“All we have to do now, is take these lies, and make them true somehow” George Michael, Freedom.
I have been trying to write this post (and others) for a few days now, but the truth is, it has been a very busy month! It is very interesting, because one of the concerns I had before my last day of being an employee was letting go of what many people refer to as a “secure paycheck.” I had done my homework, however, and I knew from many entrepreneurs in the field that a good life, with a work-life balance, independence, and professionalism, and of course, good monetary compensation to go along with the package, was entirely possible. Of course, even though this is a legitimate concern, it is one that seems to be exaggerated by our fears and the fears of our well-meaning family members and friends around us. In the end, the only regret I have about having left my job as an employee, is that I didn’t do it sooner.
As a matter of fact, this month has been a month of learning for me (as every month should be!) and I would like to share some tips for those of you who are contemplating a change, whether you have already made a decision to quit your 9 to 5 job, or are still contemplating your options.
- Leaving your current 9 to 5 job is risky, but so is staying: If there is one common element to my reflections about my departure from the NYC Department of Education, it that I didn’t do it any sooner. It was quite evident that our working relationship was not working. On the surface, we managed, to a degree, to make it look like we had the same mission, but behind closed doors, our philosophies could not be more different. I worked for a division within the department that believed that efficiency was equated with taking care of our clients (families and their children) in the shortest time possible, with minimal contact, and treated families and school personnel as “suspicious” every time there was an issue. I had a boss that once asked me to talk to a school principal to get details about a certain situation in a school. When the school principal explained the situation via email (corroborated by other school personnel), my boss responded by saying: “She sounds too defensive. She must be lying,” and proceeded to make a decision based on her assumption that the school principal, and the other school personnel, lied about the occurrence.
- If you are asked to do, witness, or are aware of illegal or immoral acts, leave immediately and don’t look back: You can try reporting what you were asked to do to the Human Resources department, or the legal department, but in my case, I was under the impression that they were not going to help me for many reasons. My last boss once demanded, at a staff meeting, that counselors who directly deal with families of school-age children not spend more than 15 minutes with every family. However, she said, there is an exception to this rule. “Unless the person you are seeing is important or famous,” she said, and told the staff that the lady she had seen for about an hour that very week was a famous actress on Broadway that had given her two tickets to her show as a gift for her undivided attention. I think back to this moment and know that this is when I should have left. Not a minute later.
- Being an employee does not mean a secure paycheck: Yes, as long as you are employed, you will get a paycheck, but this will end the moment that someone decides that they no longer need you. I have heard of too many people who lost their jobs from one day to the next, without a warning. No one is safe in any job, with any employer. I was once having a conversation with a senior administrator from the NYC Department of Education, who told me that Human Resources and some of the senior administrator of a particular department had devised a plan to “get rid of” an employee who they no longer wanted. They were going to keep “writing her up” until she got tired and resigned. She did resign. (Hence the reason I opted to not contact the Human Resource Department).
- Being self-employed means that you can put your own skills to the test. When you are employed, you are satisfying somebody else’s vision, but when you are self-employed, you are free to create your own vision, and contribute to this world in your own terms. You are free to not only help others the best way you know how, but you are also free to earn as much as you want, work the hours you want, and do it from wherever you want. The choice is yours.
Know that there are resources out there if you need help deciding if it’s time to leave. One of the institutions that helped me the most was the Workplace Bullying Institute. They helped me realize that quitting, for me, was the most powerful, and life changing decision.
If you have any questions about this topic or any topic on this blog, please drop me a note.