How did I go from studying Mathematics and Economics to leading HR functions at startups? I get asked this question a lot. My answer is simple: I chose gigs that fed my soul.
Here’s a sampling of the soul-affirming gigs I have taken over the years: Fraternity and Sorority Advisor at a Catholic university (and I’m a lesbian jew); Management Intern for the Women’s Professional Soccer League (WUSA); Tutor for GMAT and GRE tests; Lecturer in Business at UC Berkeley.
I chose these gigs not to build my resume or my bank account, but because I thought, “This sounds really fucking cool, and I want to try it for a bit.”
I know what you’re thinking: “Dreamy advice, Sara, but how am I going to pay rent here in the Bay Area, let alone all my other bills?”
Well, when I needed more money, I took more jobs. At one point I had three jobs, just to get by. But I was happy to get up and go to work everyday, because I loved what I was doing.
I can’t tell you how many of my friends hate going to work. When I ask them why they don’t make a change, they say, “I can’t just leave, because . . . ” Maybe they are pulling in an amazing salary, or equity, or benefits, or all three. “I just need to suck it up for two more years to vest,” they’ll say. To me that sounds like a golden handcuff.
I mean, I get it. We’ve all got bills. We’ve got student loans and car payments and rent or, if you’re among the lucky few, mortgage payments. I am not judging.
But I do want folks to stop for a moment and ask themselves: If you’re going to trade your happiness for money, how much money is enough? This job you’ve dedicated your life to, is it really what you want to do? You have only so much time on this planet. How do you want to spend it? What makes you happy? I mean really happy? What kind of work would get you to jump right out of bed in the morning, or make you lose track of time because you’re so engrossed in it, so sure it’s exactly what you are meant to do?
I am going to be real with you here. I have left millions on the table at many companies. Yeah, it hurts at times, but at the end of the day: I. Am. Happy. My stress level is not only manageable, but healthfully low. I have the time to take care of myself — to eat well and work out and take the breaks I need — so I can enjoy this crazy life to its fullest. Sure, I wasn’t able to retire by the time I was 40, and yes, I will be working for a long time. But I am stoked on it, because I dig my gig!
This is your life. You get to write how the story goes. Do you really want to let your job dictate the plotline? Do you really want to let equity decide the direction of this chapter?
I am writing today’s chapter, doing the work that feeds my soul. Who knows what will happen in my next chapter? Maybe I’ll learn how to DJ? That sounds fun! I trust that this right gig will lead me to my next right gig. But for now, I know I am doing the work that I am meant to do.
How about you? What gig will feed your soul?