How I Left My Stale Office Job For A Fresh Startup Career
Steve Jobs once said,
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it.
If you had told me years ago that I'd be representing the most amazing tech entrepreneurs and innovators in the best city in the world – and would anxiously await them to break the news on CNN, no less – I'd immediately think you were on some kind of happy drug.
I used to think I'd live and die under a pile of law books, inside an old, moldy room. I took my oath as a lawyer, and thought my life was set. I mean, how bad could it go, right?
I was part of a society that celebrated people with bullet-proof career plans. You get a degree, apply to an office with all the employee benefits you can think of, snag an impressive job title and then rise up the corporate ladder until management throws you a retirement party.
I had conditioned my mind into thinking that – job wise – security trumped excitement. For me, passion and career were on opposite ends of the spectrum. They were like John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale's characters in "Serendipity." They were aimlessly wandering around Manhattan, trying to find each other. But they couldn't because fate had decided to be more dramatic.
My dad always told me, “You should get a job that gets you excited to get up in the morning.” He said that if I didn't see myself switching roles with my boss and doing the same things he or she was doing 10 years down the road, then I should head out the door.
Although my dad's advice stuck with me, I did what others might consider either lazy or wasteful. I waited. I got my degree and practiced corporate law in the Philippines for nearly four years. I thought it didn't feel right to throw away my education and experience so abruptly. I knew there was some divine purpose as to why I kept on going.
But before my career's John Cusack finally found its Kate Beckinsale, I had to strategically plan my so-called escape. My gut told me I needed to leave the world of corporate law and finally pursue a job that placed passion and career on the same end of the spectrum. Here are the ways in which I did it:
1. I checked my strengths and crossed out my weaknesses.
I learned to streamline and adapt my professional skills. Even when I was being fickle and unsure of what I wanted to do, I knew what I could do well.
The first on my list of skills was writing. When I did my stint in litigation, I dreaded attending hearings in court. I found more satisfaction and enjoyment in writing pleadings. I enjoyed telling the story of why an accused should be acquitted or sent to jail. Though the language and style were different (and painstaking most of the time), my experience in private law practice made me a better writer.
When I moved to New York City to pursue a graduate degree at Columbia University, I took classes that I thought would strengthen the skills I already had. At Odessa, I regularly write pitches to journalists and editors in top-tier businesses. If I had wiped my skill set slate clean, my long emails to the most prominent writers in the world would be hideous sights.
2. I didn't let myself feel left behind.
I always envied my friends (and their friends) who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their careers. Five to 10 years out of college, most of my friends are now the CEOs of their own companies. Some are even partners in the law firms they work for.
But instead of feeling sorry for myself, I focused on redrawing my career path. I reiterated to myself that my time would eventually come. Although I still don't carry the same title as my peers do, I now know – more than ever – that I'm already on my way.
3. I didn't pick a job. I picked a company I believed in.
This is easier said than done: I know. While some of us get lucky, not all of us meet "the one" from the get-go.
I took detours, and a lot of them. I chose a job that would give me financial stability, and of course, I chose one that I knew would appease my family. But in hindsight, most of the choices I've made, in one way or another, have led me to the career I have now.
When I met Julie Billings-Nguyen, the CEO and founder of our company (who's only 26), I knew we shared the same vision. If you tighten your grip on your core values and work with the clients you believe in, your job won't feel like one.
While we all have our own stories – some of which have yet to find their happy endings – know that there's a smarter way to wait for the career you're passionate about. As hopelessly romantic as it may sound, you'll know in your heart when you've found it.