I’ll never forget the seemingly bad news I received in late January, 2010 as I opened that mass corporatized email in Outlook. However, to my dismay, I wasn’t overly surprised by its message. The news consisted of a company-wide change in schedules and the elimination of many part-time shifts. The email informed me that my 20-hour shift would be spread over four days as opposed to two. This is just not possible with my college schedule, considering I worked on the weekend and had class Monday-Friday in another town an hour away.
YES! It’s just what I needed in this economy.
To add more fuel to my frustration, I’d worked my tail off over the last few years to get myself back into the University. As a result of this job, I am back at it, studying away and cruising away quite comfortably; well, I thought it would be comfortable.
You see, over the past year I’ve been working for a very large corporation. It’s your typical high stress job where you report to a myriad of supervisors. As you stumble into the complex, your view is cluttered with the typical setting of cubicles, busy work and more annoying micromanagement than you can shake a stick at.
We’re all trained to be nothing but drones; we’re dispensable robots with the worst corporate culture I’ve ever experienced – everyone mopes around with a permanent upside-down smile. The only perk to my job was that I got to wear sweatpants every day. I really like wearing sweatpants.
Long story short, I was miserable from day one and even more miserable up until the day I left.
However, without another job lined up, I’m stuck in between feelings of incredible liberty and severe uncertainty.
A Flight to Chicago
Before I had any idea about the change in company plans, I’d taken a little vacation. I was on a plane back home and had a connecting flight in Chicago.
I squeezed into the tiny airliner, plopped down by the window and began reading my all-time favorite book: Fight Club. A few minutes later, a lovely girl sat next to me. She was carrying a camera and seemed very intriguing. I decided to put my book away and initiate a little small-talk to break the ice in hopes of entertaining myself for the duration of the flight.
Before I knew it, the plane was landing and I’d just had the most random and awesome 90 minute conversation with a beautiful stranger. She was both funny and intellectual. We spoke about going against the grain, moving away from home, following our dreams, entrepreneurship and breaking the typical mold our peers were settling for.
Turns out she was previously in a similar setting I was in. When she graduated college, she immediately went to work and got stuck at a cubicle farm. Her work was in web design and marketing but it was the same stuff day in and day out. She knew she wanted more; she knew the corporate life just wasn’t for her.
Since her degree is in broadcast journalism, she began pursuing work in that field. Not too long after she broke free from the corporate stranglehold, she started working as a road manager doing production for a very popular and nationally known orchestra. She also does photography on the side.
The reason she was in Nashville (where we boarded the plane) was because that’s where the tour ended; time to go home for a short visit before heading out on yet another adventure with the group.
She was making her living doing what she loved; being creative, traveling and loving life. This produced feelings of intense jealousy deep within my soul.
Corporate Life is NOT for Everyone
A few weeks after my encounter with this beautiful human being, I had an epiphany. I walked into a career/internship fair on campus. It was chock full of folks representing large companies, many great companies, in fact. I strolled through and took a few cards and flyers. I didn’t speak to anyone; I simply observed all that was going on around me. While I poked around in jeans and a t-shirt, I noticed my peers dressed in expensive suits, aiming to impress their future employers.
After about five minutes of wandering endlessly and feeling out of place, I simply got out. I folded up the flyers and tossed them in the next garbage can I saw on the sidewalk. As I made my way to the other side of campus I closed my eyes and whispered to myself “I can’t do it; I’m just not cut from the same cloth. The corporate world is not for me. I want to own my time and my income potential.”
There’s only been a few times in my life when I’ve actually enjoyed working for someone else. Both times I worked for small businesses and I was given free rein to work how I wanted. I was also given a lot of responsibility. Much of the businesses success depended on my actions; how I treated customers, made sales and solved problems. I didn’t have a bunch of random and pointless tasks to complete along with a bunch of silly policies to follow.
I was free to do what I did best – my part in running the business.
Embrace Uncertainty and Believe in YOU
Something I’m learning as a new entrepreneur is that we are constantly bombarded with uncertainty and hopefully, at times, a ton of excitement.
Right now, after losing my job, I am very uncertain but I know deep down, it’s all going to work out wonderfully. Actually, it feels like the kick in the rear I so desperately yearned for. It’s the push I needed to continue moving forward and producing valuable content for my readers. It motivates me to continue giving and helping out as much as I possibly can. It inspires me to continue connecting with other bloggers and becoming a better marketer.
In lieu of my uncertainty, the most important thing I can do right now is embrace my circumstances, adapt and evolve. I will stop trying to be perfect and let the chips fall where they may. It’s time to hustle.
I am really excited about what’s in store for me; I’m looking forward to making some things happen and turning a sour situation into something memorable.
If you’re experiencing something similar, you needn’t worry. The only thing you need is a crazy belief in yourself (know that you really are awesome) and a reason to get up every day. If you have these intangibles in place and surround yourself with equally awesome people, you’ll be ready for anything, even if you happen to figure out the corporate life isn’t for you.
Aqiyl Aniys says
To many of us are taught to prepare for a 9-5 instead of entrepreneurship. We need to have support to be able to follow dreams.
Came upon this article now a few years dated while searching corporate life. It’s definitely well written and strikes on the key point that we all need freedom from the 8 to 5 workforce rules instilled by labor unions years ago. Although a good read, the short bio about the author, and a picture of a darkened, hoody clad (perhaps angry) man basically nullifies the article. Who wants to follow the advice or read this crap from a person who looks like they’ve either just returned from a week as a homeless man in Philly or they’re simply just angry at the world. Were not all cut from the same cloth – but take the advice from a man who chose to post an image like that? Hell no.
JC Deen says
Hey Steve, is this gravatar better suited to your liking? or am I showing too much skin?
