job moves

my would-be milestone (+the giveaway winner!)

First of all, thanks so much to everyone who entered the January giveaway! Based on a random drawing, this month’s winner is KAILA! Congratulations, Kaila! Please send me an e-mail with your mailing address, and I will have your bracelet in the mail by the end of the week. I’m so happy to be able to share my love for The Shine Project with all of my followers. Please be on the lookout for the February giveaway and don’t be shy about entering again!

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Five years ago today, I woke up at 5 AM in my bedroom at my parents’ house in Pennsylvania, put on a skirt and blazer (purchased on a J. Crew Factory shopping spree a few days earlier), and boarded a bus to New York City for my first day in the working world. Having finished up all the credits I needed for graduation a semester early, I’d moved out of my dorm room in Washington, D.C. before the holiday break still jobless, but with the help of a little sorority networking, I’d lined up an interview with my dream company in Manhattan in mid-January. Within a few days, I received the offer (confession: when I got the call, I was watching TV in bed in the afternoon and wearing my bathrobe), and on January 30, my professional life started. All of my friends were a few weeks into their final semester of college — most of them taking as few classes as possible — but my life had totally changed.

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I spent the weekend before my first day of work pretending that I hadn’t decided to graduate early.

At my company, milestones in five-year increments were kind of a big deal. If I’d stayed in my corporate gig, my boss probably would have sent an e-mail to the whole department today, congratulating me on my hard work and sharing a brief history of my time there. In response, I would have received a lot of “great job!” e-mails from my co-workers. It would have felt really, really good. As much as I love working for myself, you just don’t get e-mails like that when you’re out on your own. You just don’t.

I don’t regret my decision to leave my company and change course, but I can’t help but take a moment today to think about what that milestone would have felt like had I decided to stay.

I’m about to sound like such a millennial, but, whatever: five years is a long time. I can count on one hand the number of my friends who are still with the company that hired them today — five years after graduation. It just seems to be a rarity these days for people in their twenties. My former company, though, was the kind of place that inspired a lot of loyalty in its employees — one of my favorite things each year was to watch as people accepted their ten-, twenty-, thirty-, and forty-year milestone awards. It was pretty amazing! By the end of my first year, I had silently challenged myself to stick around for that long, too.

In the end, that wasn’t meant to be (as we all know), but I still feel lucky to have been part of an organization that modeled that kind of commitment and passion. I would have been proud to reach my five-year milestone today, and I’m proud of all of the amazing friends I made there who are reaching their own anniversaries this year.

Instead, I’m working on the couch alongside my mom, who is spending the morning with me before she heads to a meeting in Manhattan. We woke up and started working at 7 with the news on in the background, allowing us to keep up a steady commentary about the scary state of the world as we go about our business. When I feel like I need a break, I’ll go out and complete the first run of my half marathon training for this year, and then I’ll spend the afternoon getting ahead for the rest of the week, since I’ll be in Philadelphia for a project all day tomorrow.

My life is very different now than it would have been if I’d been celebrating that five-year anniversary today, but I’m not sure there’s ever an objectively “better” or “worse” choice in life. This is where I need and want to be at this stage, but I won’t pretend those four-plus years in corporate America didn’t bring incredible value to my career. I’m grateful for each and every chapter.

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lessons from corporate america.

I’ve written here and there about my old corporate gig, and the circumstances that motivated me to leave it behind and go out on my own. If you’re new to the blog, you can check out a piece of that story in my one-month recap — but today, I’d like to focus on the many ways in which those experiences have proven so valuable in my new work.

My low point this last summer was only one piece of my journey in corporate America. Regardless of the frustrations I experienced at my company more recently, it wouldn’t be fair for me to leave out the part where getting hired there almost five years ago was hitting the ultimate jackpot. As a lifelong book lover, I could hardly believe that I would be working right in the middle of the publishing industry. It was an incredible opportunity then, and I am still so grateful for so much of the experience.

The industry was a lot more Corporate (with a capital “C”) than I predicted. When I was in college, I used to declare that I would never end up working for The Man, and ultimately, that’s exactly where I landed. While the corporate environment proved one of the biggest factors in my decision to leave the company, it also gave me a valuable set of professional tools that I firmly believe have given me a leg up in the first few months of my freelance life. I’m sure there are many people that become successful freelancers or who become self-employed without corporate experience, but for me, those five years in a more traditional work environment have been key to my transition.

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My corporate ID badge. This photo was taken on my first day at the office in January 2012 – I was so proud of my new blazer!

Check out this list of lessons from corporate America that have helped me since I’ve been out on my own. I have some great bosses to thank for these, and I hope I can pay it forward myself someday.

