I can’t believe that this year I will be 40 years old. The big 4-0. Officially over the hill.
I’ve learned a lot on this journey so far. And it got me to thinking:
What do I wish I could tell my 20-year-old self?
I can’t believe that this year I will be 40 years old. The big 4-0. Officially over the hill.
I’ve learned a lot on this journey so far. And it got me to thinking:
What do I wish I could tell my 20-year-old self?
Resigning from my corporate job was not a decision I took lightly. In fact, I agonized over it for years. Ran the financials, considered what I would do instead, developed my spreadsheets and To Do lists, and then ran the numbers again. Certain friends told me that I was a victim of analysis paralysis, and that I just needed to take the leap already.
Then fate took a stance and I was suddenly out on a medical leave for a temporary health issue that was simply debilitating (more on that in another post). Yet the health issue coupled with my best laid plans of several years finally gave me the clarity and courage to just do it. And so I resigned.
Yet while the medical leave was the tipping point, there were several other factors that had already prepared me mentally for the move.
I was doing the same work that I had done for years, but over time it had become increasingly less challenging and stimulating. I found myself missing work that I had done earlier in my career that felt less formulaic. I knew that this, over time, would cause me to become disengaged – which wouldn’t be fair to either myself nor the company.
I had been in a position that had required many hours, being on call, and many late night and wee hour conference calls. In the beginning, it was exciting. I learned a lot and felt that I was on the cutting edge of what was going on. But over time it burned me out. The problem was the work was never-ending; it wasn’t like a project that has a distinct beginning and end – in that scenario, you may grind extremely hard for several months or even a few years, but at some point the project ENDS. In this role, there was and would be no end. Eventually, I had the opportunity to move into a new role that didn’t require on-call responsibilities, but by that point I was looking for more flexibility than what was possible. I wanted to focus more on accomplishments vs. face time.
The business culture I worked in was very hierarchical, and I increasingly felt that we were doing a lot of things simply because somebody at the top “said so.” If colleagues explained why the directive may not be the best route, or provided alternative ideas, superiors would agree yet shrug and reiterate that it be done anyway without question based on who had assigned the task. There seemed to be a strong reluctance to voice an opposing viewpoint for fear that an executive may think negatively and it would hurt a career. This didn’t align well with my personal style.
It had always been a goal of mine, but I had enjoyed career success and so that objective was always put on the back burner. But it never went away, and the older I got the more I felt that I wanted to at least give it a shot. I knew that Corporate America would always be there and I was confident I could return if desired; however I didn’t want to give up an opportunity to at least try to “go it alone.”
After seeing layoff after layoff throughout my career, I learned that it can really happen to anyone. Although I was fortunately spared, it didn’t mean that I would forever be immune, and I didn’t like the idea of my entire financial future being in someone else’s hands. I felt that if I was going to put in that much blood, sweat, and tears into my work, then my ultimate success or failure should be contingent on me alone.
You know what I’m talking about – the office grapevine, the rumors, who is advocating for who, who doesn’t like who, who is a direct of who – it is exhausting. Over time, I learned how to play the game well, but I never fully embraced it. I would cringe every time someone asked “Who do you work for?” or “What is your officer title?” I had the accepted accolades, but felt that it shouldn’t matter. Why should it matter who I worked for? And whether or not I was a VP? Should that have any bearing on the conversation at hand and how I was responded to? The short answer was it shouldn’t, but it did. And it all felt very inauthentic.
Earlier in my career, I couldn’t have resigned even if I had wanted to. I was just starting out financially, and had too many bills to pay and investments to make. But over time and with care, my husband and I were able to earn and save enough so that a cut in salary wouldn’t ruin us. Before I finally quit, I must have run all the numbers and talked to financial and CPA advisers 100 times “just to make sure” we could do it. And the bottom line was that we could. Of course, we would have to make some changes and become much more conscious about our spending habits, but it could be done. And it finally hit me that it would NEVER be enough money – whether or not I continued to work a full-time job. Meaning – we would always want more, want to earn more, want to save more. So as long as we could make it work with what we had, my husband and I were willing to give it a shot.