If you’re going to go your own way in this world, you need to learn that others may or may not fit your mold to what you think is socially acceptable. I choose not to wear a suit and tie, because well, I hate it.
If this makes you think less of me, that’s your problem. good luck in your endeavors.
Couldn’t have been a more precise and true article..this is how i EXACTLY felt after getting into the drone-world after MBA…left that soul crushing hell in just over a month…such was the hate i wouldn;t have stayed had they doubled my income too..as you say , i want to work in on pay per performance and not pay per time….no one gets rich or happy by getting a fixed income..I don’t even have a job at the moment but i never regretted the decision….I’m thinking on the lines of becoming a visiting faculty for various b schools..Ready for a phd too….along with that start something on the lines of a e-business related to football (soccer)….nothing concrete yet but i’m content with my life…the adventure’s back!!
JC, it’s interesting because I’ve found at 33 that most of the insights I had in my twenties I can no longer remember. I suppose you’re at least writing yours down though so perhaps you’ll fair better than I have.
Life has a way of taking on a life of its own, if you will. Your idealism and vision not withstanding.
Great writing though.
It’s great that you know at an early stage that the corporate life isn’t for you. Knowing what you DON’T want is half the battle. It’s also great that you have complete faith that things will turn out sunny-side up. I’m not in career limbo yet, but pondering it, and I hope I can adopt that attitude. Cheers.
Actually, it really is for some people. Some people love it; like really, really love it.
And that’s fine and dandy. Some are perfectly fine with doing the routine job. For some, it gives them comfort and this odd illusion of stability. Some people enjoy the thought of moving up and managing others. It’s all a matter of what a person wants.
Jimmy, thanks a lot for your thoughts.
Indeed, the corporate world is NOT for everyone,
I’m not sure it’s for anyone, really.
I mean, it might be pretty good for some people, but is it really the best we can hope for?
Anyway, good luck.
Danny Davis says
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article. From a student in college trying to avoid the 9-5 drudgery after graduation this article has relieved some serious emotional baggage.
No problem Danny. It’s nice to know there are other college kids out there are looking past the 9-5. Good luck to you.
Dave Ridarelli says
Great Writing JC – I really enjoyed your ‘Embrance Uncertainty’ section. I remember skipping the job fair at my campus when everyone else was freaking out about it for at least an entire week. Felt extremely liberating…
Love it. I wish I would have realized it earlier myself. I feel pretty comfortable today, but that scares me.
JC, this is absolutely great stuff. 😀
I’ve got about two months and maybe another week or so left at my current job before I move, so I’ll be quitting. With no immediate plans to replace my income through “traditional” means.
It should be the push I need to start working on actually becoming a freelancer. Success is there, if I work on taking it, I’m sure of it. 🙂
I’m glad you enjoyed the article.
Sometimes we need a good kick in the rear to get us moving in the right direction. Hell, even if we don’t make it the first time, we’re that much further than most of our peers!
Thursday Bram says
I landed one of those corporate jobs straight out of college — I managed to last almost two weeks before I quit and went back to freelancing. There are some people who can be quite happy in a corporate setting, but it seems like a lot of us will do better — work harder, be happier, live a better life — outside of it. Congratulations for stepping outside of traditional employment. For what it’s worth, it sounds like you’ll do well. You already know how bad employment can feel. That can be a great motivator to make sure your entrepreneurial efforts succeed!
true, and while I may have to work some odd jobs or whatever until my true pursuits and passions come to full fruition, at least I won’t be miserable in the process.
Adventure-Some Matthew says
I know the corporate life isn’t for me. I’ve only worked for small businesses, and the very idea of working for a huge company strikes me as unbearable. I’ve done the exact same thing, walking through job fairs on campus and just sort of laughing inside. “There’s no way I’d do that…”
More motivation to get my own freedom business going…
Yea, the sad part was I felt so out of place. Felt like I was in a foreign country and everyone was speaking a language I had never heard before. All I heard was white noise. good luck to you, Matthew.
I concur. One of my best jobs was also when I worked for a very small business that was very laid back and free. Now i’m in the same boat as you were JC and I definitely feel where you’re coming from. It seem like everyone here is just ok with living the minion lifestyle, maybe because they’re an older generation of workers but I’ve recently had my own epiphany and the key to knowing which direction you’re ready to move in is in the statement that you made “I want to own my time and my income potential”. I think it’s the ownership over ourselves that is what drives us to that next level. I’m finally ready to own myself, failures, and success and have already put the wheels in motion to do so. Great article.
Thanks for your input, Greg. It’s taken me a while to realize it but my experience in the mundane workplace plus my experience in academia “preparing us for the workforce” has just been eye-opening.
I’m thankful to figure this out at 23 as opposed to 33 or 43. Now, it’s just doing something about it that counts.
Jon Fernandes says
Another awesome article by an awesome person.
Good stuff brother, will be sure to spread the knowledge.
That is a beautiful article! Damn it was well written…
Monique Johnson says
Awesome article JC!! I couldn’t have said it better myself!! I can totally relate what you went through while you were at your corporate gig. Unforunately, I am currently another rat going through the spinning wheel. But I have decided this year to start exploring other avenues that I am interested in and hopefully I can make a successful transition.
Good luck to you! I just took a brief look at your blog and I love it!
Yum Yucky says
Ummm. WOW! I’m inspired. I’m not exactly in a cubicle farm (anymore) but I’m still pushing papers at a desk job. And I’m so much more than this.
My “Freedom Plan” has been in action for awhile now, but this article is just spark I needed to remind myself to keep pushing towards the goal.
Glad I could be some kind of inspiration! I know I’m outside of my normal writing realm, but this one just felt good!
Yum Yucky says
do what feels right, baby! (well, uh, in this case anyway)