I came from a family who taught me to A) as a woman, ensure I make my own income even if I got married (because like my own parents, sometimes marriages don’t work out), and B) that working your way up the corporate ladder in corporate America was not only mandatory, but it was the ONLY and BEST way to be successful.
As a GenerationX (or GenY, or Millennial, depending on what resource you look at,) obviously this ideology is preposterous and a bit old school, right? What I didn't know is that I was about to embark on a journey with far more options.
A lesson on being happy with an optimal work/life balance.
I graduated college in 2006 with an optimistic outlook on landing somewhere that would offer $40K right out of the gate in the world of marketing and public relations. When I got an offer for the local zoo, a job that any PR pro would die for, I was pretty shocked that the pay was only $15 per hour. I decided to follow my heart and take the job anyway.
After three years with zero increase in pay (or title), the economy crashed. Little did I know that when the economy tanks, marketing and PR jobs are always the first to go. Even in the “recession-proof” (or supposedly) zoo world, it wasn’t long until entire department was laid off.
I was “almost” 26-years-old, with “almost” 2-year-old twin boys, and wasn’t sure what to do next. I had no amazing title to show for on my resume and my pay was considerably low. How in the world would anyone hire me other than another entry-level position? (especially in this economy)
Well the answer was, nobody.
So, I sucked it up and took on another entry-level position with a healthcare network. After all, I needed a job despite my husband’s income and I wanted to start climbing that ladder as quickly as possible. That was the key to success right?
Shortly after my arrival, my hiring manager announced that she was leaving the company and they were going to hire a replacement. People were shuffled, roles were changed and the department shifted. I ended up with a new title and a role I wasn’t exactly excited about. It was almost a demotion. I knew that I needed to keep my job to keep our house and food on the table, but I was NOT happy about the change.
I remember someone at work one day asking me one day what “filled my bucket?”
I was never asked such a thing before, nor had I really taken the time to think about it. What did fill my bucket? What made me happy in my career space? If I could do anything, what would it be?
I always envisioned being the head of a department; the vice president of marketing and public relations. But after seeing the unraveling and the changes that happened in the department, I started to see the ugly truth about upper management. Yes, they had incredible titles, pay scales and offices, but what I noticed above all that was the continued confinement. They were constantly confined to the “inside-the-box” thinking and wore invisible chains when it came to decision-making. While I am not saying these people were not brilliant or successful or enjoyed their jobs, I just started to have the realization that this corporate ladder climbing wasn’t for me. I’m not really the type of personality who fits well into a box, nor have I ever been the kind to be chained down. If anyone knows me, I am constantly looking for other ways to fly and I happened to lose “the box” a long long time ago.
I decided to start writing down what made me happy at the end of the day.
What my passions were, interests were, what got me excited and ultimately what filled my bucket. I loved being a mom. I loved learning how other moms of twins made it through their day. I loved the outdoors, adventures, taking my kids to new things including museums, parks, splash pads and more. And above all, I loved networking and connecting. I loved doing PR, being on TV promoting the businesses I worked for, I loved writing.
They say when you start writing things down and putting them into the universe, the universe will respond. It wasn’t long after that my entrepreneurial spirit began flying with the launch of my mommy blog and PR/Marketing services.
The blog started with writing articles on the trials and tribulations of parenting. Posts included how to get through important milestones with your kids like potty training, going to the dentist for the first time or the best ways to travel with toddlers. Soon after I had advertisers wanting to share their content on my popular blog. Later on, I realized these same people needed PR and marketing help. So slowly but surely I was building a community of moms and local businesses all while maintaining my full-time job.
It took almost five years (and a lot of patience), but as my itch to really jump off the cliff into entrepreneurship full-time became more and more evident. I teetered for a long time on the fence of leaving corporate America. It was an overwhelming and scary thought for a long time!
What if I did not succeed? What if I could not stir up new clients? What if I didn’t bring home the necessary income to feed my family or put food on the table? I decided to take my vulnerability and share it by talking to other local entrepreneurs. I would ask them how they did it. What advice they had? How they overcame this fear of failure? What I learned is that they are all risking a lot too…every single day. Many had invested their life-savings into their businesses. Many told me their business could fail in 30 days. But ALL of them also told me how empowering it felt to be their own bosses. They felt freeing to have the flexibility to work when they could, to attend their children’s soccer game, to volunteer in the children’s classroom, to work from home if they didn’t feel like going to the office and to take vacations without approvals. It was a common trend as I kept hearing “if you work hard you can play hard.”
This was the kind of validation I needed. After I got consent from my incredible support system of family, friends, acquaintances and business owners, I jumped off the corporate ladder, put on my hiking shoes and began the new climb of entrepreneurship. If I failed, at least I tried. If I didn’t make enough money, I knew how to wait tables.