Inside: I quit my job, in 2020. That sounds crazy, but stick with me here. It makes a lot of sense, and if you’re itching to make a change too then why not start planning your portfolio career today?
13 years ago, I graduated college and started my career.
5 years ago, I became a mom for the first time. Shortly thereafter I was a working mom figuring it out as I went.
4 years ago, I became a second-time mom and began thinking about who I was now as a mother and a professional. For me, these two pieces were not separate but intertwined in a way I couldn’t quite explain yet.
3 years ago, I began to put the pieces together and build the foundation of the life I’m living right now, not knowing if it would pan out, blow up, or grow into something amazing.
2 years ago, those pieces became a solid business plan with multiple income streams and goals and a cute little planner I carried around everywhere.
1 year ago, I told my manager that I was planning to leave my job, go out on my own, and pick my son up from kindergarten every day at 3pm.
Today, I left my full-time job. In the midst of a pandemic and a financial crisis, I packed up the boxes, handed over my laptop, and waved goodbye to a campus that had been my professional home for nearly 13 years.
I cried a little and then smiled as I walked out of one door and opened another to a life as an entrepreneur, writer, and career coach. And then I gave my kids a snack after school.
The Road Starts Here
It sounds crazy when I say it out loud. I willingly quit a steady job in 2020? What the what? But it was the right choice and the right time, and if you’re feeling an itch that made you open up this article then I want to help you do it too.
To do that, I’ll give you a little insight into what’s going on over here.
When I started my career in higher education 13 years ago I knew I liked the idea of helping students but I wasn’t sure how. By taking classes and having lots of informal conversations with peers, professors, and professionals, I felt drawn to career services and this connection between school and work. Years earlier as I gave my high school graduation speech, I referenced this idea of “creating yourself” instead of “finding yourself” and to me, that was what a great career services experience helped you to do.
When I started working in career services I fell even more deeply in love with the field as it truly was a place where we helped students create who they were going to be next. We helped them learn about themselves, explore their interests, and carve new paths. Well, I sort of did. I was in a very operational role and worked mostly with companies in my first, second, and third positions, but I knew where I wanted to go.
This idea started to form in my head – if I could get really good at this career development business, I could make a difference and create a life I wanted. I could be a career coach working 1:1 to help others. I wouldn’t have to work 9-5, but maybe from 9-10, then 11-1, and 4:35 – 7. It was possible to be a working mom and get my kids off the school bus one day.
The next step was figuring out how to get there.
How I Got Where I Wanted To Go
So I started asking questions and started raising my hand in order to learn, grow, and train to be a career coach with the ultimate goal of impact and flexibility. This all started before my kids were born, perhaps as they were twinkling in my eye, and writing alongside coaching wasn’t even part of the equation yet.
Month after month and year after year I started getting where I wanted to go. I proved myself, I put in the work, and “suddenly” (after years of training, shadowing experienced coaches, and reading everything I could find) I found my name and headshot on a career coach roster that I shared with Harvard MBA graduates and talented coaches the world over.
While this was all happening in my professional life, my personal life was growing and evolving too. The kids were born in rapid succession and I was a stressed-out working mother with a long commute who loved the work she was doing but felt like she was losing a bit of herself.
That’s where the writing came in.
My blog became this creative outlet I didn’t know I needed. I could share stories about motherhood, and my childhood, and funny things I observed in life. Plus this hobby of mine was free! When I started the blog I didn’t invest a dime in it, it literally cost zero dollars to start with a free WordPress account. Later I built it up and bought a domain name and a fancier website when I realized you could actually make money blogging through advertisements, affiliate marketing, and sponsorships. But at first, I simply dipped my toe in the water.
Creating the Business Plan and Sewing the Parachute
The more I coached and the more I wrote, the more the pieces came together. I developed a business plan that let me do both of the things I loved while talking to an audience and working with coaching clients who I could relate to on a deep level.
There was a need in the market to extend the career development work I did with students to working moms and that was my sweet spot. There would be a blog, books, coaching, freelance writing, social media, even a few speaking gigs in the mix, all done around the topic of careers and parenthood with a big dose of humor.
It was kind of a weird business plan – humor and careers aren’t necessarily supposed to go together – but in working mom life, they really, really do. My clients and readers get that!
To be clear, the business I built with my blog and career coaching was growing, but not so enormously that I could quit my full-time job right away. That took several years of busting my butt every night and every early morning to grow my website traffic and attract new clients. I like to think of that stage as the “sewing the parachute stage.” I was putting in the work so that one day I could use that parachute to jump.
Growing a Portfolio Career and Taking the Leap
Here’s where this gets even more interesting for others thinking about making a jump of their own. Entrepreneurship is supposed to look like this giant leap of faith, risking it all for success. But even when it was time to quit my job, I did so keeping one foot in the door. After talking to my coworkers at Harvard, I found a way to continue on as a Harvard career coach (the original goal back in the kids twinkling in my eye stage) and as a freelance writer working on projects for Harvard on several different career sites.
There’s a level of stability with staying connected to my former employer along with an ongoing connection to wonderful colleagues I’m incredibly grateful for. I love the team at Harvard and the important work they do. I was ready to leave my full-time job, but I didn’t want to give up the pieces I loved in order to own my own business, and I didn’t have to. Maybe you don’t have to give up the pieces you love or your stability either!
This new gig, or multiple gigs, is exactly what I didn’t fully know I wanted or needed. It evolved as I evolved. It grew as I grew. And it was all based solidly in this idea that work can be something you love, and it doesn’t need to look a certain way. It could be a portfolio career that incorporates a bunch of different jobs simultaneously, motherhood included. It could kick all the “should be’s” off the table and embrace the “could be’s.”
I share all of this all with you not as a very specific roadmap for how to quit your job and do exactly what I’m doing as a career coach, writer, and mother. You may have zero interest in career coaching or writing. But what I hope this provides is a real look behind the scenes of how you could build something you love too! Maybe in a different way than you thought possible.
My key takeaways for you here are these:
- You do not have to have it all figured out at 18, or 25, or 35. You can grow and change and as you grow and change you can find new paths that will lead you down amazing roads if you allow yourself to follow them.
- Keep looking for your sweet spot. It looks different for everyone, but it’s there at the intersection of what you love, what you’re good at, and how you can help other people.
- Starting something new doesn’t have to look a certain way. You can side hustle, you can have multiple jobs, you can build something brand new that’s never been done before. “Could be” is more interesting than “should be” any day of the week!
- To keep doors open for yourself and sew a secure parachute, be excellent at what you do. Be excellent at the stuff you love, be excellent at the stuff you don’t love. Build relationships and a strong reputation that you can do a job well and more opportunities will be available.
- You can only sew and resew a parachute for so long before you test it out in the clouds. Otherwise, that parachute is going to become a blanket. There’s nothing wrong with blankets, they are very cozy, but if you’re ready then you’re ready. Clip-on the parachute you worked so hard to make and off you go!
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