacation! People keep saying I don’t know how good I have it.
Maybe because they’re “good enough” isn’t good enough for you?
Here’s your unwavering permission to change course.
That doesn’t mean flipping the bird to your boss or telling your schedule manager to shove it because you’re heading to the Bahamas to sip on Pain Killers, learn how to play steel drums and find yourself.
It does mean giving yourself permission to explore that something that is nagging at you. That voice you’ve quieted in return for security.
If my story has taught you anything, know that jobs aren’t secure, no matter how lovely the benefits are. This is especially relevant now.
You can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.-Jim Carrey
- Take that hobby you do once every blue more and prioritize it.
- Use those 20 blissfully quiet moments in the morning to investigate the class you’ve been wanting to take.
- Take the time to map out what your next 6 months to 1 year could look like if you quit your job and did something else. (I did this.)
When you start doing something you like, with purposeful intent, little cracks in the made-up system begin to open.
It could look a whole lot like going back to school for 8 months, tossing it up on a website that includes writing about stuff you love and, well, look where we are now, my pretties. I run my own biz.
Now this goes without saying, I also think a lot about how I come from a place of privilege. I qualified for student loans that I’m still paying to this day, but are manageable. Annoying, but manageable. I had a dad to call when I went back to school and couldn’t pay rent that one time because money was so tight. I’m married and that means I fall into that wonderful club of: the spouse with the better benefits gets to add one of us on the plan. I could have totally crap months of income when starting this biz and still be okay because we saved a lot and he has a job.
If you think I don’t often wonder what more I could be doing with my current career, you’re bonkers. It’s doesn’t work like that. You don’t start your own biz and live happily ever after, full stop.
It is always evolving! It always looks like a hot mess of brain dump, after brain dump across note pages and Asana tasks and webinars. I know in the future, I want to prioritize my time to edit more videos and photos. I’ve thought about starting a YouTube channel or podcast for years. I think I’d like to put my writing talents into more charitable routes that include traveling and children.
None of this may make sense with my current copywriting trajectory. It may not be on-brand for Not Your Average Gal. It may be an idea seemingly out of left-field. But, you know what, it could also give me more opportunities.
Go and see what happens!
I have so many ideas mulling around that make me think maybe I haven’t chosen the forever career path and it’s somehow wrong. And that’s where they getcha!
What if your career path isn’t one straight highway of formalities? What if the detours are where you find not only what you like, but what you love?
Keep exploring that!
The key is to set up your life to allow it. It may look a whole heck of a lot like saying no to the things that aren’t serving you–is it that god-awful job?–and yes to the things that melt your butter–is it that photo editing class you keep finding yourself going back to on the interwebs?
The only person who can decide is manning the ship.
I’m giving you full permission to change the course, captain. Everyone else can adjust their sails.