Given the week it's been, or really, my personality, you might be thinking "go for it?" Does she mean her new hair cut? A new tattoo? Eating a donut while being a Weight Watchers Ambassador? All of those things are what you'll see me talking about on social media, but what I'm talking about today on THIS platform, is the decision I made 5 years ago today.
That decision was to "go for it" and quit everything I knew to be safe, secure and consistent. 5 years ago, at just about this moment (8:38 a.m. for those reading this a bit later) I walked into my job and quit. I'd never been so terrified and emboldened at the same time. In times past, I'd always had something else I was quitting for - another full time job, more specifically. This time though, it was different. I had spent several years being unhappy, jumping around from company to company and always ending up in the same boat. Disappointed, unmotivated, and really lacking the lust for life that I once had. This time was going to be different though. This time I was ending the efforts of lining someone else's pockets & fulfilling THEIR dreams or company goals, and instead shifting the focus to my own.
This decision didn't come without prior planning or preparation. While I admire those Netflix-style stories of a young urban professional just walking out and paving her way and fulfilling her dreams after a particularly bad day in the office - that's not who I am. I, in all of my Type-A personality had begun planning this nearly 1.5 years beforehand without even realizing it. When I moved to Snohomish in 2011, by myself, after a divorce, I wanted to start meeting new people, engaging with a new community. I had all the glean (and the wear & tear) of a 12 year relationship that just ended, and so I polished myself up and ventured out. I began going to local meet-ups and community gatherings. I started to volunteer for the Sunsets in Snohomish Wine Walks (hey, I'll do just about anything for a free bottle of wine!) I started meeting the movers and shakers of the community.
One particular evening, I found myself with an invite to the local women's group: Snohomish Networking Women. While I wasn't a small business in Snohomish (yet!) I decided to go and find out more about how I could help in my community of like-minded women. I was helping with sign in when I encountered Debbie, the very person I'd been volunteering for with the wine walks. She was excited to see me and we started chatting. For some reason, my future emboldened personality jumped out and I said "you know, I really love what I've been doing with you and the events, if you ever need an assistant, I'd love to be it!" She quirked her head and said "Shucks, you know, I just hired one!" I was completely sullen in the fact that I hadn't been more courageous sooner. In my best effort at covering my sadness with humor I said "Well, if she doesn't work out or ends up breaking both her legs...let me know."
How was I to know, about a week or so later, that I'd find in my email a message from Debbie noting that her new assistant had an unplanned health emergency and wasn't going to fulfill her role? It was a sign, and I was elated (not for the poor girl, but for a new chance at what I thought I had missed.) Things started moving quickly - I phone interviewed with her (in a conference room at my full time job!) a few days later, and then I met with her to discuss more details. They were a bit grim - my hours would be part-time at best, the pay would be low, and there were no guarantees about how long the contract would end. BUT. The hours would be MINE. The experience would be MINE. The partnership would be invaluable - Debbie had worked with lots of folks in the community and I knew we'd make a great team.
I'll break here to say that during this busy time of my brain figuring out any way to make it work, Joe proposed. I was ecstatic! Not only that, but HE got a well-deserved and much-anticipated promotion at work. Things were fast-forwarding at light speed! After the proposal, I had a bit of a different vision of my life. Safety, security and a plan were falling into place. Joe and I obviously discussed wedding plans, but we started to seriously consider what me leaving my full time job would mean. I had been starting conversations with folks that I'd met through volunteering over the last few months about the possibility of managing social media pages for small businesses. I was doing it for large corporations already at my regular job, why not bring the focus down to local? We set a goal for me to achieve - 10 clients, and try to increase hours and wow Debbie so I'd be sure to get more hours and events.
2 days after he proposed, I met with Debbie and signed the Independent Contractor agreement. 3 days after he proposed, I walked in to the office and let my manager know I had to talk with her. She assumed I was going to tell her more about wedding planning, or that we were going to "elope next week." The shock on her face when I said I was leaving was something I'll never forget. I was quickly shuffled up the chain to be convinced I was making a mistake. "But you're such a great employee! We thought you loved it here!" and "What can we do to make this right? Is it about money?" and for once, it wasn't. It wasn't about how much vacation time I could have or a flexible work schedule. It was about following my dreams and figuring out who I was meant to be. I had spent years at various companies being overlooked for important jobs, wow'ing folks in interviews only to be shut out by an outsider. I was SO FREAKING TIRED of answering to the chain of command. I knew that venturing out on my own (and especially with my role as an Independent Contractor) I'd still have clients and Debbie to answer to but IT IS DIFFERENT.
So, I put on my big girl pants and told the corporate ladder this: "If you wanted to keep me, you should have probably made it clear before I gave my notice that I was valuable. If money is an option now why wasn't it an option when I was out-performing before?" I got a lot of open-mouthed stares, and backtracking about timelines and company policies. Finally, I said (no really, I did!) "Here's what I want in order to stay: I want double the salary, half the hours, and I want to work from home on the days that I choose...which will likely be most of them." That obviously didn't work out, so I gave them a timeline. Being that I knew money would be tight and this lifestyle would be an adjustment, I offered terms of 2 more weeks full time, then 2 months of part time while I trained my replacement. "Replacement" turned out to be 2 people, to fill my one role. On the very last day of my part-time terms, I wished desperately that I had a convertible. It was a beautiful, sunny September day. I watched almost from outside myself. My car drove away, I put down the imaginary top, had a box of papers and projects and I let them all fly in the wind as I sped away from corporate life and into a new adventure that I had no idea where it would lead.
So, I became the girl that decided to go for it. Here I am today, 5 years later doing things I never envisioned. 10 clients was my original goal, and now I am up to 25 + all of the amazing other things that I've added to my list of skills. Executive Director. Market Manager (or maven as I like to call it). Public speaker. Coach. All of these things that the unknown has provided for me and that I've provided for myself. At times it's REALLY FREAKING HARD - especially times like right now where every minute of my day is planned all the way to 9p. But I'm living the life that I set out to live - and then some.
I'm here to tell you that it's worth all the hard work to GO FOR IT. I know lots of amazing lady bosses that did the same thing I did, and they're an inspiration to me still. While some of my relationships have changed, just like my roles, I am so thankful for everyone I've met along this incredible path to being my own CEO. Thank you to all that have supported Mockingjay Press over the last 5 years - in its ever-morphing evolvement!
Ladyboss, CEO, Market Maven and more.