Three things I learned from taking a backwards step in my career

About six months ago, I made the (what I like to think of as) brave decision to leave a secure, solid job that I was pretty great at. I was the leader of a mid-sized company’s marketing and communications team, and I had climbed as quickly as I could have hoped, and as high as I could without banging my head on the ceiling.

I had peaked – or at least, I was fearful I had. I was afraid of pigeon-holing myself into a position, into an industry, into a life I wasn’t quite sure I wanted. So I leaped, and I leaped hard. I leaped into the first position I applied to, without really even giving it a second thought. That position, while a linear move salary-wise, was a demotion for all intents and purposes. I went from overseeing the marketing and communications strategy for an entire 300-person company to a much more narrowly focused product marketing position.

Now, six months later, I’ve had some time to reflect on that move. Do I regret it? Nope. Do I think it was the right move for me at the time? Absolutely. Are there things I would have done differently or questions I would have asked to make sure it was the best move for me? Without a doubt. The past six months have taught me so much about who I am as a person and as a professional.

First, I learned work doesn’t need to be ever- and all-consuming.

At the job I left, I was spending a solid 50-60 hours a week at work (or maybe not physically at work, but in my home office, crankin’ shit out). I was killin’ it, professionally, but my personal life was paying the price. I was disengaged, inaccessible, and frankly, not very much fun to be around when I was accessible. When I accepted this new position, I promised I wouldn’t slip back into that deep, dark, dangerous hole.

Six months into it, I can happily say the weeks I’ve worked more than 40 hours are few and far between, and I’ve yet to bring work home with me or work on a weekend. (Can I get an ‘Amen’, people!?)

I’ve figured out something I wish I would have known five years ago: you can be great at your job without letting it take over your life. I thought that was an absolute myth before stepping into my new role. Before, I equated the value of me and my work with the quantity of time I spent on the clock. Now I know better. I know that, in order to give my best self to the job I’m doing, I need to not be burning oil at all hours of the day. I need time to rest, reconnect at home, center myself, and find inspiration.

you can be great at your job without letting it take over your life Click To Tweet

Balance is so important, but it’s without-a-doubt one of the most difficult things to find. If work is consuming all of your time, it’s time to make a change. That might mean moving onto something new, or it might just mean getting better at defining boundaries and sticking to them. For me, it was the former. I had let things spiral for too long, and it was time to move on.

Then, I learned to take ownership of my deal-breakers, and not to compromise where they’re concerned.

If you’ve held at least one post-college job, you know – or at least have a sense of – what’s most important to you professionally. For me, lack of autonomy, trust, and flexibility are total deal-breakers. I like to think I’m a relatively self-aware person, but I didn’t realize just how important those things were to me until I didn’t have them anymore. Never again, my people. Never again.

If you’re considering a new position, take inventory of your deal-breakers and own them completely Click To Tweet

If you’re considering a new position, a new adventure, a new anything, I beg of you: take inventory of your deal-breakers and own them completely. Assuming you’re a sane, logical, and realistic person, there is an opportunity out there that 100% delivers on all your top priorities, I promise you. If you compromise on the uncompromisables, you’re never moving forward. You’re treading water, at best. 

If you compromise on the uncompromisables, you’re never moving forward. You’re treading water, at… Click To Tweet

And now, I’ve learned my value.

We’re about to get real honest here. Looking back at my decision to leave my last position, I jumped the gun too quickly. I compromised on some of my uncompromisables, and there are days I spend totally unhappy as a result of that decision. I thought I had to compromise, because I didn’t fully understand my value. I wasn’t confident enough in myself and what I bring to whatever table I’m sitting at to fully accept that I don’t ever have to settle.

[Next up: Knowing Your Value Knowing Your Value by Mika Brzezinski // 2016 20-Something Book Reviews]

Through the last six months and some extreme soul-searching, I’ve become much more confident about my value. I’ve come to realize my skills, my knowledge, my abilities, and my brain are worth every cent of my paycheck…and more, if we’re being honest. I’m worth every ounce of my uncompromisable must-haves, and I deserve a career that checks all those boxes.

More than anything, these past six months have taught me to embrace the next step, even if it’s not where you thought your path would lead. That path isn’t always linear, but you have to believe that each step you take is there for a reason. If you are great at what you do, you don’t need to compromise in order to grow as a professional, but you do need to know your value and be ready and willing to defend it.

 

If you’re feeling stuck or are considering a new opportunity and aren’t entirely confident about your own personal value, I’d love to hear from you! Connect with me on social media, leave a comment here, or shoot me an email! Let’s talk!

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7 comments

  1. Wonderful post. I appreciate your honesty! It’s always good to take a step back and analyze the decisions we’ve made. Glad for your insight and to know you’re headed in the right direction! Be kind to yourself and remember that every career move doesn’t have to be a leap forward. As long as you’re learning, it’s a good move. No, maybe it’s not a long-term position and maybe it wasn’t the BEST decision, but that’s okay. I took my first job offer in MI and it was the worst job I have ever had. There is part of me that would love to get those 14 months of my life back, but I also learned a ton of valuable lessons and made some quality connections. I also very clearly learned what I DON’T want in a job or work environment. 🙂 Excited to see where life takes you, lady.

    1. Thanks, lady! I so appreciate your cheerleading :). I 100% agree with everything you’ve said. I have to believe every experience is worth it. Everything happens for a reason. Blah blah blah. I’ve learned so much, about myself, my profession, and the path I’m supposed to head down.

  2. This post is affirmation that me leaving my 9-5 job was what was best for me, my sanity and my family. Leaving what you know is scary sometimes, but it is what makes us human. It also gives us the space we need to grow creatively. Thanks for sharing.

  3. You are FABULOUS. Love the realness you are laying out there and know big things are in store for you. You are one of the smartest ladies I know and I am so lucky to call you my friend! Keep kickin’ butt and takin’ names!

    1. YOU are the one who’s fabulous, and you are also far too generous. So glad to have you as a friend and sounding board.

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