Updated: Sep 16, 2019
That I Wish I'd Known Before
In fall of 2016, I felt like I was at the top of my game. I had the role of Design Lead at a small sales consulting shop that boasted some very big clients despite its size. I had moved up from Graphic Designer, to Marketing and Design Manager, to then Design Lead, was managing a team of designers, and getting face time with clients as part of the core traveling team.
There were ups and downs like any company, and when key figures in the organization would move on there were always whisperings of what would one day prove to be inevitable. Good things don’t last forever, and eventually, everything we had built came crashing down on all of us.
We weren’t closing up shop, but the layoffs were so numerous that only a select few employees would be staying on. I was not one of those few, and I was devastated. I had only just negotiated for myself the largest paycheck I’d ever seen, and had barely gotten the hang of this whole “contributing to your 401k-” thing. I had no savings, and despite my larger paycheck, I was living beyond my means by just a little.
The blow of losing a job that I had worked so hard to move up in was a huge hit to my sense of self. I was angry, and sad, and honestly didn’t know what to do. I knew I’d worked my way up in the company, but the positions were so new to me that I realized I was probably going to have to start from the bottom again, and that killed me.
Around this time I was able to connect with some amazing women through a creative coaching group, who showed me that career-building comes in many shapes and sizes. I experienced coaching for the first time and, frankly, fell head-over-heels for it. I’d always been a self-help junkie, but this was some next-level shit. I was in heaven, and through the work that I did with those women, I began to see the beginnings of What Could Be.
It took me a full three months of networking, job searching, and working anything I could before I was able to find employment again. It was a difficult, frustrating time, and absolute murder on my finances. All that said, I learned a lot about myself during that time, and it gave me the space and perspective I needed to set out on the path I find myself on today. If I had just kept going, kept moving up in my job, and stayed on the path I was on, I might never have learned some really important things that changed my life forever.
I learned that I could figure it out. One of my biggest fears has always been not being able to take care of myself. Guess what that fear is based on? Absolutely nothing. I’ve been through really, really hard times and have always kept a roof over my head, and food in my belly. There is a level of grit and determination that is required to make things work when they’re falling down around you, but somehow—I’ve always done it. Through picking up extra work, having multiple gigs going, and leaning on friends and family when I needed it most, I survived the thing I’d feared most in my life.
I learned that it’s important to be true to your values. Until I was faced with the task of finding new employment, it never occurred to me that I should find something that truly resonated with me on a core level, and that I shouldn’t just jump at the first job that batted an eyelash at me. During this time I was introduced to the idea of Core Values: What is most important to you at your core? I used those values as a guide for choosing my next job. Does it fit or allow me to express my core value of growing/making a difference/having balance? No? Then pass. It was really hard saying no a couple of times to jobs that didn’t quite resonate with that list, but I’m so glad I did.
I learned about setting boundaries early on. I’ve always been a “whatever it takes, even if we’re here all night”- kind of person. I was over-working myself for my job, and often not leaving enough energy and room for my own passions. Before I started at my current job, I made myself a promise to do a great job, but to keep my work at the office and within business hours. This showed up as taking advantage of my lunch time to work on my coaching program, leaving on-time, adjusting my work hours to make the most of my day, protecting my health by going home if I was sick, actually taking vacation time. It may sounds like a no-brainer to some, but this was novel shit to me, ya’ll.
I learned not to put all of my worth into a job. I felt so angry and betrayed when I was laid off. Mostly, I think, because I had put so much stock into the job I was doing. I didn’t have something else to get excited about and focus on after work. My work was my whole deal. Not to say I didn’t have little passion projects here and there, but the bulk of my worth as a person was wrapped up in what I was doing for my paycheck, and when that paycheck was gone—big surprise—I had a little bit of an identity crisis. It took months for me to realize what was at the heart of my anger, but when it clicked I was able to start working toward repairing my sense of self, this time on my own terms.
I don’t want to gloss over the privilege that I have in being able to take a little bit of extra time in looking for a new job. I don’t have kids, and I wasn’t forced to give up my home, or sell everything I own. I kept afloat on the small amount of income I was able to bring in and with credit cards. It was a lean Christmas that year, but short of giving up some luxuries, I was able to maintain my general lifestyle.
I also don’t want to mischaracterize how terrible it was for me losing my job. It was hard, and frustrating, and I’m still digging out from the financial decisions I had to make during that time. But it set me on a path I never expected, and gave me an opportunity to really look at what I wanted for my life, rather than moving to the next gig as I’d always done. Once the dust settled, I was back on my feet, and there was a clear path forward, I was able to look back on this time as a period of growth in my life, however scary and uncertain it was. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Have you ever been surprised when a bad situation lead to serious personal growth?