At the time, I thought my malaise stemmed from working for faceless corporations. So after three years at Nick, I decided to try something new: I accepted a marketing and public relations job for a start-up lifestyle magazine for twentysomethings. We were a young, brash, enthusiastic staff on a mission: pro- duce a glossy book that would change the world. This was a scrappy, entrepreneurial environment—no big expense accounts or fancy offices. None of that mattered because I was energized by the opportunity to be creative and resourceful in my new gig.
I did well there, but at some point my post-traumatic-pink-slip syndrome resurfaced. It wasn't something I thought about every day, yet the scary "what if?" always loomed. What if the magazine folded? What if financing dried up? What if my position was eliminated? If you've ever had the rug pulled out from under you, "what if?" takes on a whole new dimension. It can consume you.
I shared my "what if" worries with friends and family. The advice was always the same: "Just keep doing a good job." "Make sure the boss knows how hard you're working." "Keep your head down and give it your best." I knew they meant well, and they weren't wrong to say or think any of those things, but the conversation was very different in my head. Then another friend chimed in with advice that hit a nerve. She said, "Stop worrying about what you can't control."
That's the one that got me, which I'll never forget. I didn't want to have to wonder if someone else would continue to find me a valuable asset to the company. I didn't want to worry about protecting the status quo and building something, only to be suddenly canned again. I didn't want to have the threat of another pink slip hanging over me. It was bad enough when I was younger. But now I was a wife and mom: the stakes were much higher. The idea that I couldn't control whether or not my paycheck was steady weighed heavily.
It became obvious that I was never going to shake this pink- slip scar while I was on someone else's payroll. I wanted to build something on my own, bet on myself and see what I could do with that same hustle I used every day to make someone else's company thrive.
If I made the leap from the employment track to an entrepreneurial path, maybe that lingering layoff worry would begin to heal. If I went out on my own, the "what if?" would turn into "what's next?" Everything would be up to me. That concept is terrifying for many people, but it was exhilarating to me.
So I quit the magazine, which was the most freeing personal move I could have made. Ask anyone who has quit corporate America to go out on her own, and many will say the same thing. I didn't quit to make more money or pursue a specific passion. My rationale for what so many people called a risky and irresponsible move was much deeper. I never, ever wanted my family to suffer as I had because of the impulse of a corporate exec. I wanted to provide my family with security that no one could take away. By founding and creating Women For Hire, a company that would produce career expos—pairing leading employers with professional women—we'd bank on me. I told myself I couldn't go for it until I knew exactly what kind of business I'd create. For six months before going on my own, I thought day and night about how to start something based on my interest in promoting women, which stemmed from my admiration of the network news stars I had once worked with.