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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Confidence in Following Your Career Dreams

This is the "Note from the Universe" I got in my email the day after I got laid off from my job after seven years this summer:

Me? Concerned, Jennifer? Let's see, at the moment, you're exactly
where you're supposed to be. Whenever the going has gotten tough,
you've always bounced back even higher than you were before. 
And, somehow, you keep getting even better looking.
But you are a dear for thinking of me.

Mmmmmwaw - The Universe

Needless to say, losing my job totally threw me in so many ways. Even though layoffs are rarely personal (I wasn't fired), you still feel like it's personal. Why me? Why was I the one chosen...and when I had a new baby, at that? 

I got a month's severance pay and started frantically looking for a new job. I was terrified. Would I find one quickly enough that would allow me to continue working from home to be with my daughter? Was I good enough to work for someone else after doing the same thing over and over for seven years? What if we couldn't pay our bills after the severance pay ran out? Granted, the job was not one I had ever really liked in that span of time, and I won't bore you with why. But it had become...comfortable. Well, in its own way. Comfortable in that I was familiar with everything and knew what was expected of me. It was fairly mindless and could be easily accomplished while my daughter was napping. It was also decidedly uncomfortable in many ways as well. Even though sometimes I complained about the mindlessness and wanting to use my creativity more, what if a new job required more than I was able to give while still giving my daughter enough of me? 

It finally started coming to me what I already knew and had known for some time: I want to do my own thing. I want to do freelance graphic design, writing, and editing, and I want to have enough clients to help with my share of the expenses and then some. I want to enjoy my work again! I want to feel that fervor and have it spill over into the other areas of my life, to have my daughter pick up on that sense of pride and freedom instead of the same old drudgery every day. I decided I was okay with being laid off, that bigger and better things were coming for me, and that losing my job was just the swift kick in the ass I needed to stop letting fear of the unknown hold me back. I didn't have the luxury anymore of doubting my talents. I needed to find a way to make money again! The irony of staying at a job that is unfulfilling because you lack the confidence to branch out is that the longer you stay doing the same old thing, the more it eats away at your confidence.

It was precisely within days of mentally accepting the layoff that they called and wanted to rehire me. And not just rehire me. Promote me. What did I do, you ask? Did I tell them to shove it and then go out and start making tons of money on my own? I wish. No. We have a child and pets and a mortgage. After much deliberation, I went back. I can't say I even got much satisfaction knowing they wanted me back. I really had become accustomed to the idea that I was going to start doing my own thing and make it work. But "in this economy," which I think has officially become a real cliché now, you are told to take what you can get.

But. Between the time I was laid off and rehired, I got a hastily written email from a friend who found out I was laid off and had another friend who might be looking for some freelance writing work. Her regular writer was on vacation, and they found themselves with extra work that needed to be done. This woman didn't know me from Adam, but she took a chance on me. Three times. And she really liked what I wrote. She popped into my world and gave me the chance to experience what it felt like to enjoy my work again. To some people, the things I wrote might have seemed boring. But they lit me up just because I was putting words together and using them to make some type of impact. You might have noticed I really love the power of words! She also gifted me with the opportunity to regain some of my old confidence back. I did some freelance assignments, and someone liked them enough to pay me for them! Now, that is a boost. I've been freelancing off and on through the years, but it felt differently to have someone like my work when I had actually decided I wanted this to be my full-time gig.

Through her, I ended up attending some networking events, which required me to finally finish updating my portfolio and get my own business cards printed for the first time, a big step in telling the Universe, "Hey, this is what I'm doing now!" I was scared to death to go and was sweating bullets. Who did I think I was to assume I was good enough to make a living out of my talents and start passing out business cards? But I met some really important people through those events that changed me and my perspective in some way, not to mention some potential clients. I can only say that I was exactly where I was supposed to be in those moments in time.