Once kids enter the picture, priorities shift. After the 3rd birthday of my first son, it dawned on me that it was all going Way. Too. Fast. The first three years felt like a blur, a random collection of rushed evenings and errand-packed weekends. I wanted more time with he and his brother. And I understood that the time was precious – and that no amount of money in the world could ever buy that back. It pained me to think that I was paying a nanny for the privilege of time with my children. It all seemed so backwards. Yet I wanted to work. It was and still is extremely important for me that my children see me working and contributing. But I knew in my heart there was a better way. A mother working a job that she has outgrown is not the same type of role model as a mother who is working on things she is passionate about.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Fate was the definitive tipping point. A perfect storm of events creating the final nudge I needed to make the leap.
Job Weariness + Long Time Desire to Go Independent + Serious Illness + Medical Leave of Absence + Nanny Unexpectedly Resigning + Unexpected Pregnancy = The Right Time
And so I did. It has now been six months since I’ve resigned (and over eight months since I last worked at my former job – due to my medical leave of absence), and I have not a single regret. I haven’t even experienced a twinge of the panic and anxiety I was so scared of. In fact, I wish I hadn’t debated what my heart was telling me for so long.
I’ve learned that there is a ton of freelance work available for motivated people willing to work hard. I’ve realized that the finances adjust. And I’ve developed an even stronger connection with my sons. They, in turn, now see a mother who works just as hard as before, but who is passionate and energized by her work. And personally, I’ve grown stronger and more resilient, less afraid to take a risk.
I don’t know where I will end up, or if I will return to Corporate America at some point, but for right now the decision to resign from my former position has been the best one I have made in a very long time.
One of the best things about my experiences in Corporate America is the people I had the opportunity to work and interact with. Several of these colleagues have turned into lifelong friends who have long surpassed various jobs, different companies, and corporate paychecks. Interestingly, several of my closest former-colleague-friends have also recently taken leaps of faith to pursue their own passions – and this has only further cemented our relationships as we navigate these new experiences together.
One of these dear friends is Dana. I met her what seems like a lifetime ago (okay, maybe it was around 15 years ago) when we both worked for a Japanese captive finance company. I remember the day we met. We were having a team meeting and she was the newest member, joining us for the first time. She was pregnant with her first child and bravely starting a brand new job. She looked at me and I looked at her and for some inexplicable reason we both instantly decided that we didn’t like each other. This is comical now, as she is one of my closest friends and confidantes. Neither one of us can even clearly explain the reason for the premature “dislike” – aside from thinking that the other looked bitchy. Just goes to show – first impressions and all that.
Dana and I worked together quite a bit, helping to implement one of the biggest and longest-running (years long) projects in the company’s history. It was a fast-paced, demanding, and stressful time. We bonded over the strain. And relieved tension with (too many) practical jokes. Well, maybe I was more of the practical jokester – but who’s keeping count? Dana was someone I could count on, who had integrity, and who was invested in all that she did. Our friendship grew as we worked together, played together, and even traveled together with other girlfriends to blow off steam. We joke that she is my Hawaiian sister from another mister.
I have to admit that I wasn’t overly surprised when Dana confided to me over dinner one day that she was planning on leaving her corporate job. I knew that she hadn’t been happy, and that she had been taking on an ever-increasing workload. She had shared many times that she missed her family, her children. In her quest to be everything to everyone, she was burning out from trying to juggle it all.
So she and her family made the decision to take the leap – and now she is a fully Licensed Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant! I am so proud of her. She has been an inspiration to me as she invests time in work she loves, is passionate about, and on her own terms.
I asked if she would mind answering some questions to share her experiences and hopefully inspire others in the same way that she has inspired me – and she was more than happy to oblige.
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. To begin, what inspired you to quit your job? Was there a specific tipping point?
It was really just me being at a place in my life where I was not completely satisfied with what I was doing at work. The specific tipping point was when I was asked to cover for a colleague who was out on maternity leave, as well as for another colleague who transferred out of our department. This was in addition to continuing to manage my own job. When, after doing all of this, I received a performance review rating of “Meets Expectations” at the end of the year, I knew it was time to make a change.
Why did you decide to go into the field you chose?
It was important to me to do something of service to the community.
What did you do to prepare before quitting?
I had a lot of discussions with my husband to prepare myself. I knew that I needed his full support, and I got it. Without it, I don’t think I could have ever done it.
