Having a secure job is the mark of a responsible adult. That was my mindset. Way before graduation, I was preparing my resume for the campus job fair. That’s what we were all supposed to do—find a good job and make our own money as soon as possible. I landed a job at a global bank less than a month after receiving my diploma. I was on the right track.
I romanticized corporate life, until I met its dark side very early in the game. Just as I was gearing myself for life-long employment in a multinational company, my employment was cut short. That was painful. The corporate dream was turning into a nightmare. I realized that people are dispensable and jobs have their end. After that, I was careful not to become attached emotionally to work. My job is not my life, my life is not my job.
I persevered though. I bounced back and found a job where I excelled and my work was recognized. I became established in Human Resources and was selected for the company’s Management Program. I wanted to excel further and have more credentials so I received my Masters in Industrial and Organizational Psychology while employed full-time.
But as I was moving up in my role and status, my sense of fulfillment was slowly going down. I didn’t think of leaving because this company had become my comfort zone. The mindset of “Better secure than risk failure.” rang through my head.
The companies I worked for got their ROI from my employment. I put in the best effort. I rarely took days off. I didn’t use my sick leave. I even worked Saturday mornings as part of the job. This went on for almost 6 years. I exposed myself to stressors in the job just to perform well: late nights, long trips, skipped meals, marathon meetings. I was exhausted.
On a trip to Morocco, our tour guide, noticing that I was delaying our group because of emails said, “You do everything for your job. What does your job do for you?” He said it in jest, but that question was cold water on my face. I grappled for an answer, but didn’t respond because the first thing that came to mind was nothing. My job was doing nothing for me. Yes, I was still learning new things here and there. Yes, I had good colleagues. Yes, I was getting regular pay. But beyond that, nothing really. All those things I could get elsewhere. In fact, it was taking my time, my weekends, and my energy from doing things I wanted to do. It took a stranger halfway around the world to make me realize that. And I was too scared to face the consequences of that reality.
I heard a preacher liken work with riding a horse to get to your dream destination. We push ourselves to go fast and work hard to get to our goal, but some get on a rocking horse, foolishly thinking it will get them somewhere. At that time, I couldn’t say I was on a real horse, and it made me incredibly sad.
Corporate experience helped me learn about myself. Routine bores me. I like planning and big picture thinking. I like analyzing problems. I hate office politics but learned by navigating through it.
A nagging feeling that I had potential to do and be more was always there. It continued to intensify and I asked myself why I didn’t feel fulfilled. Sometimes, I would just think to be grateful for having a good job and push away the discontent. Other times, I just wanted to leave the office as soon as I arrived or NOT go to work at all. It felt like a waste of time. I coasted along, allowing the company to take my career wherever it wanted, since I had no clear idea what I wanted for myself.
Enter my big realization: I wasn’t interested in the corporate ladder. So why was I climbing it?
I started noticing other people who seemed really happy. Those who talked about their jobs with so much joy—even if they, too, were putting in long hours and making sacrifices for their work.
I complained about my job and felt increasingly tired of work. A miserable, negative employee was NOT the person I wanted to become. I was coming to work to be busy but I wasn’t creating anything of real value. I knew I was meant to do more than just “doing something.” I was tolerating my own lack of direction.
I started imagining putting the same amount of effort into things that were meaningful to me as I did on my work tasks. This was making me excited.
Rather than feel limited by my corporate career, I chose to explore my possibilities. For the first time, what I wanted for my future was clear. I wanted to get married, have children, and be a hands-on parent. I wanted time freedom. I wanted the possibility of earning more money for things I do well. I wanted to do work that makes people’s lives better, work that matters to me and brings me joy.
With the help of a coach, I became clear with what I wanted for my life and career. I consulted my parents and other people who were dear to me on what to do. I prepared myself for the risks and consequences of moving out of my comfort zone. Tears were shed and prayers prayed. It was absolutely scary, but I turned my worries into an honest to goodness strategy.
At my crossroads, I eventually stood with a plan. I had a clear destination. I was excited and anxious at the same time, which remains the best feeling ever. I was on the brink of something great and I was doing it for me. No more coasting. Just pure intention and purpose. Decisions became easier to make. Risks easier to take. I knew if I made a mistake, it would be alright. This push toward what I wanted was so strong I could not be held back, not by security or comfort or job title.
I finished my Masters and specialized in Organization Development. I married a great man who had been a friend since college. I began doing HR and OD consulting that allows me to work mostly from home. I am a mother to an awesome little girl. And I am making an impact not just to organizations, but to individuals as a coach. I have more plans for the future. Life is not all roses and there are definitely tough days, but I am happy with the choices I have made. I am glad to be making a difference in my corner of the world, in the way that I want.
We spend so much time in our jobs, it’s a great disservice to ourselves and to the world if we do not find joy in it. If you thrive in your corporate job, that’s great. . I myself thrived in this environment for a time. But if you’re not thriving and feel like you could be doing something more, continue reading. The traditional mindset that the corporate route equates to success is no longer true. Even beyond ‘success’, significance is found investing your time in activities that matter to you, whether that’s within or beyond office walls. It’s in doing work that you are so passionate about, it’s something you can’t NOT do. So if you’re looking for meaning in the corporate world and you’re not finding it, perhaps it’s because you are called to be elsewhere.
Life’s too short to be settling for a corporate job when you know meaningful work is waiting to be done out there. If you’re ready to make it happen, you’ve come to the right place.