I Quit My 6-Figure Job Three Months Before A Global Pandemic
Lessons learned in chasing dreams during the weirdest time in modern history
When I decided I’d be leaving my job in Corporate America to, as I said, “chase my dreams and find freedom,” I expected to receive a lot of eyebrow raises and “are you sure you want to do that?” inquisitions. Instead, over goodbye coffee chats and tearful embraces, I was told:
Wow, I’ve always dreamed of doing that.
I wish I could do what you’re doing.
You are so brave.
Compliments that made me feel like a fraud. At the time, I had only a blurry picture of the post-corporate mountain top and no real idea of the path to ascend. Brave? No. I was walking blindly into the dark.
Today marks seven months since I walked out of the glass pane turnstiles of my corporate job, vowing to never return again. But, as you know, a lot has changed in seven months.
November 2019 marked 125 months of consecutive US economic growth, seemingly gliding past all predictions of an end-of-decade recession. The housing market was booming. Unemployment was at a 50-year low. When contemplating quitting, I was naturally met by internal fears, but the external environment felt, oddly, safe.
Fast forward to June 2020. An abrupt global recession brought on by the most contagious virus the world has seen since 1918. Unemployment is back up to 2008 recession levels. And following the death of George Floyd, America has found itself in the middle of a Modern Civil Rights Movement. I’d wager to guess, no one — certainly not me — saw any of this coming.
Seven months is not a long time — but it certainly is long enough to afford me some lessons on trying to create your dreams during the weirdest year in modern history. Here are four things I wish I knew before I began my Creativepreneur Climb:
Loneliness Is Unavoidable
Work has always been one place where I could easily find my people. At my last job, there was Ally, who’d eagerly help me pick out which shoe to rock from the six pairs I housed under my desk. Joanne who felt my pain when I had to push through completing a quarterly strategic brief.
Maya who’d I meet up with at 3pm to exchange gossip and sip coffee. In a structured work environment, you build a network of people who not only understand the nuances of your day but also who help make the job itself more enjoyable.
Any entrepreneur knows that there will be few people who are aware of your highs and lows. Even your friends, to no fault of their own, will not fully grasp what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, or how you want it to turn out.
That’s the human experience: people not fully appreciating your walk unless they’re on a similar path. I’ve found that if you’re setting out on this journey because you want understanding or approval, you’re doing it for all the wrong reasons.
It Takes Time To Get Things Going.
I knew that money wouldn’t fall onto my lap immediately after going out on my own but, if I’m honest, I thought I’d be able to start earning corporate dollars in 90 days. (What can I say, I’m a Microwave Millennial — and we want it hot and we want it now!)
Alas, it took me three months to develop my offerings.
And then I offered too many services.
Or I didn’t offer enough.
Or I didn’t charge enough.
Or I charged too much.
Or there was an entire shift in our economy that upended 90-days worth of work.
As a creativepreneur, you’re constantly testing and learning. You’re trying to figure out how to monetize your creativity while maintaining your integrity. It’s easy to feel like you don’t know what the hell you’re doing because sometimes — you don’t! But that doesn’t mean you’re bad at the entrepreneurship game; you’re simply inexperienced.
Therefore, the best thing you can do is give yourself the grace and time to figure it out. And, to ask for help when you need it.
You’re Going to Question Everything
I’m a faithful person but many a thing has led me down a questioning-my-decision spiral. Whether it’s the realization that I’m not earning a steady paycheck, or that I’m a 30-something living at home with her parents, or that I’m way too experienced for some of the prices I’ve accepted — and the list goes on and on.
One particular spiral occurred as I was sitting on the patio of Starbucks in early February. I don’t remember what initiated it, but what I do recall is that it landed me on the LinkedIn jobs board, perusing openings back in Corporate America. Three minutes into reading a job description, I felt a pang in my stomach.
A familiar feeling that I know my body to give me when I’m barking up the wrong tree. But we humans have an uncanny ability to ignore these sort of whispers — and my emotions and I were ready to do just that when my phone rang.
On the other end was a friend who I had shared countless coffee chats with at my last job, devising my plan to leave. When leaving was merely an idea, I’d tell him, with confidence and self-awareness, how I knew there would be days that wouldn’t be easy but that ultimately this was what I had to do.
(Yes, that’s how I talked about leaving. That’s how visceral the feeling was.) So, when he called and I let all of my anxieties release, he caught them by reciting the same words I once told him. He then went on to assure me of my worth and remind me of my mental fortitude.
Working for yourself is a highly romanticized lifestyle.
The path is windy and the moments of self-doubt are frequent. Yet, if you surround yourself with people who speak life into you; if you trust in yourself; and if you follow the bread crumbs to keep you on your path — it’s not only possible, it’ll be the most important decision you can make for your life.
There Are No Safe Roads
Millennials were baptized into the working world during a recession. Yet so many of us had forgotten what it feels like to be at risk or to struggle to find employment. In 2019, most people working in Corporate America had some degree of confidence in their ability to change jobs or at least feel safe in the ones they had.
And then 2020 Corona hit.
Friends started to express panic when they saw HR meetings land on their calendars.
Layoffs were announced.
People were furloughed.
Others were let go.
And all of a sudden, the safety that one feels they’re promised in Corporate America vanished, and what replaced it is the understanding that nothing in this life is certain.
And if that’s the case, if everything is up for grabs — what, again, is standing in your way of trying to scale your mountain? Sure, it entails dark ascents and twisty turns — but even if you don’t make it to the proverbial top — the journey itself seems to promise stories and experiences that make it worth the try.
Seven months in and I’m still figuring it out — but I’ve decided: I’m not done yet.
A 6-Figure Corporate Junkie turned Trying-To-Figure-It-Out Passion Pursuer. I write about self-development, spirituality, relationships, and black folks thangs. Find more at www.SimoneKeelah.com.