Professionally, I had been a writer/journalist, a social media producer, a video producer, and a broadcast/live TV host, trying to do my best work. Personally-speaking, I was a (private) autobiographer and photographer, a hobbyist songstress, a pet parent, a perpetually single woman amongst a sea of coupled-up friends.
Between then and now, I’ve changed. It started with an email.
Two, three years ago, you could find me in Manhattan, walking the red carpet at a movie premiere with Kevin Hart, Ellie Kemper, and Eric Stonestreet. Mingling with the director of Ellen DeGeneres’ fashion line. Hanging in the Orange Room at the Today Show. Hobnobbing with Olympic athletes Charlie White and Natalie Coughlin. Rubbing shoulders with celebrity pet influencers Manny the Frenchie and Tinkerbell.
I was the voice and face of a big brand’s social media — a brand with 3 million social followers. It was a dream job. My career path seemed ordained to bring me to this picture-perfect, serendipitous opportunity. And I was good at it.
Did I get to do a lot of amazing things? Clearly, yes. But it was super demanding, and I was overworked. Despite my team’s reputation of success and innovation, I felt like a failure on a weekly basis. I cried in my boss’ office more than once. The CMO, dripping with condescension, once laughed in my face. But I shouldered on, assuming this was just what you deal with when you “make it.” (Can you relate?)
Fast forward to June 2017.
News about the company wasn’t good. Quarter after quarter sales declines, criticism of leadership, whisperings of an impending mass layoff. Then, the CEO sent out an email: “Be at your desk next Wednesday at 9 a.m. Those affected by the workforce reduction will be notified.”
Half heartedly, everyone packed up their stuff. Still, I figured I was safe; no one else knew how to do what I did. I had relationships and historical knowledge that no one else had… and, passwords! In fact, just two days earlier, I had produced part one of an extremely successful campaign and was congratulated by the VP of Creative on my social storytelling abilities. Thursday, I was booked on a flight to Colorado to work on part two of the campaign.
So, Wednesday, at 8:45 a.m., my team milled around our desks — lamenting, hypothesizing, reassuring one another. We watched the clock tick up to 9:00. At 9:03, that fateful email arrived.
“Your position is being eliminated. Please report to the conference room with your belongings.” I stood up in disbelief. I called my coworkers over to see if my eyes were lying. It wasn’t until my coworker Sarah walked around the corner, saw the look on my face and gasped in shock that I understood it wasn’t just me that thought I was invaluable. I started to cry.
I followed the swarm of “impacted” employees down the stairwell. We shuffled into the conference room, were handed our severance packets, and took a seat while C-Suite explained this was “the hardest thing they ever had to do.” And then we were escorted to the parking garage like criminals under watchful eye to ensure we left campus without incident.
My coworkers met me in the garage. They hugged and consoled me. I was jobless, my self-confidence shattered.
Well, spoiler alert… it took a little while to sink in, but I would end up OK. Better than ever, to be exact. I still took that “business trip” to Colorado. Now unburdened and free to meet up with friends, I enjoyed every moment. Sure, I didn’t know what I would do next, but I knew what I wouldn’t do: jump right back into the workforce. I wouldn’t take a job that didn’t respect and build up its employees. Over the next five months, I recovered from my corporate burnout. I went to visit family and friends in Connecticut, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Kansas City. I also went to 11 countries across Europe and South America.
I have no ill will or words for my former employer. The layoff was a blessing; meant to be: my outlook and priorities changed, I found a purpose and a passion project in this blog. I cemented confidence in my voice and my abilities. So here I am, sharing these newfound perspectives with all of you.
The moral of the story? Jobs come and go. They don’t define you. Your life is your own. Choose the adventure YOU want to live.
September 3, 2017. The day I realized I could apply all my professional experience to my love of travel and exploration, and juliedevivre.com was born. I had finally learned the value of my work was not based on my position or employer. For me, my recompense is the inspiration and empowerment of others. Ciao, friends!
Thoughts? Leave me a comment below!