If you read Escape from Corporate America, you know that it’s full of the personal stories of corporate escape artists and their advice for others who feel stuck in their careers. I spent months tracking down and interviewing amazing people who had busted out of their cubicles to pursue their dreams.
When I was feeling trapped in Corporate America, I had no idea that there were so many of them out there. Way too many to fit in the book, in fact. And since I finished the manuscript, it seems like I meet a new escapee every day.
So I decided to create a regular blog feature to highlight more daring tales of corporate escape. First up is Shannon McCaffery, a woman who bounced back from three layoffs and endured enough corporate stress to land her in the hospital before she decided to start her own business. Read on for her brilliant advice for getting unstuck.
Shannon McCaffery’s Daring Tale of Corporate Escape
Name: Shannon M. McCaffery
Previous (corporate) occupation: Director of Corporate Communications
Current occupation: Marketing coach, consultant and implementer. Founder and CEO of McCaffery Communications.
1. Tell us a little bit about your corporate career path.
I started right out of college in publishing. I was a sales representative for Random House’s College Division. They sold their college division 4 years later to McGraw-Hill and hence my journey from company to company began. I loved books and just wanted to write, edit, market and be around books. My trajectory went from working in sales and sales management to working in marketing and loving it. My favorite job was as Director of International Marketing because I literally got to see and change part of the world. I traveled from Bali to Australia to Amsterdam. Then everything started to crumble.
My marriage was ending just as my career was rising — how does that happen? Then I was laid off for the first time, which was a killer and so dented my psyche, (I’m almost fully recovered), so I took off for 3 months to find myself. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, my marriage was over, I had no place to live and no job. So what did I do? I took a spiritual 12-day adventure to Peru. Of course, my family thought I was crazy and that made me question my decision as well. Yet it truly was totally, incredibly life-changing for me. After I got home, my old company hired me back (go figure!) and I found a house and I was happy for a while. Then they laid me off again 3 years later. Then I took another job in another industry only to be laid off for the 3rd time.
At that point, I woke up and smelled the corporate coffee. It was not to my taste anymore. Three times was the charm and at that point I decided to start my own marketing and consulting business. I knew being in Corporate America for that period of time had given me incredible skills in marketing, advertising and communications. I was a skilled executive coach, marketer and communications expert and had much to offer entrepreneurs and business owners.
2. What made you decide to change careers?
I think for me there were several reasons: one was that I had just been laid off for the third time from a job that was physically making me sick. After I had been there for over a year, I was so incredibly exhausted and working so hard that I wound up in the hospital. It was after I was home recovering that my company courteously told me my services were no longer needed. I think my whole career path was just karmic in nature. I truly believe there’s a reason I was laid off 3 times in 6 years. Someone was trying to show me a different path and I decided to go for it.
Another reason is I wanted my freedom back. Working 60 hours a week for over 20 years had exhausted me and I wanted my life back. I wanted to work my own hours and have the freedom to do my own thing when I wanted to and be my own boss. I also wanted the freedom to make as much money or as little money as I wanted. I wasn’t going to settle for an annual salary with 2 weeks off a year and working 60-hour weeks any longer.
3. What were your biggest career change challenges?
The hardest day was the day I made the decision to NOT go back to corporate America. That was when I put a stake in the ground — declaring my freedom, and my worth. It was scary because now the only person responsible for making money was me. I had to put a shingle out and start finding clients and it was all up to ME to make it happen. Then came the tasks of figuring out what my business would be, what kind of clients I wanted, and how in the world do I register it and all of those millions of steps you need to take to start your own business.
4. What are the best and worst things about your new career?
The best things are the freedom to work when I want, to work with whom I want and to plan my days and weeks as I want them to be. I have traveled more and had more fun in these past 2 years than I had in the previous 20. I’ve been able to connect more with friends and family since I own my own business and can take my business on the road with me if need be. I’m not chained to a desk in an office with a miserable daily commute. I don’t have to beg my boss to leave early or take an extra day off.
I roll out of bed into my office and that’s saving me a lot on gas too — who knew that would be such a benefit! The worst thing about my new career was the first year I was in business. If only when we start our businesses we could jump to year 2 right away! The first year is tough because you have to put everything in place and make a name for yourself. Money didn’t roll in as quickly in that first year as I would have liked. But my second year started out like gangbusters and has been fantastic. I’ve already doubled my income from last year in the first 4 months of this year.
So my advice on this one is before you take the leap ensure you have enough money in the bank to hold you over if things are slow in that first year. It really helped me.
5. What advice would you give to someone who feels stuck in an uninspiring job? Do you have any success secrets to share?
I would tell anyone who feels stuck in a job is that there is another way, there is a way out. I so wish I’d had a book like Pam’s when I was going through all this. She has some great stories and tremendous resources all packed under one cover. Get her book now. And know that you don’t have to be stuck.
The secrets I would share are: If you are really serious about doing something about being stuck, then:
1. Don’t hang around with other miserable stuck people and just commiserate all the time. This will suck you dry. You need to find people who are happier in their work and their careers and use their positive experiences to motivate you to make a change.
2. Find a coach, or find a group of entrepreneurs or networking group that you can connect with. Let them help you realize what your strengths are, what you’re passionate about and help you figure out what your gifts are that you need to give to the world.
3. Start saving money now – Cut back on your Starbucks. Put that money away into a special account for your new career. Work with your spouse or partner and share with them your passion and put a plan together to save money. I’d also recommend getting a copy of The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach. He’ll show you ways to save and make money and look at it in ways that you never thought possible. Start that nest egg now to use when you decide to leave your job and go after your passion.
4. Don’t be afraid to spend some money and invest in yourself – Whether it’s taking a class or workshop or buying books or products that will give you the knowledge to be successful in your new chosen career. So many people don’t get this. The more money you spend on materials, classes and information to learn, the more prosperous and successful you will become. Always strive to learn and read more. It’s proven that those who read at least 12 books a year are making ten times more money than those that don’t read any books in a year.
5. Don’t ever let fear stop you from reaching your dreams or your passion. Use your fear to propel you forward. Always ask for help when you need it. The worst thing that people can say is no. So what? Just ask someone else. You’re closer to being unstuck than you think you are. Just take that first step. Maybe it’s just a small one, but it’s the best step you can take now. So what are you waiting for?!
More About Shannon McCaffery
Shannon M. McCaffery is Chief Marketing Implementer for McCaffery Communications, a direct response marketing company. She has an ability to accurately assess your marketing and PR, pinpoint key areas to increase the impact of your advertising, which in turn generates more coffers in the bank for you. Not only does she consult with you on how to make your business more successful, she also is a Marketing Implementer. This means, she works with you on what to do with your marketing and PR and will implement all or some of it FOR YOU. Contact Shannon.
Want to share your own career change story or advice? Send me your words of wisdom to feature on the Escape from Corporate America blog.
Have an escape question or dilemma? Ask Pamela – ps [at] escapefromcorporate.com