I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. My mom and my biological dad owned candy and flower shops. After my dad passed away and my mom remarried, she and my step dad owned advertising, printing and publishing companies. Growing up in this environment you would think that I would get the bug to own my own business early in life.
I did and I didn’t. While I was being groomed to take over the family business, I left home at 19 (my step dad would say I “ran away”) and moved to San Antonio, Texas. There, completely by accident, I got a clerical job at a major American automotive company. It was part time and was supposed to be temporary. I settled in fast, and learned even faster. Before I knew it I was offered a full time position making $1,000 a month. Wow! I was set. This was 1986 – I thought it was a lot of dinero. Periodically I thought up ideas for business ventures but did nothing about them.
Five and half years later, after relocating to Southern California, I left that company to join a major Japanese automotive company. Actually, they reached out to me. I agreed to meet with the hiring manager, we chatted about my current company (he worked for them previously) and next thing I know I agreed to a demotion with more money.
Still, at this time (I was now almost 25) I wasn’t thinking or considering having my own business – at least not outside of my imagination. It wasn’t until 1993 when I went back to college that I got the inkling that I could be a small-business owner. I took an entrepreneurial course and created a business plan with my best friend – a coffee book store. The process of developing a business idea planted the notion that I wanted to go for it. Be my own boss, make my own hours, create a dynasty for my family.
And yet – I didn’t. Throughout the years I would dabble in some side-gigs and I was a freelance writer for most of my 20s and 30s, but I never took the full time leap. Something was keeping me in my 9-to-5 job. Some would call it golden handcuffs. I called it fear.
I worked for an amazing company and had even more amazing benefits. I loved the people I worked with like my own family. But I always had a business going on the side. Some of my business ventures included crafts, trading cards, freelance copywriting, resume writing and career coaching. Not once did I take the leap to take them full time.
Seven years with the new company and I was finally promoted into my “dream job.” It was in Human Resources, specifically organizational development, and all of my work revolved around career development and performance management. At first it was rocky because other than my career coaching business I had no experience in this corporate arena. Overtime, a large part of my job evolved into systems administration in performance management (think: the performance appraisal process). I became the subject matter expert and was considered the go-to person in this arena. I became comfortable in the job. Real comfortable. There were times when I had had enough and wanted a change. I would briefly think about applying for another job, or going for a promotion, but something kept me in that ideal position.
It wasn’t until April 2014 that everything changed. By this time I had been doing a lot of talking about leaving my job and going full time with my small business. Everyone I knew heard about it and cheered me on. Then one day in April the big announcement came – the company was moving to Texas. I had heard the night before that this was going to be announced, however I was still a bit surprised. For a millisecond I was scared – what was I going to do? I was 46 years old and I probably wouldn’t have the easiest time finding a new job. That thought flitted away quickly because suddenly this overwhelming feeling of gratitude swept over me. I could leave. I could create the business of my dreams. I could do what I wanted to create a career that was built with my passions in mind. I was thrilled. Everyone else left that conference room sullen and in a state of shock. I was tickled pink.
I immediately started creating a plan, thinking through business ideas and deciding how I was going to approach this new ideal. The decision was made. I would leave my job in January 2017, move to New Mexico and start my own business. And the company was going to help me financially to do this.
January came and I said my good-byes, and then everything fell apart. They say things crumble before real change happens. Boy did they. I was now unemployed, my husband needed medical attention for a chronic condition, we couldn’t find a place to live in northern New Mexico, and I had newly diagnosed anxiety. A major panic attack landed me in the hospital and things were put on hold.
Thinking back through my career and what transpired when I left my cushy job, I often wonder why my reaction to the change was anxiety. It boils down to fear. I now realize I have lived the majority of my life in a state of fear. Fear of disappointing others, fear of change, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of losing everything, fear of being found out. I created a world and a career that kept me relatively safe and when this big life change happened I crashed, but I didn’t give up.
My career is evolving. I no longer work for someone else and I’m fully committed to learning, growing and evolving into a full time entrepreneur. I’ve invested in myself and through this process I will invest in others to lift them up to a higher level of playing in the world.
Career change is difficult, but not impossible. Fear is normal but living there long term isn’t. Do you have a desire to make a career change? What’s stopping you? Leave a comment and let’s figure out a way to make that change happen for you. You can do it!
Corrie Ann Gray is a writer, researcher, coach, and cookie enthusiast who lives in Los Angeles, CA. She started the Clean Body Project to share all of her knowledge and resources with others who are interested in running their own experiment into clean holistic living. She is the CEO and founder of Gray Ink Media.