Hello! How is February looking where you live? Winter in Southern California doesn’t really look like winter, at least not the snow-filled stretches of my Midwestern childhood. We’ve jumped straight to spring, with the trees starting to flower and the grass a vibrant shade of green.
But there is one aspect of our yard that looks painfully bare: our rose bushes. Their seemingly endless supply of white blooms has been one of my favorite things about our new home. So imagine my surprise when our gardener started cutting them way back the other day. To be sure, as the person in charge of this yard long before we moved in, he knew exactly what he was doing. But as a Los Angeles (and rose) rookie, I was a tiny bit horrified at the prickly brown sticks left standing.
In my dismay, I turned to Google. It seems that one can avoid pruning a rose bush… but that means it will “become a weak, poorly-shaped plant with smaller blooms,” according to the Master Gardener Newsletter from the University of California. Stripping down those beauties, on the other hand, “removes dead and diseased canes and triggers new buds to push at the base so that new vigorous canes can form.”
Sometimes the best thing you can do is start anew.
Those rose bushes came to mind when I saw the headlines today about the “Great Resignation.” A staggering 4.3 million U.S. workers quit in December, according to CNBC, “closing out a record-shattering year when roughly 47.4 million people voluntarily left their jobs.”
If this is you, I see you. This week marked five years since I walked away from my dream job at the Wall Street Journal. Below are five lessons I learned along the way, plus five links for you.
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On my last day at the Wall Street Journal, I had a pit in my stomach. Despite the confident spin I put on my social media posts, I was filled with doubt over my decision to leave. I had been on staff at the financial newspaper for more than a decade, working my way up from reporting assistant to senior style reporter and columnist. My reporting took me from the presidential campaign trail to the front row at fashion week. When other job offers came along over the years, I always turned them down. Who was I if not “Elizabeth Holmes from the Wall Street Journal?”
And yet, I knew it was time. As a writer, I was ready to work with new editors at other publications. Matt had a chance to take on a bigger role at his job if we moved from New York to California. I was pregnant with our second son and our Brooklyn apartment was feeling mighty cramped.
But it being right the right time didn't make the move easy. After a job that had been so defining, I struggled to find myself — first with my freelance writing and then with growing So Many Thoughts. The journey has been messy and uneven, riddled with more anxiety-filled “What have I done?” moments then I care to admit.
I am immensely proud of what I have built in the last five years, including the success of my book, HRH. But only now, with the benefit of hindsight, can I see some lessons I learned along the way. So! If you are one of the millions joining the Great Resignation movement, I wanted to share five things I wish I would have known when I left my job.
First things first: I need to acknowledge my privilege. Leaving my full-time staff writer position, with benefits and a regular paycheck, would not have been possible without my partner’s job. I walked away from the WSJ knowing that Matt and I could fully support our family based on his income. A huge privilege.
Before making any moves, I highly recommend you determine what financial cushion you might need. Also, if you are freelancing or starting something on your own, understand how you will get paid and what a realistic income might look like. It was a major adjustment for me to go from being salaried to being paid by the word or a flat (often low) fee. Actual payments came in fits and starts, too, based one the varying schedules of each publication. And I am still strategizing on how to monetize my social media.
And plan for your expenses! Will you need a new laptop or phone, or even a support team? For example, I had to license the photos for my book and hire a team of editors and researchers. It all adds up, so do your best to estimate those costs.
Shortly after I left my position at the WSJ, we moved from New York to California. I said goodbye to not one but two homes — my workplace and the city I loved — both of which were filled with treasured friends. I wasn’t prepared for how painfully out of the loop I felt in my new locale.
Our move forced me to double down on my efforts to stay in the mix. I think it’s important when you step away from a job to remain a part of the conversation, even from afar. For the first year, my goal was to write for as many new publications as possible, to keep my name out there and bolster my professional network. Social media helped immensely. I could share what I was up to, but more importantly amplify the work of other writers and editors, to get (or stay) on their radar.
If possible, look for IRL ways to meet up, too. No agenda necessary! A coffee and a catch-up with a contact is great. It’s always nice to work on those relationships before asking someone for something.
When everyone struggled to get motivated working from home at the start of the pandemic, I thought to myself, UGH, yes, been there! I had a very hard time transitioning out of my office job. I missed getting dressed, being somewhere by a certain time, talking to my coworkers, even having a boss. As someone who thrives on structure and expectations, I should have known how much I would miss all that.
Whether your new chapter is looking for a job or starting something on your own, I would recommend putting some guardrails on your work day. That could look like a set schedule or a dedicated office space (even if that’s just one end of your kitchen counter). For me, especially before COVID, it helped to leave my house and work from a coffee shop. At home, I made sure to get all the way dressed before sitting down to write.
(Important caveat: One of the best things about branching out on your own is the flexibility. Embrace that! If that looks like working in sweats, or running errands in the middle of the day, go for it.)
I think it really helps — especially if you are starting your own thing — to choose an area of expertise. If you haven’t already, find a corner of the conversation in your field where you have 1) natural, genuine interest and 2) the experience to build up an authoritative voice. The trick here is to find a specialty that is specific enough to wrap your arms around but also has plenty of runway for you to grow.
The start of So Many Thoughts was not strategic, not by a long shot. I was breastfeeding my baby when the Cambridges’ holiday card photo caught my eye. In hindsight, I lucked out by picking a topic that checked a lot of boxes. There is a built-in readership for all-things royal and a steady stream of engagements that make headlines. So many chances to comment! What’s more, I was able to take all my years of reporting on the business of fashion and apply it to a new subject matter.
But mostly: Big things can come from big career moves! Remember, however, that it takes time and fortitude to build a new chapter. Show yourself the same grace and patience you would offer a loved one. Celebrate the wins, learn from your mistakes, pivot when you need to, and take breaks.
And let me know how it is going! Have you left a job? Do you have advice for people considering leaving a job? Please share! Hit “Join the Discussion” at the bottom of this email and leave a comment. You can also email me at Hello@SoManyThoughts.com.
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READ / New York Magazine released a special edition examining the decade since Trayvon Martin was killed and how “‘Black Lives Matter’ has grown from a hashtag to a protester’s cry to a cultural force that has reshaped American politics, society, and daily life.” (New York Magazine)
READ / Up in my feelings over this story Steff sent me of an 8-year-old author and how he got his book into the local library. (Washington Post)
WATCH / The second season of Cheer, the docuseries about competitive cheerleading. It’s crazy to see the effects of the fame they garnered from the first season. (Netflix)
Note: I use affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase I may get a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting my work!
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I’ll see you back in your inboxes on Friday, friends, with a look at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Have a wonderful week.
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