Five years ago, I was jet-setting across the country for work, making good money – no, make that great money. The creative, free spirit that I am was trapped in a hectic world of IT infrastructure, diagrams, wires and data. Work definitely paid the bills, but it didn’t allow me to tap into the well of creativity that existed within me. I was miserable.
The lure of a steady paycheck kept me away from what I really wanted to do. I had toyed with the idea of going back to school to earn a writing degree, but I lacked the courage to make the leap. Every time I thought about applying to a program or attending an open house for grad school, work crept up and grabbed my attention. I was consumed by the trappings of a busy corporate life. I lost myself to a corporate brand, an identity I didn’t believe in.
Then one day, opportunity knocked in the form of a layoff. It didn’t come as a total surprise. I never felt comfortable in the job. I just couldn’t get with the culture of nepotism and sleeping your way to the top. When my boss called me into the conference room to tell me I was being laid off, I wasn’t shocked or upset. I saved my tears for the trip to the parking lot, but then that didn’t last long. Panic set instead.
It took a few days for me to realize that I could use the time I now had to go back to school and pursue my dream. Sure, I was unemployed and facing the possibility of racking up student loan debt, but I looked beyond that. Losing my job afforded me something that I did not have before: time.
Fast-forward three years. I had survived a second layoff, this time at a struggling media production company. I tried my hand at temp work and later, contracting. I had a horrible two-hour commute each way between Baltimore and Virginia. Then a job opportunity opened up down the street from my home. The pay was about a third less than what I was used to making, but it was better than the paltry unemployment check I was getting.
Soon, I found myself in a place where the work was unfulfilling. Some days I had to work on inane tasks doled out by tyrannical bosses. (“Go count the boxes of light bulbs in the supply closet.”) Other days, I’d wander through the office trying to find work.
I had to evaluate the types of jobs I was drawn to. They barely lined up with my skill set, and in no way stirred up any passion. I was drowning in a world of data, rote processes, technical details and useless reports. There was no room for me to design, to create or write. I dreaded getting up and going to work in the morning. I made a decision that the madness had to stop.
When I decided to look for another job this time, instead of applying for everything, I looked for jobs that matched my skills, experience and interests. It had to be fulfilling and it had to have room for growth.
I recently left my job and started a new position with a new organization that has potential. I now have a chance to put my skills, experience, education and interests to use in a challenging position that I actually enjoy. While a job might fill your bank account up and pay your bills, you have to do what you need to to ensure that you’re actually happy. Whether that means going back to school or hustling for something else, something better, it’s essential. While the layoffs I experienced could have been some of the most devastating of experiences, they wound up being blessings through the lessons I’ve learned and the opportunities I’ve been given to actually figure out what it is I want to do. Because even though this new job is not my dream job just yet, it certainly is closer to where I want to be.