Working on your Sanity Plan is not always straightforward. I suppose if it was, everyone would be living a sane and fulfilling life, with no hiccups or problems.
Things have been a little hairy for me since my son was born. I was laid off when I was in my third trimester, but due to pregnancy complications, I ended up being covered under the firm’s disability plan until 6 weeks after his birth.
For the first year, it was a huge blessing to stay home. We struggled a lot with the transition to two young children and in the same year added my stepdaughter into our home full time. It was the year of transitions.
In the beginning of 2016, though, I felt the need to go back to work. But how could I manage it? I didn’t think I could take on a full-time job because the kids still needed a lot of my attention. Even if we got help during the day, the balance of the childcare would fall on me and I didn’t see how I could handle everything. I was already exhausted. So, that left me with the idea of finding non-traditional work.
I started putting feelers out there. I talked to my old contacts in the industry. And nothing. What I really wanted didn’t fit with working for a large corporation. I wanted to work part time or by contract, 20-30 hours per week or on a commission basis. And there simply weren’t a lot of opportunities like that in my old field. And with only 5 years of industry experience, I didn’t feel like I had enough experience to become a consultant.
I was back to square one. I kept my ears open. I offered free services to several people getting various projects off the ground.
All of this led me to a very unusual opportunity with a startup. Through a family connection, I met a guy who had built an interactive video technology. With only the two founders in the company, they desperately needed someone to round out their heavily technological backgrounds with some business and communications experience. Enter me.
It was so much fun working for a startup. I was fired up by the potential for the technology to really take off. I got to work on so many different projects from creating marketing materials to company social media. I got involved in sales, including pitching the technology to some of the companies I’d worked with in my previous industry. I learned a ton about the digital advertising industry, even researching and reading on my own time.
There was only one glitch. The pay. Well, to clarify, it was the pay and my lack of success in being able to sell the technology. I worked for free for 9 months and finally realized that it just wasn’t working for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in the product or that I felt like I wasn’t doing a particularly good job. It may have been that I was being a little impatient. But more likely, the industry was not quite ready to transition to this type of digital media and I couldn’t know how long it would take before it would.
I began to consider my dream of writing, which was so drastically different that it was hard to switch gears between watching the kids, working for the startup, and my writing. I had to choose.
What really helped is that I have a very good relationship with my boss. And even when we originally discussed me coming on board, I made it very clear that my family comes first and that I wanted the ability to make a graceful exit if it wasn’t working for me. And that is exactly what I did.
I met my boss for lunch and explained the situation. I told him that I believed in his technology, but that it was hard for me to stay motivated when I’m not having successes. I also wanted to free him up to be able to find someone else that might be a better fit for him. Lastly, I offered to be there if he ever needed another body for a presentation or help with marketing materials.
I gave a brand-new opportunity a shot and failed. Not in the way that I feel badly about the “failure,” but more in the way that I can grow and learn from this experience. I tried it and it didn’t work for me. I learned that I don’t like to work for free (who does?). I was willing to do it when I thought there would be pay on the horizon, but I can’t work indefinitely without that extrinsic reward. I also know that I don’t particularly like sales, especially cold calling. It is easier for me to sell to an existing relationship – such as selling as part of an account management role. I also know that I like well-framed projects. When there is a lot of ambiguity about my role, responsibility, or the job that needs to be done, I tend to flounder a little.
And there it is. I tried something new. I gave it quite a bit of effort and it didn’t work out. I actually feel pretty good about it. I learned a ton. And it gave me some great experience. And even though it was without pay, it is still a job that I can lean on to lessen the impact of my motherhood gap should I choose to try to get back into the traditional workforce. It also gave me insights into the workings of a startup that I would not have otherwise experienced. And the experience actually enforced for me even more that I do not want to work in the traditional capacity. I want to be an entrepreneur, choosing how I want to spend my time. I want the flexibility and freedom to be able to spend time with my family when I want or when they need me. That is my Sanity Plan.