Career Conundrums: Sometimes You've Got To Leave The Nest, Even If You're Taking A Hit
If you would have asked me two months ago if I had any interest of quitting my agency job to go out and start business of my own, I would have quite confidently told you that I had absolutely no interest in such fantasies. I believe that many people had this desire but for myself, I just didn’t see the benefit. Why worry about having to get the next client, make the next sale, and worry about rent and salaries when I could have all that taken care of for me? I go into the agency, I do my job, and I go home. I don’t need to worry about a thing. Did I feel invested in the work? Hardly ever. Did I think that mattered? At the time, I thought no.
Over the course of the past two months, two major shifts in my professional life were happening. On one side, a friend who I studied industrial design with in university, was preparing to spin-off a sister agency off of his existing wildly successful first venture. He and three other designers had ambitions to open the next Mad Men downtown agency. While the first company was profitable, they wanted to create a space where they could more freely pursue their creative passions and have ownership over it.
There was only one problem: They lacked somebody on the team with deep experience in digital design. This is where I come into the story. After graduating from industrial design program, I quickly made the switch to the digital side. Eight years later, I’ve worked for agencies on three continents designing digital experiences for some of the world’s biggest brands. They offered to make me partner and head of digital experience design. I accepted, and for the first time in my life I started thinking about my work in a totally new way. I had ownership over this now. The feeling is visceral- I was finally just beginning to experience what every entrepreneur feels.
Meanwhile, in my own Mad Men agency day job, an epic battle was developing between our Roger Sterling and our Don Draper. Only Roger Sterling is more of a gruff factory-boss type and Don is a timid tomboy who’s in way over her head. Who am I in this story? I’m Peggy Olsen. As the typical tension between Accounts vs. Creative played itself out, I stepped up to the plate on the side of creative. Only without a real Don Draper covering my back, I was getting steamrolled by Accounts. Did I think standing up for what I thought was right was helping making my days easier? Absolutely not. Did I think I had any other choice? Again, absolutely not. If I’m not out there standing up for what I believe is right then I’m basically a waste of valuable oxygen. A non-person. Eventually, I imagine accounts grew tired of my banter. One day before my initial probation period was to expire, I was pushed out the door. “Thanks for your contribution and best of luck in your future endeavors.”
Before being let go, I was well on the way to executing my transition from my day job to my new venture in the shortest time possible. With this latest development, I find myself all-in right now. Life has a funny way of bumping you around a little. In a way, maybe I owe my old employer a thank you for making the transition for me so efficiently. Nothing could feel more right.