Prison Break: How I Fled Corporate America
I've told many horror stories about my "time served" in corporate America. When I started this blog a year ago I was still incarcerated. I would tell people the insane stories about my job and the general environment I was in and the response was always the same: QUIT.
Now I'm hearing it again in regards to others' stories that I post here. Of course, quitting is much easier said than done.
For me, the moment that things got really bad at work I dedicated my LIFE to saving my sanity and getting out of that hell-hole of a job. Granted, I probably should have started seeing the writing on the wall before the s*** really hit the fan, but I was in denial... as many people are (and quite frankly I had great benefits: 4 weeks vacation, fully vested in 401k, and I had a great reputation with everyone outside of my immediate boss). Things were not yet at the point where people would tell me I should quit. Things were just... getting uncomfortable.
From the time things went from bad to worse until the day I fled, 18 months had elapsed. During that time I sent out 200 "cold" resumes (from which I had ONE decent lead... plus many other offers to sell various insurance policies and products door-to-door), followed about two dozen "warm" leads (interviews from recommended sources – my friends in the business), networked my tail off and filled up my business card folio with 96 cards. Although I had some great responses, some extremely close calls (I could have had a hot job at Viacom if they didn't completely change management), and even an offer (with longer hours and a pay cut that would have forced me to take a part-time job), I was unable to make my way out.
I spent everyday in tears. There wasn't anything anybody could tell me that would make it better. I cried when I woke up, I cried when I went to lunch, I cried when I went home, and I cried when people told me it was time to find another job (as if I didn't know and wasn't already actively pursuing that goal for 18 months!). I also cried out of frustration.
I knew I needed to leave and began to devise ways where I could just quit. Time and again I'd heard stories of people quitting their jobs with nothing to go to, but I was too terrified to do that and had too much at stake (bills, mortgage, etc). You really can't just quit a job without some kind of strategy.
So I developed a strategy.
To every person out there in a hazardous work situation (hazardous to your physical, mental, and emotional health): You CAN quit your job!!! It takes planning and effort, but it can be done.
Here's what you do:
- Investigate your financial status. Develop an additional savings plan that will enable you to quit your job. Cut everything out that is not absolutely necessary. Use your 401k only when (and if) your savings runs dry.
- Once you determine your financial situation, plan a "drop dead" date. How long will you need to do what you need to do to get everything in order before you quit? 3 months? 6 months? A year? (It took me a year when I finally made the choice).
- Find something to do. You quit your job… now what? You’re either going to look for something else in your field or try something completely different. I did the latter: I formed Pied Piper Consulting, wrote a book about my corporate hell experiences (Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way… to come out around Thanksgiving… stay tuned for details), and picked up work as a freelance writer to help with the bills in the meantime. Something I recommend to people in this situation that don’t know what they want to be when they grow up, is to take a personality test. It’s a fantastic guide – I did it and it revealed some very real career possibilities… as a matter of fact, I’m living one of them!
The journey was a tough one. Frankly, I’m struggling even now but: I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my career. Things are moving slowly, but they are moving – and in the right direction. That’s good enough for me. Every day I wake up thankful for the decision I made.
People, you need to remember: this life is not a dress rehearsal. Both of my parents had strokes at young ages. My father’s parents also suffered strokes. My older brother (who's still young) has been known to have high blood pressure. You see where this is going? Right – life’s too short to work so hard and be taken advantage of. I know how good I am and I know what I can contribute to a company and to society. I’m doing it now on my own terms. You can too.
And if it's dog-bite insurance that you sell then... my apologies. Mea culpa.
They have a few different kinds of tests available. I was pleased with them.
Luckily though in Sydney, Australia there are pretty much positions waiting to filled everywhere at the moment so at least i didnt have to worry about starving in the street.
In my case, I looked for 18 months - desperately - to find another job. I didn't find one, so I created one. What would I have done if I quit with the notion that I'd find something later? I would have been on the street.
I'm sure people make it work that way, but the best way to make it work is to have a plan.