In the 10 years I have been in the professional world, I’ve had 10 “real jobs”.
That comes down to a new job every year.
Granted, some of them were temporary, and some of them were jobs I held simultaneously while going to school (I will never forget the pain of taking a full load of courses and working three jobs. DO NOT DO THAT! Your sanity isn’t worth it.)
But that number doesn’t count internships and volunteer positions that brought me experience, but not any money. If we were to include those, it would be closer to 20.
And in those past ten years, in every job I tried to stick out, I came to the same realization.
I don’t like working “for” other people. I like being recognized for the work that I do. And when I worked for someone else, that work was a lot more likely to get overlooked or unappreciated.
But like everyone around me, I knew that I had to get a job. Especially come graduation time when I wasn’t in school anymore, by golly that was the thing to do.
I took the summer off, giving myself the mental break I felt I had earned. I had just finished 16 years of education and graduated with honors. The working world could wait for a few more months.
But then the summer ended. Most of my friends were back in school, and those that weren’t had some sort of job. I suddenly found myself with a whole lot of free time and an increasing feeling of cabin fever.
Being an introvert, I have a tendency to keep to myself. If I don’t have a reason to leave my apartment, I generally won’t. This has led to me staying cooped up for days on end until I go crazy and flee to anywhere else. I’ll admit, this isn’t the best thing to do, but left unchecked it will happen.
So for the sake of not becoming a permanent shut-in, and because I felt great societal pressure to be a “productive member of society”, I started looking for a “real job”.
I don’t recall everything that I applied to. I know that I tried to find work in my field, in marketing and communication. But the jobs I applied to either ended up being sales jobs (which I am just not cut out for), or never called me in for an interview.
That is until Netflix.
Like most other people I know, I marveled at the idea of working with a big name company. I thought that working at Google or Netflix would be the coolest thing ever. So when I heard that Netflix was opening up a location in Salt Lake City, I jumped at the opportunity.
All throughout the interview process, I marveled at how different this company seemed to be. I went through my first and only interview, and the one guy that wore a tie was promptly asked to leave. I was amongst fellow nerds and felt right at home.
And I got a job. I was so excited, I was going to work with Netflix.
Granted, I would be working the phones for Netflix, but still. I figured I could work my way up the later and get a position closer to what I’d actually gone to school for.
The training process was everything the interview promised it would be. Most of them were pretty laid back, and everyone was a huge nerd in some way. The supervisors swore that they would be there for us no matter what, and laid out expectations for training. We weren’t to miss a day of training unless we were dying.
And then the second week of training happened. I don’t know if it was a stomach bug or some freak food poisoning, or my digestive problems coming up yet again, but I got sick. And I mean really sick. I couldn’t keep down any fluids, not even water or Sprite.
But I worked through it and went to training anyways. I did my best to subsist on sips of Sprite. But after 32 hours of not being able to keep down water, I got up to get ready to go to work and passed out. I was feeble, I could barely move.
I felt like I was dying.
So my wonderful husband took me to the hospital. They pumped me full of fluids and anti-nausea medicine so that I could get something down. The only thing I could think of was that I could lost my job. My husband assured me that this wouldn’t disqualify me, that they would understand.
I had him call my supervisor, as I was barely able to speak. He assured my husband that everything was fine and that I should take care of myself so that I could come into work the next week. Somewhat relieved, I stayed at the hospital for the next 6 hours so that they could monitor me and get me back to life.
That relief was short lived.
Later that night, I got a call from the recruiter that had placed me with Netflix. She told me that the head of this location did not want me to come back to work.
She assured me that she would help me find more work as soon as I had recovered, and apologized for the way this had ended. She didn’t seem to blame me for what had happened.
I was devastated.
I felt like my life was over.
This was the first job I have ever been fired from. All of the others, I had quit of my own accord.
What had I done wrong? What else could I have done? I felt like my “perfect job” would never come up again.
In the next few weeks, I found out that quite a few of my coworkers had been fired as well. Some of them made legitimate errors, while others, and I quote, “didn’t give the Netflix experience”.
I went from hurt and confused to full on angry. The people at this company had straight up lied to me. I felt betrayed, and from that day forward I vowed that I would never work as a corporate employee again.
That same month, I started looking into working for myself.
Over the next year, my stomach issues never really went away. In fact, over the next few months, they would continue to get worse. It wasn’t until after meeting with a few doctors over the course of several months that I discovered that I had an auto-immune condition called Leaky Gut Syndrome.
It took me a few months to get it under control. Auto-immune conditions are fickle things. Some days, you feel absolutely great. Other days, you hurt so bad you can barely move.
I couldn’t work like this. What employer would hire me, knowing that any day I might not be able to work?
At this point, my student loan payments had started. Jacob and I couldn’t afford for me to not work.
Throughout the year, I took on some odd contract jobs. I walked dogs, rated search engines, wrote for content mills, and tutored foreign students (something I still do and love).
We were able to meet our financial obligations.
But I couldn’t help but feel like there was something more I could do, something more related to my experience and my degree.
I wanted to write for a living.
It didn’t matter if it was creative or business writing, I just knew that that was what I wanted to do.
So I kept looking. I took on a client and helped them with their marketing and writing needs. The work wasn’t regular, but it was a step in the right direction. They didn’t care when I worked, so long as the work got done.
And for the most part, it didn’t matter where I did the work either. I could spend the day at the coffee shop, the park, even on the train. So long as it was a location where I could take my laptop, it could be my “office” for the day.
I could even work from bed on days when I hurt too bad to move, but could still use my computer. Writing from home was something I could do when I was ill.
It took me a few more months, lots of reading, studying, and encouragement, but now I’m finally in a place where I can say that I own my own business. I even have my own website where I can send clients and represent my skills.
Despite all of this, I still get asked when I’m going to get a “real job”. I still get funny looks when I tell people that I work for myself. I get treated like my line of work isn’t valid.
I’ve even gotten the impression that people think I just sit home and do nothing all day. And while I do my best not to let it get to me, it still does. I’m doing my best to earn my keep, I just have some issues that make it difficult for me to hold a traditional job.
But with my experience, and in my line of work, I don’t have to work a traditional job in order to earn a living. My industry is moving more towards telecommuting, and there are thousands of workers that make their living this way. Some of them even make 6 or 7 figure incomes, because they are that good at what they do.
I’ve found what works best for me and my family. Even when others in my life might not agree with my plan, I’m going to do what works best for me.