Did you have any fears or concerns about quitting? Is so, what were they?
My fears were more or less about finances because I knew that a big chunk of our income would instantly disappear. But we made it work.
How did people react to your decision to quit and start a new career?
Most of my friends, family, and coworkers were supportive. There were only a few who questioned my decision. They were pretty blunt. One coworker outright told me that I was making a mistake and that I should reconsider my decision. Another friend asked, “can’t you just transfer to a different department?”
Did you ever have any doubts about “starting over”?
I never had any doubts around my decision to start over. I was excited by the newness of going back to school, studying, the challenge of striving for good grades, the new training, etc. Just about everything along the way reassured me that I was doing the right thing.
Tell us a bit about your journey since you’ve resigned – what have you done?
Since I resigned I completed an Occupational Therapist Assistant program and interned for four months at a skilled nursing facility and a school district. I passed the boards and am currently working per diem at a skilled nursing facility in Orange County. The biggest perk of my new career is that the hours I work are totally flexible, which allows me to be there for the kids. I love picking them up from school, making them a snack, helping them with their homework, and cooking dinner for them. If I had continued working at my previous job, none of these things would have been possible.
How did it feel to be back in school?
I loved being back in school. I met a great group of peers who went through this two year journey with me, until the very end. We keep in touch and encourage each other, giving each other tips on testing for the boards and applying for our licenses.
How does it feel to now be licensed?
I’m relieved that I am finally licensed. Reality has settled in and I am happy to say that I am not disappointed.
Would you ever consider going back to Corporate America? Under what circumstances?
No, I don’t think so. I gave up 15 years of my life to a big corporation and I don’t care to revisit it. I can’t say that the whole time I worked there was unpleasant because it wasn’t. I met some amazing people that I am still friends with even now. The regret I have in working there is that I can never get the time back. The time that I missed tucking my kids into bed at night or saying Good Morning because I would have to leave for the office before they woke up. I missed family trips because the deadlines for programs or testing had to be met. It’s silly now to think that I ever put all those things before my family.
How has taking this leap of faith changed you?
It changed me in a way that is difficult to explain, but I will try. I feel freer than I have ever felt. I feel lighter, happier, more at peace, calm, and less anxious. I worry less because my family and I made it through a rough two years and in those two years we laughed a lot more and smiled a lot more and talked a lot more than any of the years I worked at my corporate job.
Has it changed any of your relationships – with your family, friends, others? In what ways?
I think it has made my relationships stronger. I’m still busy and I get too busy to see my friends and family all the time, but the split is now leaning more towards family time and less towards work. My priorities have changed drastically and I love it. I have more time to care. Before I was so distracted by deadlines or presentations or training. Now I go to work and totally enjoy it, but I leave my work at work and get to mentally and physically enjoy my personal life.
What hardships or difficulties have you experienced along the way? How did you overcome these?
Financial, but we made it work. We just had to cut back and adjust, then we had to make more adjustments. Someone else’s plans to do what I did may not always go as planned, but you adjust and then maybe have to adjust again.
If you could look back and give your former Corporate American self advice now, what would it be?
Life in Corporate America is not the only way to live. I would remind myself that it is just a job. Make family your priority. They will not be there when you finally retire. The kids will graduate and go to college and you will miss out on those opportunities to have those meaningful talks and be there for the events that all kids go through. You only have one life. What do you want to remember when it’s time to say Good Bye? I hope it’s not work!
If you could give advice to someone else dreaming of quitting Corporate America, what would it be?
Do it! Don’t think too hard. Somehow things work out. We are creatures of habit, but because we are intelligent we can create new habits. If we are not changing, then we are not living.
Any other words of wisdom to share with our readers?
Life is beautiful, but only if you stop to enjoy it. That’s what I feel I did.
Thank you, Dana. I’m so proud of you and your accomplishments, and can’t wait to see everything else that the future has in store for you.
Today’s guest post is from Laura Pennington, a writer and business coach who left her teaching position and later her job in Corporate America to focus solely on her own business. She now works with others who wish to follow their passions and grow their businesses.
