career change.

Eventually, as most jobs do, my dayjob went south.

It wasn’t really my “dayjob” anymore; it was my career.  I had been with the company for seven years and worked my way to a decent level; I had a fantastic relationship with an outstanding boss who had put a career path in place for me.  All that needed to happen was for me to continue working hard and producing results, and things would be fine.

But in the corporate world things don’t always work that way, and the two of us got caught up in the politics of a merger.  Through no fault of our own, we both found ourselves on the outside looking in, and after he was let go, I found myself gradually being phased out as well.

It was devastating to me.  Not only had I worked hard, but I had produced results, and never gotten myself involved in anything negative at work.  I was a consensus-builder, a motivator, a leader.  But a few of the people upstairs had their own plans, and they didn’t involve me.

My boss told me what was about to happen at a Nets game, a few months before he was fired.  I was shell shocked by his news, and I went home and sat up in bed, relaying it all to Sandy.  In hindsight, telling me was the best thing he could have done, because it gave me time to prepare.  So when it got really bad, when my psyche really started to take a beating, I had already made the decision: it was time to go.

This time it was a bummer.  Earlier in my career, I was sort of a job-jumper, always leaving my companies with malice, feeling wronged.  This time, I really liked where I was, and had been there for a long time.  But I could also see the writing on the wall, and eventually I was going to be out of a job.

I hired an executive coach, because that’s what executives do.  And she helped me try and work out my resume, isolate companies where I’d like to work, focus on particular jobs that would be good matches for me.

And once we settled on an ideal type of job, I did an about face.

I didn’t want to go find another job.

I couldn’t bear the thought of the rat race, the whole interview process, the ups and downs of it all, the waiting game.  I couldn’t imagine having to assimilate someone else’s corporate culture, learn a whole new staff of people, figure out how another company worked.

One day, Sandy came and took me to lunch.

I’m not really big on breaking up the day with lunches with my family or friends.  I try and avoid it.  I’m not sure why.  I think when I get to work, I just want to work.  Breaking up the day with a social lunch has the opposite effect on me, I think – it stresses me out, makes the rest of the day drag.  I’ve never really thought about it before I started writing this entry, but I really do dislike it.  Maybe it dates back to my first job, when I’d go out to my car and take a nap during lunch – maybe it dates to my second job, where I’d sit in the parking lot and watch the factory workers play soccer.  Maybe it dates to the third job, when I ate alone at the gas station every day.  But my lunches have always been about a quick recharge, a scan of the news and my email, and right back into the day.

This particular day, though, Sandy came to have lunch with me, and I welcomed it.

“I’m worried about you,” she said.  “You’re starting to get like you used to get at the last job.”

“I’m sorry.  I can’t help it.”

“I think you should quit.”

“I can’t just quit,” I said.  “We’re not prepared for that.”

“So let’s prepare,” she said.  “We’ll sit at home, and work the whole thing out.  We’ll figure out how much money we need.  And you can quit your job and start a business.”

I had always talked about starting an ad agency.  It was right up my alley.  I had plenty of contacts in that business, and it dovetailed well with my desire to not be an employee.

So we worked out the details.  I conspired with a few friends and colleagues, and finally negotiated my exit – in the most professional, courteous way possible.

And in April of 2004, I started a small advertising and marketing agency.  On that same day, my sister had a baby girl.  And I saw a giant bear out my bedroom window, running through the woods adjacent to my house.  It was liberating.

~ by Al on December 18, 2009.

2 Responses to “career change.”

  1. You mentioned in a previous post when you were most proud of me. Now it’s my turn. I was very proud of you when you decided to take command of your own destiny and get out of the corporate world. I was so happy when you started up your company and I knew you’d be successful at it, and just the type of person who could and would take advantage of all the things that being your own boss has to offer.

    In retrospect, you feel better you did it, right? Your cousin didn’t steer you wrong, did he?

  2. My cousin SUCKS!

    No, seriously, I was glad I did it almost immediately after I did. It still has its ups and downs, but ultimately I’m pleased with the way it’s worked. I think the toughest thing about it – and something I still struggle with – is staying motivated to work every day. I’m a pretty firm believer that workers have ups and downs – times when they’re very productive, and times that they’re super slow. Running your own business, when you hit those slow patches it has a direct impact on your entire business.

    On the other hand, it’s just now that I’m starting to learn how to take advantage of being an owner in terms of lifestyle. I still freak out about taking days off, or focusing on things that aren’t related to work. I’m learning how, particularly recently.

    Ultimately, though, this is what I want to keep doing for the rest of my career. Since I tend to be one of these people who gets interested in something, throws himself into it, and then gets interested in something else, I need to learn to better control the ebbs and flows of my own enthusiasm. At least when it comes to my own livelihood. 🙂

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