And you know what - I totally surprised myself. One of the events had an amazing speaker, Wendy Watkins of Passion Fruit, and the entire lecture was taped. Not knowing this at first, I found myself raising my hand to contribute when she asked questions. I went from not knowing anyone in the room (yet) and feeling clammy to realizing I had some important things to share and feeling like I'd burst if I didn't say them. The other women in the room actually laughed with me at some of my comments and nodded or verbalized their agreement, validating that what I was sharing was meaningful. (I've been told I made the cut for the videos that will be posted on her web site sometime soon, so I'll see if I actually appeared as brilliant in reality as I was in my memory, haha, and share them with you if I was!) And when the speaker asked what our passions were outside of work and family, do you know what my answer was? This blog. This blog that has given me the opportunity to help girls and women change the way they see themselves for the better. In addition to wanting to get my freelance career off the ground, I really want to take this thing places. I have a message to deliver in a way that only I can deliver it. 

I'm sad to say I have found myself getting "comfortable" again in my job. Because I'd been there so long, I eased right back on in. There was no wondering what to expect. Maybe there is or was a place for that mentality. But no more. I'm publishing this post as my written letter of intent to the Universe that I am going for it. As I was telling the woman I'm consulting as my business/time management/mom-life coach from Guilt-Free Mothering (whom I met at one of the networking events), comfort zones are not always actually that comfortable. It might be easier to have a mindless job in one sense. But blandness eats away at you. I don't want a work life of bland. I want a work life of Tony's Cajun seasoned salt. heehee I want to be that girl in the movies who suddenly decides she can't take it anymore and quits her job, with no concrete plan for what happens next, just throwing all caution to the wind. Like Julia in the show "Parenthood" just did. Does that really work in real life? I don't know. Maybe for people who can survive a while on one income or people with huge savings accounts. I have a family counting on me, so I don't plan on doing anything rash. I do, however, plan on taking some risks and finally getting more than just a taste of what it's like to enjoy my work. I'm ready to lay fear to waste and take the design, writing, and editing world by storm!

My name is Jennifer, and I AM a graphic designer, writer, and editor. And illustrator. And whatever else I decide to pursue! And I am damn good at what I do, with enough clients under my belt to vouch for it, so no longer will I let doubt creep in and sidle up next to me. I've learned, at least for myself, that when I conquer one fear, another one inevitably takes form. For instance, first I'm worried that I'm not good enough to pay the bills as a freelancer...I kick that fear in the butt and decide to go for it. But that gives way to the next fears. What if I'm so successful that I become too busy and even more stretched than I already am? What if I find out it's not all it's cracked up to be, and I miss the structure and comfort of a full-time job? I'm a bit afraid of success because, not ever having known it, I don't know what kind of changes it will mean in my life. 

Something my husband often says when my thoughts are spiraling and I am having a hard time making a decision (even when I know in my gut what I should do) is, "What's the worst that can happen?" And when I answer that question, I usually realize that the worst ain't that bad or at least isn't any worse than my current situation if I do nothing. Tonight, when I was hesitant to go to another networking event because I would be a little late, I asked him, "What if I get there and I can't get in?" and he replied simply, "Then you'll come home." It sounds so elementary. But when he put it like that, suddenly it didn't seem so huge to at least attempt going, and I hustled myself out the door and was immensely glad I went. Instead of focusing so hard on conquering fears, I think what I really need to be asking myself is how am I going to feel this time next month or next year if I have not taken steps to change my current situation? And also this question: what if I find I really, really like it?! I was afraid of being a mom too, but my desire to be a mom was bigger than my I wonder how I ever could have second-guessed myself. Having her is waaay better than I even knew it could be. 

While I'm at it, I want to see my name in lights. Ha! What that means for me, I don't even know yet, but I know I want to see it.

Since I started with a quote-type thing, I'll end with one as well. This one I came across on Twitter.

In almost every case, nothing is stopping you, nothing is holding you back 
but your own thoughts about yourself and "how life is." - NealeDWalsch

Do you like your job? If money were no object, what job would you be doing? 

What is holding you back from having the job of your dreams?

The pictures, with their credits, can be found on the TCN Pinterest under Jen's Vision Board.