In the summer and fall of 2011, I was busy as an over-worked inner city teacher trying to keep 110 seventh graders in order while teaching six back to back hours of lessons every single day. I was exhausted, sick of being there and tired of dealing with the bureaucratic nonsense that made it difficult for teachers to do their jobs. Simply put, it was more difficult working with the adults at my job than it was working with the children.
Knowing that I couldn’t bear another day of teaching after having a scary and dramatic incident being chased to work one day in Baltimore, I accepted a position working at a corporation where I had previous experience. Heading back into corporate America was certainly the important bridge that I needed to get out of my day to day grind as an urban teacher. But I quickly began to experience the same frustrations that led me to pursue a teaching job in the first place. I didn’t feel fulfilled by my corporate job and I was not rewarded for getting my work done sooner rather than later. In fact, it seemed like the most important thing to the corporation was that I be sitting in my desk from 8.30am to 5.00pm everyday whether or not I had work to do.
After starting a freelance career part-time in the summer of 2012, I finally was free of my day job twelve months later. Although I wish I could have left my day job sooner and I wish I had had the guts to do so, here are the things that prompted me to know that it was officially time to go.
Sign #1: Your work begins to bleed over into your day job.
While you initially might start off having a freelance career or a side business or a blogging opportunity that fits in nicely with your free evenings and weekends, this won’t last forever if you are managing your business properly. Ultimately you’ll feel like you are overbooked or like you are constantly working during every hour of the day. Those weekends just won’t be enough time when you have too many things on your to-do list. You’ll find yourself working over lunch hours and working later and later into the night or waking up early. This is a key sign that your business is growing to the point of being sustainable full-time. While you have to determine the official financial benchmark that you want to hit before leaving your day job, this is a good sign that you are on the right path. Make sure you are making the most of your time and consider if this is an opportunity to raise your rates if you are working as a freelancer or in a similar position. This can help you build that financial cushion to leave your job.
Sign #2: You find your day job absolutely aggravating.
Even if the aggravation in your day job was bad before you started doing a side gig, it can get even worse when your business is finally turning the corner and giving you that sense of emotional and financial freedom you desire. Things that were not as much of an annoyance before simply become unbearable while you’re in the workplace. There were certain coworkers who were aggravating before I started freelancing and just became a daily source of serious frustration every time I interacted with them. I knew that it wasn’t necessarily their fault but I felt like it had gotten to the point where I couldn’t handle it anymore. Little things that happen in your office can easily become big frustrations and problems for you if it’s time for you to leave your day job and get out of there.
Sign #3: You are not receiving the support that your part-time business offers you with your day job business.
There are many different ways that this can play out. For me, it was in terms of scheduling. Working as a writer on my own hours meant that I could work during the times that I was most focused or most likely to commit to finishing a project. My day job, however, expected me to sit at my desk 8 or 9 hours every single day even when there were some days that I finished work by noon or 1 o’ clock in the afternoon. This increasingly drove me crazy because I had the exact opposite experience with my freelance writing to compare it with. So as time went on, this being forced to sit at my desk when there was nothing to do really frustrated me. I didn’t feel like the corporate environment rewarded me for being efficient and in fact, it was the complete opposite. I had to drag projects out for far longer than I needed to because I was instead trying to be busy all the time and trying to come up with a whole day’s worth of work when it just wasn’t there.
When you work for yourself, there are two interesting things that can happen:
First of all, you work when you want to work but you’re also likely to be more passionate about it and find that there is so much to do in growing your business and taking it to the next level that you may find yourself working 40 hours a week. This work, though, happens on your own time in your own way, in your own comfort level and you should also be able to take time off without any office drama – when things come up that need your attention outside of the office or if you just don’t feel like working that day.
For me the scheduling was definitely the most frustrating part of it. For other people that I’ve spoken to who have started a side business, it’s the customer service. It’s the idea that working for themselves allows them to say no to certain people whereas when you are working for another company they set the parameters of who you can interact with, sort of what you have to put up with. When you are under someone else’s umbrella and they have expectations that the customer is always right, you are obligated to stick with that even if you know that given the opportunity you would say no to it. When you work for yourself and make your own schedule and bring on your own clients, you have the right to be the one who says no and you can draw clear lines about who you are going to interact with. The basic point of this particular sign is that there are going to be things that come up and you can have that direct comparison experience to working for yourself and you much prefer the working for yourself experience.
