Saturday, February 4th marked one year since I walked away from the corporate world.
Yes, I walked away after 27 years and a six-figure salary into the unknown (cue the Disney music – Into the Unknown).
Okay, that was a bit dramatic. I did have a plan sort of; it was more like an idea and a vision. I was ready to finally take the leap to start my own speaking and coaching business. I didn’t make the decision to leave lightly. It wasn’t like my side hustle had become big enough that I could leave; in fact, my side hustle was zero, zilch, nada.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, the way this sounds is that I walked away from the corporate world just like that (not true), let’s go back a bit for some context.
In 2016, after 22 years, my role was eliminated and I was let go as part of the most recent reorganization at Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Gratefully, I received a very generous severance package, one that allowed me to take some much-needed time off and spend time envisioning what this next chapter of my life could look like.
At that point, I hadn’t interviewed since 1997, I had tactical things to execute like a creating a resume; learning interview techniques and skills. I couldn’t have done this without my career coach. (that’s a story for another time)
What was instrumental for me was the inner work she asked me to do to figure out what I wanted. During this process, I figured out that I was looking to walk away from the corporate world and do something different.
I had always had a dream of being a TED speaker (I still do). I used that dream and began to explore creating a career as public speaker. I did some practice motivational talks and felt like I hit the nail on the head – this is what I was supposed to do. My career coach even said you were made to do this. After one practice talk an attendee came up afterwards and said you can make six figures speaking. I did quite a bit of research and learned that this was indeed a possibility.
While my severance was generous, it wouldn’t cover me not working for an extended period of time. This panicked me. I wasn’t ready to dive into my savings to try to make this work. I decided that I would find a role in the corporate world as my gap plan. This would allow me to have an income and health insurance while I figured out how to make this speaking business thing work.
I stayed in the corporate world but purposely accepted a role that was at a lower level than the work I had done previously with the intention that on my own time I’d develop my side business that I would eventually turn into a full-time job.
Well things did not work out the way I envisioned. I really thought I’d work 1-2 years and then leave the corporate world. That was not the case. I would take on increasingly more responsibilities and be there for almost 5 years. I wasn’t able to focus on my business because my role was intense and demanding and I didn’t have energy to figure out the things I needed to make my side hustle a success.
As the years ticked by, I became more disengaged with myself, my friends and my work. I was unhappy, disappointed, disillusioned, cranky, irritable and drained. I knew something had to change because it was clear this wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing.
I was at the point where every day of work I wanted to quit. But I knew that was a reaction to the fact that life was not unfolding as I had planned (does it ever?!?) and that I couldn’t blindly react (well I could but I know from experience when I blindly react to the situation in front of me things never go well).
With the help of my therapist, financial planner, accountant, coach, boyfriend and a few close friends I slowly began to craft a plan. I went back to the inner work I started in 2016 and expanded and deepened that work. It took a lot of time and energy. It was hard and it was messy. I knew I couldn’t make this dream of starting my own business work as a side hustle while I stayed in my demanding corporate role.
I had to walk away from my secure corporate job, take a leap and a risk and give this a try. I’m privileged and lucky that I had savings I could use to quit my job without having any other income. The fears I had of using this savings previously were outweighed by the need to give this a try; to take a chance on me.
I took a deep breath and I walked away from the corporate world. I officially launched my speaking and coaching business in August of 2022.
Was it perfect? No. It was a start.
Did I get many bookings and clients in 2022? No.
Did I dedicate as much time to my business as I planned? No. Life had a few other plans for me (that’s a post for another time)
I’m more content than I have ever been AND I can tell you this journey has not been easy. It’s scary, hard and messy. There are days I want to quit. I’ll share more about this journey in future posts. For now, I will close with this…
Would I recommend to someone else to leave their secure job without having some income lined up? No (just like my support system didn’t let me).
I would recommend finding out what is your purpose, what drives you, what brings you joy and then following that in whatever way that you can. That’s what I did. It will be interesting to see what things will be like a year from now. It could be a roaring success or it could be that I learn this solopreneur business is not for me. Either way I’m looking forward to continuing on this messy journey.
Stay tuned as I’ll share more including tips and tricks I’m using since I walked away from the corporate world that have helped me have more joy and contentment than I ever had in the corporate world.
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