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April Is the Cruelest Month

What do you do when your job is falling apart?

by Caitlin McDonald  |  1849 views  |  1 comment  |        Rate this now! 

For nearly two years, the germ of an idea had been beckoning. I have a MA in English. I submitted an idea for a workshop on how to write manuscripts for journals to an international conference, and it was accepted. At that conference, I got my first client for consulting work as a editor. Based on the full room I had at my workshop on the very last day of the conference, I began to wonder how many other people needed editors. Was this something I could do as a career? Could I do it full time? I googled business plans and started writing drafts of business plans. I went and talked to an accountant. And then I did nothing. I have two kids and a mortgage! Walking away from a full-time job, no, not even a job! A position—the very idea was ridiculous, irresponsible. Nobody likes their job. Everybody has trouble with co-workers. It is a very spoiled and privileged notion to think that you should actually enjoy what you do for your paycheck. Right? I couldn’t walk away from a sure thing, a guaranteed income, to take a chance on a seedling of an idea, an inkling, an intuition.

The next year, I went to the same conference and attended a workshop on revising manuscripts for publication and interpreting reviewer comments. The room was packed. People—professionals!—were sitting on the floor. I looked around wildly for my business cards, and then I remembered: You don’t do this. You can’t do this.

As the time grew near for my performance review, I began talking in earnest to a friend of mine who had been a full-time consultant for years. Her confidence in my ability to make my own career for myself levitated me and spurred me onward. I protested that I needed a website, business cards. She scoffed. What I needed, she told me, was to pick up the phone and start dialing. I told my clients that I was going to branch out on my own, asked them for quotes I could use. And then, one day, I was sitting in that office, with buds now growing on the trees outside my window, when I got an email from the professional organization that sponsored those conferences. And attached to that email was a list of department heads nationwide. It was a list of potential clients. And to me? It was a sign from God. I just sat quietly in my office, perfectly still, and looked at that list. That list could spell out my freedom. It seemed right at that moment irresponsible NOT to act on what I had been given. I created a marketing email, and began sending it out to people on that list.

n the meantime, I quietly began cleaning out my office, taking only my personal effects: Photographs of my children, stacks of dusty CDs that had multiplied on the shelf, folders I had purchased because I need splashes of color. It seemed easier to remove things slowly than all at once. One afternoon, I took two blank CDs down to a computer with a CD burner and backed up all of the files on my computer. It took two hours. But by the time of my performance review, I was ready to leave.

1 comment so far...

  • That is a great article. I think it is funny how we think we know the right thing for so long, and really we are blinded by the thing that feels safe.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Michelle Anderson on 14th June 2007

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