If it really motivates you to have a plan to leave your day job, make sure you set clear financial goals for yourself. It can be a big mental challenge to leave the comfort of your day job, but working your way up to an amount of money you have saved or a monthly amount you’re bringing in is going to make that transition even easier. I actually nearly tripled my freelance writing income in the first year after I left my day job because I had the passion and the time to devote to it. It was further vindication that I just didn’t belong at that old position!
Laura Pennington is a writer and business coach who works with new and emerging virtual assistants, writers, and other freelancers who want to build and grow their businesses. She can be found on www.sixfigurewritingsecrets.com.
We all have those friends, right? You know – the ones we consider family. The ones we share a lifetime bond and connection with… Along with bickering, arguing, and stand-offs. But the ones we would never ever give up – because they’re the ones who understand us like none other, and who we can call at 3am on a Tuesday morning because someone pissed us off and we can’t sleep. The ones who always have your back – and who will defend you with the vigor of an angry mama bear at the slightest threat. Yep, those are the best friends to have. And I feel blessed to be interviewing one today.
Her name is Maryan, and she is quite the character. What is that supposed to mean!? – she is going to ask. But it simply means that she is unique, a personality unto herself, and that’s what I love about her.
We met almost 22 years ago at our first big girl job. We were so grown up – but really just kids. She sat next to me, training with a co-worker on her first day, and looked at him like he was a regular idiot when he gave her instructions that didn’t make complete sense. Uhhh, whatever, why would you DO THAT!?? she said. And I was intrigued – by her confidence, her gall, and her complete irreverence for what anyone else may think. We went to lunch, and she spoke up when the server gave her a paltry portion of rice: Uhhhh, can you put MORE on there?? – dripping with sarcasm. Then when the cashier took his time writing an unintelligible note on the receipt, she boldly said exactly what I was thinking: Um, WHAT are you DOING?? HELLO – Can you hurry up please?? I was hooked, and we became inseparable.
Through jobs, kids, dating fiascos, arguments, makeups, graduations, weddings, marriages, and more kids – we have been through it all. And even now – we are starting our creative pursuits at around the same time, and learning and going through the experience together.
So when I told Maryan that I was launching this new blog, I asked if I could interview her about her new YouTube channel. Why, she said, wouldn’t readers want someone much more experienced with a huge following? I disagreed, and told her that I thought it would be refreshing to hear the experience of someone just starting out, like many of us are, and that I could then periodically check back in to monitor progress as time goes on. She thought for a moment, and then surprised me with an Okay – makes sense – I’ll do it!
And so here we are.
Thanks for chatting with us today. First, I’d like you to explain what inspired you to start the StayingCreative YouTube channel.
I watch a lot of videos on YouTube personally, and really enjoy them. I started to think that people might find some of the things I want to share interesting or helpful. I was a thespian in high school and love being in front of the camera! I find YouTube to be a great creative outlet for me.
What were your original goals in starting the channel?
To inspire people and hopefully help a few along the way. I thought it would be fun as well. I wanted to share my creativity and thoughts with people without interruption hehee.
Since starting your channel, have your goals or vision changed?
Nope, and I really don’t think they ever will.
How do you decide what to talk about on your channel?
Really just whatever is inspiring me at the time. That’s why I purposely chose the name “StayingCreative” – because it is general enough to allow me to be free to create anything.
Do you have any insight as to what is resonating with your audience?
Yes, based on views it appears that viewers like the crochet and cooking videos the most. It is interesting, because while I enjoy crocheting, I am no expert, yet those videos are receiving many views.
Well, I think you’re much better than you give yourself credit for. But maybe it’s because people relate to you as someone who is learning, and are learning along with you?
Maybe? I don’t really know. I wish I knew more to share more, but I am constantly learning and sharing everything I know.
Are you making any money off your channel? If not, do you plan to?
Yes, so far I have made a few dollars but am not comfortable sharing the exact amount just yet. It’s not much but it’s a start, and I feel that if I can continue to increase traffic I could earn much more.
What is your target demographic, or the profile of your typical viewer?
I don’t have a target demographic in mind when I am creating videos. I just create what I am interested in and figure that it will resonate with like-minded people. But I believe that most of my viewers are women aged 18-40.
