Media Mogul. I wrote the words on a yellow post-it, with a black sharpie and pasted it on my bed frame so I could be reminded of my goal every day. But I was not moving towards that goal as an Executive Assistant to a financial tycoon on Wall Street. I was moving him towards his goal. It felt comfortable. I was safe. I was liked by everyone. I had job security. That was the scary part. The scary part is that they always thought I would be there. That I would be content in my role for the rest of my life. That I wouldn’t think more of myself. Or that I didn’t think more of myself. That I didn’t have the same goals as the CEO of the company. That when I sat in his chair while he wasn’t in the office, it felt comfortable, like I deserved to be in the corner office too. But I would never become what I wanted to be in the financial world. I knew it early on that it wasn’t for me. Greed; The money hungriness; The conservatives; The biases; The glass ceilings; The white collars; The suits and slicked black hair; The façade; The boredom; The numbers; The yelling and screaming; The perfectionism; The microaggressions; The lack of women or minorities in “the room.” It just wasn’t for me. And yet I stayed and endured for 5-years. 1,825 days. During that time, my emotions were filled with ups and downs. At first, I was excited to even have a job. Then I realized there was nothing to be excited about-Then I had to humble myself. Then I was promoted and was excited again. Then I realized I wasn’t being paid enough; I should’ve been making more doing the caliber of work that was required of me. I kept the office going. I kept everyone sane. I was a perfectionist; even if it meant staying at work until 9pm. I did more than what was required of me. I worked long and hard. I waited for my boss to ask me “What do you want to do with your life?” I wanted him to invest in my future just as much as I invested in his. But the question never came and the reality hit me that it was time to move on.
Lesson #1: It’s so important to have a boss that knows your goals and pushes you to get there. It’s important to have a boss who doesn’t want to see you doing the same thing in 10-years but wants to see you grow. It’s important to have a boss that believes enough in you to include you. A supportive boss can do wonders for your career. Be wary of the ones that are not.
If my boss wouldn’t mentor me then someone else would have to. Eventually, I found just the person. A woman and a lawyer. She had a successful legal career in the financial sector and when she started at my company we bonded over our shared Pisces astrological sign. This woman saw something in me and pushed me like no other. She made sure I applied to jobs every week and took me out on lunch dates to encourage me. I never had a mentor before and I soon realized God was saving someone special for me when I needed her the most.
Lesson #2 I used to be jealous of people with mentors because I never had one. What was wrong with me that no one wanted to be my mentor? But a mentor is not a fairy godmother. They’re not going to just appear. I had to “court” my mentor. A few weeks after meeting her, I asked if she would take a walk with me to tell me about herself and I would do the same. She said yes, and the rest was history. I realized she would be a perfect mentor after our walk. But I had to take the initiative and make the first step in building our relationship.
So as I prepared to change careers, there was one more kick that happened that pushed me like no other. When I say push, I mean set the fire in my back. That was me finding out what others were making in the same position. I also confirmed this by simply googling the average for what someone in my position should be making compared to what I was making. It amazed me that I could work so hard and still not be paid for the work I was doing. But I didn’t speak up. My boss and I had a relationship where I revered him like a father almost. I didn’t know how to confront him about my pay so I just wallowed in my misery. I was literally taunted by it at least twice a month. He paid for my lunch and I received bonuses but that didn’t count when my salary was not where it should’ve been. I needed to make the move. But first I had to decide was this really about money? Or was I seeking a job that I was passionate about?
Lesson Three: Money or Passion? I applied for a hedge fund in the midst of my anger and got an interview. I later declined the interview. I made a decision to myself a long time ago that I would not sell my soul for money, my salary, or material things. My career would have to make me happy and would not feel like work. It would feel like I am just doing what I loved. So yes, I declined an interview for a job that started at 115k because it was just like the job I had, maybe even worst. For some people, even some friends, they would call me crazy but that’s what separates me from a lot of people. My happiness far outweighs my salary pursuits. My next job would just have to make me happy and pay me what I deserved!
I needed the motivation to apply to jobs consistently. Job-hunting is really tedious. I tried everything, including using spreadsheets, keeping track of what I already applied to and what I didn’t apply to. I applied to jobs every-Thursday bi-weekly from January to August. I remained consistent. If Thursday was a day where I had an event, then it was pushed to Friday or the weekend but I never stopped. I went on Linkedin and searched for jobs on there too. Linkedin is really a powerhouse. I reread my resume and cover letter every other week, making adjustments as the months progressed. I didn’t hear from anyone and I began to get anxiety. At work, I was getting anxious and panicked. I hated my job and it was beginning to show.
Lesson Four: Stay Consistent!
It was in August that I received a call for an interview. During the interview process, my side gigs came up a lot. I do a lot of things on the side in addition to a 9-5. I blog, podcast, produce, direct, read, volunteer, etc. Never in a million years would I have guessed that these side projects would separate me from other candidates. Initially, I started them to fill a void that I was feeling at work. My work was unfulfilling, to be honest. But then, it became a part of me. I’m a blogger. I’m a podcaster. I directed a documentary. All of these things shaped me into who I am and separated me from the pack. Some people look down on side projects. They call it mere hobbies. They say it’s not worth your time and to focus solely on your 9-5. But I disagree. Your 6 to 10 hustle is what you can call your own. Your baby. Your passion project. The unique vision that will exalt you into your destiny. It’s these projects that take me one step closer to my dream and ultimately landed me a position at my dream company because a couple of months later, I got the job!
Lesson Five: Passion projects/6-10 hustles, are so important. I’ve had people question why I spend my time doing what I do. I had people doubt my side projects. I’ve had people who I couldn’t reveal any news on these projects because they didn’t understand. I’ve had people question why I would ever work for an up and coming travel platform for black millennia’s for free? I’ve had people question why I would ever volunteer my time as a Sunday School teacher from 7AM -3PM without pay? I’ve had people question all of my ventures and I never cared. It will take some people longer than others to discover their passions and destinies. Some may always be too afraid to uncover it. But I don’t want to ever live my life that way. Never underestimate an idea that you have in your heart or a talent that you haven’t uncovered since childhood. It may be the key to finding purpose in your career.
I say this all to say, figuring out what you want to do in life is hard work. Gaining the courage to leave a secure job for a career in an totally different industry is scary. But you’ll never know if success is waiting for you on the other side of the door if you don’t try. We have to believe in ourselves enough to know that we will be successful and that our lives will have purpose. We have to catch ourselves when we are secure and complacent and push ourselves for more.