My Weird Career Path, Part 3
So I'm working in the school district on a whole bunch of different things, but I'm getting a little itchy. I've been in the job almost seven years, and that's pretty much longer than I've done anything career-wise.
By this time, I had my eye on another company. My sister Alissa had started working for Craftsy, producing videos for sewing, knitting, quilting, cake decorating, and more. When she got the job, right from the start she said I should be working there. A few years later, I was. By this time, my kids were in school all day, and Ryan was working in the district. He could do pickups and so I took the job. I was going to work at home until a video shoot came along, and then I'd go stay with my mom in Denver for three days away shooting the class. I could review footage and have meetings with instructors virtually. It was perfect!
Craftsy was a great company with a lot of great people. It was also very high stress and very many hours. You did well in the company if you showed up early and stayed late, both things that were difficult for me. I had no plans to go full time and work in an office, so I stayed as a freelance producer as long as I could. Then my sister got a big idea - the company needed a talent coach. Instructors came in to teach for three days, and many of them had never performed in front of a camera before. Needless to say, the results were mixed. I loved the idea, and created a proposal presentation to transition into creating the new role. They took it! I started to build the program while I was also producing. Eventually, I transferred into only talent coaching because there was so much to do. I was working at home three days per week, then making the long drive to Denver twice per week.
The next career shift was nearly immediate and changed my entire quality of life. It was also the first time that I felt strongly that I did not control the shift; it was unexpected and unplanned. After letting the VP of Production go, Craftsy needed someone to manage the studios and the people who worked in them. My supervisor asked if I would be interim director for three months while they looked for someone. I agreed, knowing that I would need to drive back and forth every day for three months, but that the opportunity was worth it. I redesigned some systems and developed great relationships with many of the people there. I used my production management skills again to figure out how to run studios well. When my three months was up, they offered me the position. It came along with more money than I had ever made in my life, and I took it.
I can't say I regret the next two years; I learned an enormous amount, and met some of the best people I've ever had the priviledge to work with in my life. But the hours were long, and I couldn't do the job any other way than being fully immersed. My family gave me up for MIA and sleep was hard to come by. I was either worrying about getting everything done, or worrying about the politics of the place. I lost a piece of myself during that time, and although I could see that, the tradeoff was a fantastic, creative job.
Two years into the position, Craftsy was purchased by NBC. We all owned stock in the company, and I'll admit that my mind was full of dollar signs which is why I stayed. Many of my friends had been laid off, and some of them were people I loved. I had to personally deliver the news to a set of people that I considered good friends, including the talent coach I personally hired and trained. I realized I didn't ever want to do that again unless it was my decision alone. This was also the first time I felt the tide turn against me at work. Suddenly I wasn't in the important meetings, and people who appeared to be helping me navigate the political waters turned out to be doing just the opposite. It was a cutthroat environment, and everyone really had to be out for themselves. I knew it was coming, so started "cold" job hunting, which I had never, ever done before. It was good that I did it, because in July I was laid off. I received a generous severance, but a less-than-generous explanation about why I was the one to go. But I learned an enormous amount about the situations I'd be willing to put myself in the future, and started the hunt.
Severance allowed me not to panic entirely, and I started to plan. For many years, I had been drawn to coaching. Early in my career I knew I wanted to do some form of coaching, but didn't feel equipped to help other people without enough life experience of my own. I realized this was the time, and enrolled in a coaching program under the advice of a long-time mentor of mine who told me I needed certification for executive coaching. I also made a list of a few organizations I'd work for, and started looking only at those places. Six weeks after I was laid off, I took a job at Colorado College in the Advancement department as the Stewardship Specialist. My background in grant writing and organizing programs got me in. I was 49, and it was the first time I had ever had an honest-to-God interview with people I hadn't yet met.
So here I am now, checking off one of my wish list places to work. I've been freelance, had my own business, worked for "corporate America," and now in higher education, specifically for my beloved alma mater. Every step of the way, I designed and redesigned my daily work to meet the needs of me and my family, and never had the feeling that I'd be doing any of it for very long. That has brought great comfort to me; the knowledge that if it ever gets away from what I want, I have enough skills and enough experience to find something that fits better.
Now, I look toward retirement of a sort, and I know coaching is the right place for me to be. I'd like to maintain the flexibility to stay in that field and work as much or as little as I want. At the same time, I love having a "pay the bills" job that keeps me from freaking out about how many clients I have, and spreading myself too thin and not being able to provide for the clients I do have. I don't have to offer weird deals and get mad when a client is ready to leave because they won't be paying me any more. It's perfect for my current situation. I may decide to switch it up again, but right now I love the people I work with, am fascinated with the way higher education works, and am learning a lot about brand new things. And for me, that's what it's all about.
So now that my novel is finished, how does it parallel with your own story? This was actually a fantastic exercise for me; first, it made me have to remember all the great moments when something came up to change my direction and how much of an impact those small events had on my path. If you feel at a crossroads, or just a little bit restless about where you are and where you're going, maybe this same exercise will help. Tell your story. Notice patterns. Identify moments when you were paying attention to opportunities and what that did for you later. How is what you've done so far similar or different? I'd love to hear about it!