What value are you hoping your videos add?
I hope to inspire my viewers in some small way.
Do you have a motto or tagline that you operate under?
How do you encourage viewers to connect and identify with you?
Mainly through YouTube comments or direct messages. Sometimes people will email me directly as well. I do also have Instagram and Twitter accounts, but am not as active with those as with YouTube.
What has been the most surprising part about starting a YouTube channel?
That I am actually receiving subscribers and viewers! I never expected the kinds of numbers that my videos have received, and that has been very encouraging and motivating.
What has been the most difficult part about starting a YouTube channel?
It would definitely be finding the time to edit my videos – it takes a while, especially in the beginning. Also finding good lighting in my home.
What is your favorite part about creating YouTube videos?
I really enjoy adding music to the videos and creating my thumbnails. It’s a big part of the creative process.
Why did you choose YouTube over other social media channels?
I don’t enjoy writing – it’s too much work! And I’m not much of a reader – unless of course it is reader comments. So YouTube definitely fits my personality the best. Plus I enjoy watching YouTube videos myself. It’s my weird way of unwinding after a long day of work.
What would you say to others considering starting a new YouTube channel?
It is definitely a lot more work than you probably think it will be. A short five minute video takes much, much longer than that to film, edit, and upload. But – it is also very rewarding. I love reading and responding to peoples’ comments, and have had the opportunity to connect with so many interesting viewers. Even though my goal is to inspire, I am always happily surprised when someone writes to thank me or comment about me inspiring them. It’s motivating and helps me feel like I am contributing in a positive way.
Do you have any other advice to give?
Be yourself on camera. Don’t be afraid to be goofy and real. Laugh at yourself and don’t take yourself so seriously. People want to connect with other people who make them feel good. And they want to relate to people like themselves – normal people like you and me. Don’t try to act or put up a front – viewers are smart enough to see right through that and then you come across as fake and inauthentic.
Do you think that your YouTube channel will meet, fall short of, or exceed your original goals?
Honestly, it has already exceeded my original goals! I wasn’t sure if anyone would pay attention to my channel or care what I had to share. But I’m finding that people actually do. So I just keep elevating my original goals.
What motivates or inspires you to keep uploading videos?
The fact that people are watching, and that my subscriber pool is increasing. I love hearing from viewers that something I have said or done resonates with them. It makes me feel proud of what I am doing and gives me the motivation to continue.
What personality traits do you think help you in this endeavor?
Not being afraid to be silly or creative. Not paying attention to the haters. Being myself.
What kind of support does your family provide?
Honestly, everyone I know is very supportive of my YouTube channel. My husband especially puts up with my constant videoing, even making cameos in many of my videos! He is a good sport.
I know that you ran a YouTube contest a little while back. Can you talk more about that? How did you decide what to do, was it successful, what lessons did you learn, and how would you tweak it next time?
Yes, I had a subscriber appreciation giveaway. My goal was to hit a milestone number of 100 subscribers. I exceeded the goal and found that the contest was a great way to connect with my viewers and subscribers. The only thing I would tweak next time is doing away with runner-ups. I had runner-ups the first time around, but learned that it created confusion for some of my viewers. So I think one single winner is the best approach for going forward. I really learned a lot! What was perhaps the most helpful was learning what my viewers were most interested in winning. This will help me put together an even better incentive prize for the next contest or giveaway that I run.
Finally, how do you personally “Stay Creative”?
I am constantly looking around and learning. I love browsing YouTube, Instagram, Etsy, and Pinterest for inspiration and ideas. I gravitate towards topics like crocheting, knitting, cooking, arts and crafts, home decor, shopping, plus size clothing hauls, family get-together planning, and the list could go on and on. I truly believe that you can find or demonstrate creativity in any aspect of your life – it’s all about your point of view. I think always learning, questioning, trying, and sharing are the keys to staying creative.
Thank you so much, Maryan. We will follow up with you in a few months to check in on your progress and any new learnings you have to share.
Interested in following Maryan and her progress? Connect with her on social media, and remember that sharing is caring!
YouTube – StayingCreative
Instagram – IStayingCreative
Twitter – @SeeStayCreative
And for a special treat, I’m including below the most popular StayingCreative video at over 12,000 views to date! Check it out for yourself.