I participated in a panel discussion on Wed. March 8th for International Women’s Day. The panelist were challenged to talk about their bold moments in our careers and life. As I was thinking about this and deciding what I was going to say, I talked to my husband and dad. I’ve had quite a few moments where I made a decision and took action on something others might consider bold, where I saw them as a necessity to stay true to myself. Was I going to talk about leaving St. Croix at 17 to pursue college and my life in Washington, DC away from family and friends? Or the time I quit my “good” job working for a big, public company in 2011 without another job lined up? Or do I talk about the next time I quit my job to run a consulting company with my husband? I determined leaving St. Croix wasn’t bold, it was necessary. While I see the other two events as necessary as well, I also didn’t think it was too appropriate to talk about as the only person on the panel who didn’t work at the company hosting the event.
In talking to my husband, he reminded me of some advice my father gave me when I was struggling to find my place years earlier. My dad told me “you can be Joan of Arc or you can be Martin Luther. Are you going to very publicly and loudly air your grievances, potentially going down in flames; or are you going to quietly nail your list of grievances to the door and live to see another day.”
As we identify challenges in our work places or in society, we need to determine how we pursue “justice.” Each situation is different and you’ll need to make that decision each time. You need to weigh the risks and the rewards. For me, personally and professionally, the risks were always minimized by what I knew about myself. I will land on my two feet.
When I left St. Croix for college to a city relatively unseen with no family, I was encouraged by the fact that I had family in Philly, NJ, NY, all just a few hours away. I opted for a small, Catholic college in a city I loved minimizing the importance of the diversity of island life and the small thing that I wasn’t Catholic. I figured if I didn’t like it, I could transfer somewhere else. And that’s just what I did.
When I was struggling to find my place in that job in 2011, I took a hybrid approach to lay out the list of issues, and bring solutions to the table. Ultimately, I ended up quitting anyway as my sense of urgency didn’t align to the organization. As my husband says, I was the worst quitter ever, delivering volumes of documentation and hiring my replacement. The organization ended up delivering on their word, heavily investing in resolving the issues. I was told at the time that I needed to stay and work it out, learning to navigate corporate america if I was ever going to be successful. They brought me back as a consultant a couple years later.
And that time I quit my job again, to run a business with my husband? Three years later, business is good and no bridges were burnt. We’ve managed to grow and thrive, and still do work for our previous employers.
Life is made up of choices. As we are reminded to #BeBoldforChange, make sure to figure out who you are and what choices you plan to make.