I’m wondering … can you relate? Have you ever held a job that was the envy of many, provided you with the traditional markers of success, but left you wanting for professional purpose?
You might not know that I once held one of five in-house fashion PR roles in Canada for a global fashion brand. You also might not know that despite all the “trappings” of a successful career, I struggled to find meaning in my work.
Don’t get me wrong. I gained invaluable knowledge, had incredible experiences and learned from the best in the business. Still, when it came down to how my day-to-day work impacted people’s lives, I struggled to find an answer beyond profit.
I knew how fortunate I was to be in the role, and I could feel how hard I worked to get there in my bones. But, towards the very end, I woke every day knowing that my heart wasn’t in it. And truthfully, as a WORKER who strived to be an asset to my employers, I feel guilty even typing that out.
But there was no denying that I was longing for something else that I could call my own – a role in which I could personally help people achieve their goals and simultaneously accomplish mine too. I needed to find professional purpose.
Does this sound familiar?
If not, I’m so happy for you. Having a job that you’re passionate about is a gift and what led me down this road.
But if you feel that uneasy tug in your gut, I get it. And I’m here to tell you that, as hard as it’s been (and still is) to launch my own business, listening to my heart and mind has lit me up and added purpose to my professional life.
I’m sharing my story because the power of personal stories is immense. After reading this, if you’re considering a change, I hope you feel inspired and empowered because you gained insight into whether a move is right for you. Once you know, it will allow you to take the next steps on your journey.
HOW I KNEW IT WAS TIME FOR A CHANGE
Are you one of those people who get to the office early, Starbucks in hand, excited to have an hour to work productively before the office comes to life? I was that person. I woke with such excitement to get to my desk and dive into my work. Motivation was never an issue for me … until it was.
Slowly I started to wake and lie in bed, dreading going in. Even trips to New York for the shows failed to get me excited. Instead of looking forward to a week amid fashion powerhouses, I dreaded the 6 am flight and the seven days away from my husband and daily routine.
The lack of motivation was jarring. I love working; when I eventually did resign, not working a traditional job was a total shock to my system.
After a while of excusing it as a funk, I was forced to confront the fact that I needed a change, which was terrifying, to say the least.
Add to that, the only thing that I was absolutely clear on at that point was that I wanted to start a family.
Kids with no concrete plan-of-action for a job? Great plan, Laura.
But despite my many apprehensions, I finally got the courage to call the President and resign.
And then it hit me like a bloody truck.
HOW I OVERCAME MY IDENTITY CRISIS
Sound dramatic? I wish I could say that I quit and spent my days launching my soon-to-be thriving new business, exercising, and getting bigger with baby #1 by the day.
Not so. I didn’t magically turn from communications director to entrepreneur overnight. Far from it.
For about the first week after I resigned, I was a free bird—a whopping five full days of happiness. But then, the inevitable happened. Without the purpose, salary, obligation, structure, and camaraderie of an office full of smart, funny women I loved, I began to question who I was.
While I felt unmotivated before I quit, I was racked with sadness and fear after resigning. Looking back on it now, the period of my life still brings unease. Even though I had a rough plan for the next phase of my career, I was paralyzed by fear of the unknown. The fact that I didn’t realize how much my 8-7 was a part of my identity shook me.
Through it all, deep down, I never regretted my decision. But I did have to learn how to see myself in a new way and be kind to myself because the road ahead would be harder than I could’ve imagined.
It was tough work to realize that just because I wasn’t who I thought I would be at this stage in my life, didn’t mean that I failed or wouldn’t reach the success I enjoyed in my previous career.
It took me a long time to forgive myself for putting myself in this position. I had to focus on my core belief that I would achieve my dream of writing for female entrepreneurs to help them achieve their goals.
So, the question becomes, how did I get to a place where I felt comfortable in my new skin?
I had to do the tough work of going through the steps, just as you will if you decide to embark upon a new path.
MY NEXT STEPS TO FIND MY PROFESSIONAL PURPOSE
“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay,” Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh
It took me a good six months to come to grips with the loss of one long career phase and the start of the next. While navigating this new professional me, I also became pregnant with my firstborn. In the months to come, I would face another identity crisis, but that’s for another post.
Step one on my journey was getting my mind right, aka overcoming fear, which was the hardest step of all because it’s not tactical. You can’t jot that down on a to-do list, do a few things, and check it off as finished. In my case, it was the biggest roadblock to getting me on my way.
The next step was to really nail down where my passions lie. I have always written for work and have been published as a freelance lifestyle writer, so digital content writing was a natural next step for me, and really one that I knew I wanted to take for a very long time.
Once I had decided that I would write, I signed up for a few online courses that enlightened me on the business of freelance content and copywriting. I also devoured thousands of articles about marketing, writing, branding, entrepreneurship, and coaching.
Simultaneously, I painstakingly wrote and designed my website (hello, WordPress agents. It’s me again!). It’s an ongoing process, and I make changes to the text all the time as my business focus narrows and expands.
Then it was time to market my business, which, given that I’ve pitched and celebrated other people all my life was shockingly hard.
Talk about myself? Post photos of myself? No thanks! But thanks to my mentors, I found the courage to get out there to connect with my clients and followers.
And slowly, I started to see results. And not only financial but results within me. My excitement and motivation returned. I felt challenged mentally. I was energized as I reclaimed some ‘me’ time to accomplish something other than being a “good mom.”
Each day, no matter how exhausted I am, I eagerly get up at 5:15 am, pour a coffee and sit down at my computer to write, plan or market.
While some days are incredibly hard, especially juggling the role of mom and entrepreneur, I come alive at the thought of my business and clients. I know that for me, I’ve done right by my heart and mind.
WHEREVER YOU’RE AT …
Maybe you’re sitting at your desk right now staring at your computer screen thinking, I can totally relate. If that’s you, I feel you. I understand the push and pull, the pressures of being successful and the temptation to change course to find professional purpose.
Here’s what worked for me: take your time, do the hard, reflective work it requires to decide and sit with it. That way, you’ll be confident in your decision, even if you are a little unsure as to how it will turn out.
And continue to follow this space, and save this post for when you need to hear the true story of how someone followed their gut to realize their professional purpose.