I remember the moment vividly. It was the day after Thanksgiving over three years ago. I was working on a client’s Black Friday campaign for the holiday and had sacrificed much of my time with my family that week for this client.
That Friday I sat in the den of my parents house and it wasn’t until 5pm that I emerged to go to the bathroom. I hadn’t eaten anything that day. Hadn’t showered. Hadn’t drank any water. And hadn’t gone to the bathroom. I emerged and burst into tears. I was 30 years old and crying over my job. A job that had drained me. A job that felt thankless and no longer rewarding. Job that felt like all take and no give. A job that was no longer challenging in the right ways. A job that was making me an angry, bitter person.
This was my career tipping point.
In that moment, as I cried to my mom at the kitchen table, I knew something had to change. That in 2016 I needed to set out and really figure out what my next career move was going to be. Not just what my next “job” was going to be. But what I actually wanted to accomplish with my career in its next chapter.
By February I was taking meetings with everyone in my circle to talk out options. The one thing that kept coming up: Had I considered going out on my own and develop my own consultancy? The more it came up, the more I thought about it and began to imagine it.
By the end of March I was back at my parents’ kitchen table for the Easter holiday and telling my mom I was putting all the pieces into place and I was going to leave my job and begin self employment at the start of the summer. I would set up my own consultancy and risk everything on myself, my drive and my skill set. And I was putting things into motion like getting my companies formally established, finding + hiring a lawyer and an accountant, budgeting accordingly (and making lifestyle changes to do so), putting out the word to everyone I knew and continuing to network like crazy to soak up as much information as possible.
(I revisited my calendar from the first half of 2016 in writing this post and I had on average 2-4 meetings or calls with people every week between February and the end of May!)
When I began doing all of this, I wasn’t sure it was the right move. I was pretty sure it was.
But not 100%. My instinct was telling me it was and it felt right. But…I was also overcome with doubts and fear at times. I recognized that I couldn’t keep at the big PR agency life. If I took another job, it would be different at first but inevitably become the same. I knew from experience that changing your surroundings can only get you so far. And that if the work doesn’t change, nor will your career. I had been at three large PR firms in my ten year career at this point and it was no longer a fit.
I shared this sentiment when I told you guys about my new career chapter, but oftentimes we don’t take time to assess what we’re losing by staying put in a job that makes us unhappy. We sacrifice a lot of days and put forth a lot of hard work that we can’t get back. And, sure, there’s always going to be part of our jobs that we don’t like. But when our health and wellness and happiness are being negatively affected by our jobs, something big needs to change.
Self employment has changed me a lot and it has been hard.
So, so hard on certain occasions. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’d choose the hard times again and again because at this point in my career journey, all the good outweighs the bad. Sometimes the risk is rewarded and I feel very lucky to be able to balance my work for my PR consultancy alongside the work I do for wit & whimsy. I blogged for almost 10 years almost every weekday on wit & whimsy while having a full-time job so it’s really nice to be able to manage my workload in a more flexible manner by being my own boss.
If you, too, have reached your career tipping point or are going through a hard time at work, here’s a post on getting out of a career rut. And, if you’re curious about self-employment, here is an article I penned about how to best prepare for it.
I think it is important to recognize that finding true career happiness takes a lot of work and is not ever going to be immediate.
But if you’re willing to put in the work required of exploring what else is out there, it truly can be so, so rewarding. Furthermore, every job is a stepping stone and not all wasted time. My last corporate job gave me a lot to be proud of on my resume (that leads to client work to this day) and provided me with some pretty wonderful friendships I cherish. When you’re down and out about your career path, try and remember the good with the bad and know that things do always get better – you just need some tenacity and some patience!
Have some career words of wisdom to share with other wit & whimsy readers? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
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Mango Jacket (on sale! wearing a S; last seen here) // Madewell Top // Jeans (wearing size 27 – these jeans are so soft and comfy!) // Gucci Mules (last seen here; similar here, here for less) & Bag (last seen here; here) // Celine Sunglasses // J.Crew Velvet Hair Bow (last seen here)
p.s. A career Q&A with me and a letter to my younger self.
Thank you so much for writing this. I’m currently at 11 years in corporate PR …and I’ve hated every year of it. I’ve experienced that Thanksgiving story time and time again. Every time I’ve decided to get out, a promotion or new job opportunity has come along and kept me in. My whole life has been devoted to work – I’m single, I have only a few close friends, my health/fitness is the worst it’s ever been, and I live in Manhattan and barely experience it outside of the office. I’m at my tipping point now as well, and it’s so great to read that the feelings of intuition telling you to leave can turn out great. If you’re open to returning to taking meetings, I’d love to grab coffee in the city sometime and chat!
I know how you’re feeling so well! It’ll get better for sure – you need a change of environment stat! I would say to seek a lot of inspiration – from books, podcasts, those around you – and see where your intuition leads you to! It can truly be life changing!
I remember this time well! ?? I am so proud of you for taking the leap and for sharing this moment with your readers. May the ghost of data stories never haunt you again…
Thank you so much Meghan, this topic is so timely for me! I am actually not unhappy at my current job (I work in fundraising), but my job is being eliminated as of May 1st. I had already been planning to dip my toe into consulting in 2019, but all the signs seem to be pointing toward diving into it full-time. I’m excited and nervous and a little overwhelmed but very optimistic. Reading stories like yours helps me remember I am not the first person to take this plunge, and that I am not alone in all my mixed feelings. I’m also super fortunate to have a very supportive spouse who can carry the financial burden so that I don’t have to take a job just for the paycheck. It is important to me to pull my own weight, but I do have time to build up my business. I’ve bookmarked your post about preparing for self-employment – after 20+ years of steady paychecks, I have a lot to learn about doing it myself!
You can do it, Marcia!! You have the right outlook for sure and the fear is totally to be expected! The best risks should give you a bit of a pit in your stomach – it’ll drive you to succeed!! Wishing you the best of luck!
Thanks for posting this! I am in a different situation — I LOVE my job — but have found that many of my friends in Manhattan hate their jobs. But, I’ve been frustrated that they are seemingly unwilling to do the mental work of analyzing what it is that makes them unsatisfied, or take steps to leave to find other opportunities, or fully explore what it is that makes them unhappy, how to cope with those things, or when to know when it’s time to move on. I find it so refreshing that you put in that mental work to make a change — and I admire you for that!
It can be so hard to be surrounded by that negativity! Some people truly can’t help themselves and it’s hard to stand by and witness this. I have friends and an ex who were like this. They think things will fall in their lap. I am so glad you love your job and your friends are lucky to have someone like you with a positive + healthy outlook on your career!
So inspiring! Thanks for sharing this M! x