  • Follow-up. In my corporate jobs, I learned to make a habit of scheduling out follow-up to all e-mails and phone calls. Most of the time, I would make a note to check back in one week after the original outreach. I’ve continued this practice. I find that editorial contacts are really impressed when I proactively check in about a pitch or question that I’ve submitted. It’s an indication to them that this is my JOB and that I take it seriously.
  • Project tracking. My creative little brain had trouble adjusting to my previous company’s obsession with all things grids and Excel when I first started, but by the time I put in my notice, they had become second nature. I learned that it’s possible to organize pretty much ANYTHING in a grid or chart, and I’ve taken those skills with me. If you’d have told me in college that I would become a writer and rely so heavily on these kinds of systems, I wouldn’t have believed you, but here I am, with my handy little Excel spreadsheet constantly open on my desktop.  It’s really helpful for keeping track of project progress, publication and payment.
  • The art of writing an e-mail. I learned pretty early about the importance of presenting yourself in a highly professional, positive way via e-mail. It was no longer enough to dash off the more casual notes of my college days and hit “send” — I realized that writing a good e-mail was worth a little extra time and care. Now that I call myself a writer, it’s especially critical that my e-mails make a good impression, because they are a piece of my work like anything else.
  • Routine, routine, routine. I’ve found that keeping some level of a routine has been really helpful in transitioning to the working-from-home lifestyle. Since I spent five years in a highly-structured corporate job, I already KNEW how to keep myself to a schedule, and I was ready to keep up with it on Day One of freelancing.

Have you learned anything from your jobs — corporate or otherwise — that you think would help me moving forward? I’d love to keep learning from you, so please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

***Don’t forget that TODAY is the LAST DAY to enter the November giveaway and get a chance to win the earrings pictured below from The Shine Project. All you have to do to be eligible is post a comment (any comment!) to the giveaway entry here.***

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the last day.

The morning started like this:

me, sitting at my desk, half-dressed, listening to “Brave” by Sara Bareilles on loop, drinking a smoothie, and sobbing as I received encouraging text messages from my parents, all before 7 AM

Four and a half hours later, at 11:30, I packed the last of my things, handed in my company ID badge, and walked out of my office building for the last time.  The tears had started again as I walked toward the subway, and then I looked up and saw this:

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It’s the most beautiful day here in New York, and the first day that really feels like fall– my favorite season.  In that moment, it felt like a small gift from the universe just for me– as if this first day of my new journey was meant to also be completely gorgeous so that I would walk outside and know that I’d made the right decision.

When I started at my job almost five years ago, I was twenty-one years old and making a two-hour commute to New York City from my hometown in Pennsylvania.  I remember so clearly a very dramatic, suburban, wide-eyed thought that I had as I walked up Eighth Avenue on my first day.  “Here I am, in New York!  This is where I’ll make a name for myself.  I’m here to make my fortune!”

There have been moments over the last few weeks since I gave my notice that I wondered if, in doing so, I’d thrown away the opportunity to fulfill that naive twenty-one year old’s city ambitions.  I know that it’s not.  I am entering a transition, and it’s going to be challenging and uncomfortable, and it might stretch me to some of my previous limits, but it will lead me to a place where I can call my own shots as to how I make that name for myself.  I don’t think it’s ever too late to figure out how you really want to live your life.  Circumstances aren’t always right for making massive life changes, and I am grateful that the stars have aligned in my own circumstances to make this possible for me at twenty-five, almost twenty-six years old.  Now, the trick is to let myself feel each and every stage of this transition, so I can get to the other side ready to chase success in my own right and as my best self.

For now, I am going to take myself out to my favorite little French spot on the corner to sit outside on this perfect day with a book, an order of French fries, and a glass of champagne.  Because if there’s any better way to mark such a major milestone, then I don’t know what it is.

 

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i did it.

I can’t believe I’m typing this, but here’s the big news:

I quit my job today.

Wow.  It looks even weirder typed on the screen than it sounds when I say it out loud.

I, constantly overachieving, straight-shot-from-point-A-to-point-B Alli, have done something completely unexpected.  I’ve strayed from the path.

The truth is that, while this may seem like a surprising and plan-deflecting move, it’s really just a return to my original life track.  I was lucky enough to land an awesome internship in book publishing when I was a junior in college, but prior to that, my focus was all writing, all the time.  The publishing internship was intriguing at that time– could I really spend my life surrounded by books?  I fell completely in love with the idea, and before I knew it, it was three weeks after graduation and I was sitting on a bus bound for my first day in the Sales department at a major New York City book publisher.  Now, almost five years later, I know that I lost myself somewhere in the excitement of landing that job.  And if it means taking an unexpected turn to get back to where I want to be, then I need to make that leap.

It’s been a privilege to work where I’ve worked for the last few years.  I learned to interact with lots of different kinds of people, saw the inside of corporate America, and read hundreds of books along the way.  But, it’s important to follow your intuition (I’m a big fan of Jess Lively and her work on this subject), and to know when to take the next step to get where you really want to be.

So, here we are– at the next step!

What’s the plan?  The plan is to write, and to create.  The plan is to learn, and to network with people who are interested in what I can do and what I have to say.  The stars have aligned over the past few weeks and I’ve made some exciting contacts out there in this exciting online world.  I’ve already jumped into some freelance assignments at a few fantastic outlets, and I’m looking forward to building that portfolio.  I’m excited to share my work as I gain momentum!

Thanks for following along as I start down this new path.  It’s never too late to follow your gut instincts, or to try to work your way back to the beginning.

 

 

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