I’ll never forget the day my boss told me these words⏤due to the current economic situation your position has been eliminated. If my life wasn’t already complicated enough, my husband and I were in the process of relocating three states south. He got a new gig at a major university.
May 22, 2020, was my last day as a full-time employee at a company I called home for seven years and three months. I was laid off from a position that I created three years prior. And after I heard those unexpected words, I felt lighter, almost immediately.
I’ve never considered myself an entrepreneur or had the desire to become self-employed until I created something viral on Instagram (@BlackWifeLife). I didn’t consider writing a potential career, even though I have been writing for years. After I hung up the phone, I sat on my couch in disbelief, shock, and rage for all of 10 minutes. Then I searched my photo gallery for a specific video.
November 19, 2019, at 6:23 PM, I recorded a video of myself saying these exact words:
I’m putting this out there. I will be working for myself before 2020 is out. I’m putting out there in the universe.
That day officially arrived exactly 30-days after I was laid off, June 22, 2020. I spoke what I wanted into existence. I’m a believer in the power of the tongue, but never did I imagine that it would manifest into something like this.
Looking back at my former corporate America career, I had been unintentionally planning my exit. I had been marketing myself in a way that made others silently watch. I built real and authentic relationships with people I knew would last beyond my career at the largest IT staffing company in North America.
I now understand how late nights, early mornings, thousands of frequent flier miles, and whatever else the company threw at me played a role in where I am today.
If you want to transition into self-employment, or just prepare for the next pandemic that will sweep our nation, consider these things while you are still employed.
What makes you happy in your current position?
I had three positions before I got to my happy position with my former employer. With each promotion or position change, I was got closer and closer to my end goal, a career in Diversity and Inclusion.
When I transitioned from a production-based position and entered the world of talent acquisition, I knew I could link my passion for D&I to internal recruitment. I shortly discovered that there was no diversity recruitment strategy, so I created one.
How can you make something unrelated, related?
Social media has always been my escape and passion. I check Twitter before CNN. I search on Pinterest before Google. In 2014, I noticed social media was becoming a catalyst for job searches. Companies were starting to show up more on Instagram. College and University career centers and leaders were making more substantial appearances on Twitter.
Instead of immediately sharing what my discovery was, I moved in silence. I began to build career relationships on social media that got recognized. Once I was able to show results of using a new medium to attract a pipeline of talent, the doors began to open.
What do you own?
One of my most significant accomplishments was creating a strategy to use Instagram to connect with our recent college grad hires and attract future students. After I was able to show that social media works tandem with internal recruitment, I made something unrelated, related; I pitched a branded Instagram account to marketing. They agreed.
Instead of marketing designing the strategy, they created a handle, password and said, ‘here you go’ then went back to whatever they do.
This was late 2014 when Instagram still had the brown polaroid-type camera as its icon. The picture-sharing social media app was beginning to take form. There was no algorithm or insta-etiquette. So a team of 15 or so talent acquisition specialists began to dump all their work-related images onto the profile. And in a few hours, it went from zero images to more than 50.
I deleted all of them, changed the password, and said, ‘let me own this.’
What related external relationships do you have?
When my five-page single-spaced job proposal was approved by HR to work on our internal Diversity & Inclusion team, I felt like I finally made it. But the work wasn’t done.
I wanted to see how I could begin to build my brand and credibility with other diversity practitioners. I knew there were not many qualified millennials working in this space, so I sought out to become one.
I found outside partners that could 1) help the organization move their D&I journey along and 2) help me get further connected. I knew everything from that moment on had to serve two purposes.
And now I know why.
So what does all this mean? How did the creation of a job and a social media strategy help me land a consulting gig? Simply put, it created the contacts and confidence I needed to step out on my own.
I now run a thriving Instagram community dedicated to the celebration of black women. Because of my success, I’ve been able to start a social media coaching business. Helping entrepreneurs and organizations develop a social media strategy that works.
And on June 22, 2020, as mentioned, I began DEI consulting for a company that was/is a partner of my former employer. They knew the talent and expertise I could bring to the table because of our previous partnership.
Don’t look to exit from corporate life and venture into entrepreneurship without a solid plan, and that plan needs to start months and years before.
Remember your expertise and what you have to offer. Know your value and skillset. Operate as if you already have a successful business. And when the time comes, you too can secure, or create, a career path that fuels your passion.