So, you know that your current j. o. b. isn’t working. And you know what you’re passionate about doing creatively. But you still have one burning question: how do I get from here to there?
For me, the answer was finding a new job that met some important must-haves.
I needed to know that I would be respected as a Black woman in this new space, and similarly, that I would not be punished for speaking my mind as a racial justice advocate.
I needed time. The best-case scenario was either that I could work part-time or that I could create my own schedule in order to have energy to focus on writing.
The location was important to my husband and I. We decided that Michigan was the place we wanted to be in order to be nearer to our families. (We were living in Chicago at that time).
Weirdly enough, being employed by the church I spoke of last week was the closest I had come to working in a corporate environment, and I was very clear that I would never survive in anything similar. So non-profit work was going to be it for me.
That first bullet point was the most important but also the hardest to guarantee for myself, y’all. How do you know for sure if an org is going to treat you well before you accept the position? This is what I tried; maybe it will be helpful for you too.
During the interview, I asked a number of questions about the organization’s commitment to racial justice, as well as the specific department I would be working with. The answers were standard, “We aren’t perfect but we’re trying.” The interview continued.
Eventually, we got to the portion of the interview that is called “situational questions”. A group of current team members read a list of scenarios one-by-one and asked how I would respond to each. Because the interview was to work on a college campus as a Resident Director one of the questions went as follows:
“Austin, if it was 3 am and you heard a number of male athletes outside causing a disturbance near your dormitory and realized they were all drunk, what would you do,” someone asked.
Now, friends, the right answer in order to land the job is this, “I would absolutely climb out of bed, throw on some close, and confront the situation head-on. I would take control of the situation by…”
But even though I knew the answer they were looking for, I knew it wasn’t the right answer for me. Instead, I said, “Well, I’m a Black woman who is 5’ 6”. I recognize it may be hard for me to garner respect from some students in broad daylight when they are sober. In this scenario, it is entirely possible that not only will my authority not be recognized, but purposefully disrespected. So, in this situation, I would call security to have them on stand-by to back me up. I would confront the situation, but not alone.”
I’m not sure I fully realized it at the time, but I was testing the waters. Would they respect my answer? Would they be concerned about my safety? Would they admit that there may be students who wouldn’t respect me? Would they back me up in choosing whatever ways I deemed necessary to keep myself safe?
They responded with affirmation and understanding. With all my other answers, they maintained the standard HR poker face. But at this, they wanted me to know they understood my particular needs and would support my decision-making. It was what I needed to hear to believe my concerns as a Black woman on campus would be respected.
As for the rest of the list- those received check marks too. With the exception of just 2-3 meetings a week, I was able to completely create my own schedule. The location was in Michigan, and they even helped with moving costs. The organization was a Christian college where, because of my position, I could regularly wear jeans and remain far from corporate culture. And, one of the reasons why the pay was so low is because I had on-campus housing. That meant even if I failed at creating a new career, we would still have a roof over our heads.
(insert record scratch here)
But that also meant some sacrifices. Here are a few compromises I knew I had to make:
Being a Resident Director meant I could make my own schedule, but it also meant a schedule that could be interrupted by major crises or emergencies at any moment- and it often was.
As a young person, you often daydream about “climbing the ladder” of your career. But I was walking into a job knowing I would be making significantly less than even my first job out of college, let alone the previous job. In short, my expectations and measure of success had to change.
But this drop in pay also meant I wasn’t going to be saving my way to entrepreneurship through my full-time job. I was going to have to build my career at the same time. For me, the next right step was juggling.
I had a full-time job but committed to writing regularly on a blog. I utilized social media to share my words and became part of a community of women authors, pastors, artists, and ministry leaders that changed my life.
Juggling jobs is often not the answer people want to hear when it comes to starting your own business. And there are lots of really good reasons for that- it’s hard as hell. The commitment you have to possess, the focus that is required, the bigger vision you must serve is an emotional (and sometimes physical and mental roller coaster).
A significant reason why I was able to juggle is because that same team that interviewed me, made good on their promise as a department. They appreciated my racial justice knowledge. Rather than punishing me, they put me in charge of any diversity-related thing that I wanted to be in charge of. And if there were racial issues that arose between me and my students, my supervisors would take that off my plate as my advocate. I was not only able to write, but my supervisor and team members often read and shared the pieces I was writing. When major racial incidents would happen in the media, they would show up for me- sometimes bringing dinner and sometimes bringing dessert. I was often tired and overwhelmed and wondering if I’d ever make it to my dream career- their support made all the difference.
Juggling was hard. But it was also good for me. Juggling jobs for four years was my exit strategy. Now, let’s talk about yours.
Here are a few Exit Strategy questions to consider for your own entrepreneurial adventure:
Will you stay at your current job or leave your current job and why?
Will you save your way, juggle your way (or some combo) to entrepreneurship?
How will you prioritize your art while you continue your j o b?
What sacrifices are you knowingly making in service to your goals?
What kind of support do you need during this season?
Also! Check out this podcast by Ahyiana Angel called “Switch Pivot or Quit” https://www.switchpivotorquit.com/
Radha Blank wrote, directed, and starred in The 40-Year-Old Version which is a gritty, provocative, and witty film that illuminates the fact that there are no limitations or expiration dates on reinventing oneself or excavating dreams. Radha Blank is a proud Native New Yorker, Performer, and Writer for TV, stage, and film.
Did you miss last week’s discussion? We dove deep into beginnings that feel like endings by talking about me getting fired and how I began to find healing afterwards.
*The information provided in this newsletter does not constitute legal, tax accounting or professional advice, but is designed to provide general information relating to business and commerce.*