Ever since I was a child, I’ve believed that inspiration is everywhere. When a new thought comes into view — if it makes you think differently about the world, or about yourself — it is magical and spiritual, regardless of what awoke it.
In this blog series, it’s my pleasure to share with you moments of inspiration from all sorts of origins: books, music, film, art… anywhere! For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been hooked to listening to Second Life, a podcast from MyDomaine, with Hilary Kerr interviewing inspiring women who’ve made radical professional sidesteps. Looking at myself, and the women within my social circle, there seems to be a number of us struggling with career crises. We’re asking: Am I reaching my fullest potential in this job? Could I/would I be happier elsewhere? Am I truly passionate about the work that I do?
In this social media age, there’s pressure to feel you are “living your best life” and — seeing as we spend 1/3 of our lives at work — for many of us, this aspiration includes career choices. So, what can the Second Life women, who have been there and done it, tell us about making positive professional changes?
Epiphany: Learn The Power of No
In Second Life’s second episode, Hilary speaks with Candace Nelson, who moved from Investment Banking to baking, and pretty much single-handedly lead the modern cupcake resurgence by launching Sprinkles Cupcakes in 2005. When talking about managing steady scaling of Sprinkles’ success, Candace recognises “The power of no” as one of the most important things she learnt early on. For her, that meant blocking out the overwhelming volume of offers the brand was receiving for franchising, wholesaling and expanding, instead returning to her original brand vision and selecting the routes which made most sense for who the brand was.
This sentiment is echoed in Episode 21, with Brooklyn Decker and Whitney Casey, co-founders of Finery; Brooklyn says the advice she’d give her 18 year old self is, “It’s okay to say no… you don’t need to offer an excuse.” to which Hilary replies, “No can be a full sentence.”
Now, what does this mean for us, on an individual and personal level? Well, I think it all comes down to authenticity and being true to yourself. When you’re looking for work, it can be tempting to want to jump at the first opportunity which arises, lead by financial fear or the desperation to take steps forward. However, some of the most exciting and fruitful journeys begin with a step back — assess, give yourself time to make decisions, don’t let the pressure get to you. Remind yourself of what you’re about, and what you’re looking for from a job. Allow yourself the opportunity to turn things down. Trust that it will work out regardless.
Epiphany: Try to avoid attaching to an outcome
“I thought I was going to be a Neurosurgeon.” — says Tracy Sun, who co-founded Poshmark, the leading marketplace to buy and sell fashion — “If I had really got attached to that idea, I never would have discovered this whole other world… doors would have been opening for me, but I would have been so laser-set on being a doctor I wouldn’t have seen them.”
The way our education system prepares school kids for the ‘real world’ is by encouraging them to choose a path and progress down it. We decide from a young age what we “want to be…”, before we’ve had any exposure to the huge variety of careers that are available. Indeed, often we launch our careers without understanding the true day-to-day experience of that job, and then realise that it’s not the path we want to be on. To this point, Tracy talks about being “devastated” when, as a practicing Neuroscientist, she realised it wasn’t for her: “It leaves this hole — what am I now?” Very rarely does anything in life go entirely the way you expected it to. When it comes to your career, try not to fixate on a specific role to define your success. Enjoy the journey, and its ups and downs. Be open to new possibilities. Don’t berate yourself when things don’t work out.
In Finery’s episode, Whitney Casey speaks of “Shortening the negative loop” when things don’t go the way she’d planned. I think too often we try to brush ourselves off and move on too quickly, we don’t allow time for the dust to settle and feeling of disappointment to process and release. I loved how Whitney speaks of simply shortening this loop, rather than trying to remove it all together.
Epiphany: There’s no perfect time to make changes
Anna Brockway, who features on Episode 13, quit — with a heavy heart — her longstanding role at Levi Strauss & Co when she fell pregnant. 10 years and four kids later, she and her husband set up Chairish, an online selling platform for vintage furniture. Answering how Chairish came to launch, Anna says, “The more you think about it, the more reasons there are not do it and you can overthink things. You talk yourself out of it, or you spend a lot of time working on an idea, perfecting it in your brain, or on a piece of paper, or in a ‘deck’. Then as soon as you put it out there, and it becomes real in the universe, you get feedback thats makes you totally ball up that paper, throw it in the trash and start again. So the sooner you can manifest something, and get a reaction to it, the faster you’ll get to the answer.”
I believe there’s so much to be said for stepping into the unknown and prototyping in life. If you’re thinking about a change in career, why not try to pick up some work experience in a field you think might suit you, or ask to take someone who’s working in that role out to coffee to learn more about your suitability to the job? There’s an argument for proactivity, and an even better argument for not waiting until “the right time”, because that magic moment is mythical. Anna goes on to quote Reid Hoffman: “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you launched too late.”
The concept of a ‘side hustle’ is also one that pops up a lot across the Second Life podcasts; you needn’t quit your day job, to experiment with a new line of work. Then, when you feel ready to make the full-time shift, you can.
Epiphany: Don’t agonise
Episode 15’s Jen Gotch, founder of ban.do, is a rare case in the Second Life podcast; she didn’t know for many working years what her true direction should be, she spent much of her twenties doing bit jobs and experimenting before finding her path. Her wisdom is so simple, so powerful and yet so hard to tell ourselves when we really need to:
I think of all the quotes I’ve shared here, Jen’s “There literally always is something else.” and Hilary’s “No can be a full sentence.” speak to me the most; they are both such useful mantras for everyday life.
You can find Second Life on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts.