Life has a funny way of giving a giant, irreverent middle finger to the carefully crafted little narratives we make about our lives and our careers. We tell ourselves that we’ll pay our dues for a few years, then land the ultimate “dream job,” then change the world with our awesomeness…well at least that’s the story I told myself.
Two years ago I was working a mind-numbingly boring marketing agency job and was certain that a jump into #StartupLife was just what I needed. After 10 months of persistent calling, emailing, LinkedIn stalking, and creepily showing up at their networking events, I landed my dream job as the 25th hire at an incredible silicon valley startup I’d admired for years and I was in heaven.
Only to be unceremoniously let go just one year after being hired there.
The day I walked out of my office for the last time was really tough and the days that followed were even more difficult but I knew that this event, no matter how mentally taxing, would somehow prove to be a learning opportunity for me…and maybe even a source of encouragement for someone else along the way. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned since walking away from my “dream job.”
1. Change is inevitable, so you need to be good at it.
Being “let go”, laid off, fired, getting canned — Whatever you wish to call it, It happens to many people for a variety of reasons. I never thought it would happen to me, especially at the job of my dreams, and yet here we are.
One of my biggest takeaways from this experience is that change happens whether it is welcome or not. You might as well learn to love it. Celebrate it. Get good at it. Because you don’t get to decide when it happens, you just have to be prepared to kick ass when the time comes. As the saying goes, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”
2. Things begin to fall right into place when you choose positivity.
Ok. I’ll admit it. When I first received the news that my role was being eliminated I ran the gamut of emotions. Sad, confused, but most of all angry. I sat and allowed my anger fester for days but it never made me feel any better.
I once heard a person say that being angry at someone is like drinking poison, but expecting the other person to die…and it was only when I released the negativity that things began falling into place for me. My consulting business began to grow. I had more interviews than I wanted, and within 30 days I had new offers on the table. Moral of the story — when you hit a career bump, don’t take it personally. Learn from it, stay positive, and move on. Your old employer has put your relationship in the past. It’s time for you to do the same.
3. Life is short. If you’re not moving forward you’re wasting your time.
Progress means many different things to different people. It may mean starting a family, climbing the corporate ladder, building a new business, or designing a life of adventure. Whatever the goal, if you’re not taking steps to reach it daily then you are wasting your time. I loved the environment, the perks, and the people in my last role, but I was too comfortable. I wasn’t making progress toward my own personal goals. As soon as I was forced to leave what I thought had been a great job, I knew deep down that I’d just been handed a rare and beautiful opportunity to walk in the direction of my true dreams.
Moving forward can be tough and even scary to do when you are forced out into the unknown. But I can guarantee you that being uncomfortable while moving forward is way less painful than choosing a comfortable life laced with regret.
So What’s Next?
While I’m still sad to have left my startup and a team full of some of the brightest people I know, I’m so happy to have been given the opportunity to find work that serves me. Bonus! There is a happy ending to this tale. Many of you know that I love coaching and that I enjoy helping entrepreneurs be successful, so I am very happy to announce that I’ll be moving to Memphis, Tennessee to assume the role of Alumni Director at “Let’s Innovate Through Education,” a nonprofit aimed at creating educational and entrepreneurial opportunities for students of color.
In closing I’d like to leave you with a word of wisdom that has inspired me during this season of radical change.
“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” — Dalai Lama
Go Forth. Be Brilliant.