This weekend I prepared to share the story of my career, and how in hindsight I can see patterns that emerged. Though I didn’t get to share my journey in its entirety (I am rescheduled to do so at a later date), I decided to share on this here blog for those who may be feeling a little frustrated themselves with the not so fun seasons of life. I know many of my readers have been with me in the “standstill” and waiting seasons and I so appreciate your continued presence! And while I am STILL in a process of sorts, at least now, looking back, I can see there has been much PURPOSE in the process…
I graduated from college at age 22 and though I was fortunate to attend a good school, I did not have the job lined up like my peers did who were set to work at Fortune 500 companies after they had completed their internships. See, I thought I was going into missionary work but found myself unemployed, living at home and heartbroken. I had broken up with my ex after finding out that he had cheated on me. Interestingly enough, while I was at this low point in my juncture, I became privy to him getting married (after our 4 year relationship/engagement mind you) only 4 months after our breakup. He was also ordained into ministry around this time and seemed to be on the rise. Did I fail to mention that I was recovering from an eating disorder and had put on about 40lbs as well? So now I was fat, lonely and jobless 🙄🙄🙄.
Additionally, my best friend got the ministry opportunity I had expected for myself at this time and was traveling. Shortly after, she met the man of her dreams, and got engaged as I struggled with the standstill in my own life.
Why was I not moving? Why was my path so difficult when I had done what I was “supposed” to do? Go to school + get the degree = be successful. Right? I asked these questions to God and then some. The only response I received was “wait”.
Have you been there? Have you looked around and felt behind because your peers and loved ones were moving right along? Checking off their checklists and making the very moves you thought you were going to make?
No matter how hard I tried I could not get a job for the life of me. I finally caved and ended up working at a fast food restaurant. Thankfully, just 4 days in, an opportunity did open up for me and I happily accepted it! I became a call center agent making $8.50/hour with a Bachelors of Science degree from Miami University.
I worked at that company for over a year but quickly desired to leave just 3 months in! It was a hot mess! Management didn’t work themselves, instead, they constantly overworked their employees. Upper management was corrupt and greedy and everyday I felt like I was in a war zone. But God did not release me. He gave me a word that I would receive my next employment opportunity through that job. So I stayed.
Do you feel like you are somewhere that lacks opportunity? You just never know where your open door will come from. Sometimes when you are positioned in an unlikely place, you just have to wait for the timing to be seen.
Interestingly enough, there was an opportunity for promotion that emerged just when I was at my breaking point. We trained for about 2 months to take on a major portfolio with AT&T. A group of people were hired and I was going to have a large admin role. But guess what? Right before the start of that job, the contract fell through, and many of those people who were recently hired were let go and there was now no real job position for me. For several months I was “floating around” at the company. I had no supervisor and was getting paid to make sales calls, of which no one was monitoring. I was so miserable, yet no other opportunities would open and so I was stuck. Every day I would go to work with no real work to do. That would be my first experience of this, but it would not be my last.
About a year in, I was finally promoted to being a manager where I oversaw 5 women who were 10-20 years my senior. I worked on a project where the company needed a/r collections done from large businesses. It was my first real professional experience after graduating. I was so excited! But 3 months later that project ended and I was right along with my colleagues wondering at my future. Thankfully I didn’t have to wonder for long. I connected with the VP of the department of the company I was working with through the call center and he assured me that they wanted to hire me. I was so excited to finally have a real professional job where I would get an actual salary and everything! I nailed the interviews and emailed my acceptance letter while putting in my 2 week resignation. BUT, do you know the call center pulled out a noncompete agreement that I had signed which forbid me to work for any of their competitors/clients? I was devastated. Once again I was out of a job. Once again I was at a standstill. The call center even tried to offer me another position to keep me, but God had given me a word that I would work for that other company. He said “Nicole, you have never seen me fight for you. Watch me fight for you”. It was 2 months to the day where my ex employer said I could not move on into this new position, that they worked out an agreement with my new employer and released me. My mom was so overjoyed and raved that it was truly a testimony that a company would hold a position open for an employee! I was finally working in corporate!
Timing is everything. Don’t give up if you feel in your heart of hearts that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. I’m a firm believer that what is for you is for you!
Once I was hired at this new job, I experienced some great opportunities from that position. I received promotions, bonuses, raises. I went back to school and got my MBA and that company helped to pay for it. I bought a brand new car. I moved out of my mom’s house and eventually got my own apartment. I seemed to be catching up in life and was doing well. But then, the stagnation hit again. The work slowed down and even though I had a title, a cubicle, and another degree under my belt, I was at another standstill. The company started doing layoffs and was dealing with some pushback from the FDA. I kept applying for jobs thinking that my new MBA in Accounting was going to open a door for me. My peers were now making really good money and some were even at the big 4 accounting firms. But as you can guess, my path never looks like my peers. My paycheck was “working class” at best in comparison.
Can you relate? Do you feel like your path is in uncharted territory and you are the first to navigate it? What I have learned is that when you are the first, there is always going to be resistance.
So many of my days were filled with boredom while sitting at my cubicle with little to no work to do. But do you know what happened in that stillness? I started reading blogs. I have always been an avid reader and I fell in love with the online stories I was reading. Then one day I was inspired to start “Better Than Wine.Net” which has been up and running since 2012! One day during this time of my life, I came across a blog post on someone else’s site on heartbreak and it dawned on me to write my own story which I titled “How to Overcome Heartbreak: Recovering from Misguided Love”. I posted it and knew that would be the title of my first book which I self published in 2014.
My encouragement to you based on this experience, is if you find yourself unhappy in your current role, look around at other opportunities to advance. There may be other giftings that you are not tapping into and that may be lying dormant. I even found professional outlets outside of work during this time such as becoming a Tax Prep Professional and working as Treasurer for several political campaigns.
For about three years, I was writing and reading and doing very little actual work at my job, until finally I was let go by the company. In 2015 I was, once again, unemployed. I couldn’t get a job for several months. My roommate had moved out and my severance pay was running low. I was preparing to terminate my lease and sleep on my mother’s couch when my landlord threw me a very important bone. Even though I had NO experience in the area of bookkeeping, he agreed to train me and make me his Executive Admin Assistant at his architect firm. For over a year I was groomed in Quickbooks and finally had some experience to back up that piece of paper I received that said MBA in Accounting. But then his funds started running low and I needed to look for work. I got another job in bookkeeping where my primary role was in payroll. The company started off as a small business but rapidly doubled in size. I went from doing payroll bi weekly and monthly for 3 cities for 200 employees to doing it for over 7 cities and over 400 employees! I was working holidays, weekends and evenings and the company refused to compensate me. Instead, they were criticizing me and taking advantage of me. The writing was on the wall. It was time to go.
The timing was impeccable because my mom passed away right when I was transitioning out and she had been very supportive of the move. She kept telling me how she wanted me to start my own business. In all honesty I didn’t feel ready. Yet again, no other doors would open when I looked for work and the same year she died I started ABN Bookkeeping LLC named after my mother, grandmother and me). That year I received my first client and God blessed me with a profitable bookkeeping and tax prep business!
Do you find that certain doors do not open? Are you trying and trying and not able to walk through them? I believe that is because you need to find the door with your name on it. My business was my door and even in the last few years I have been working to grow and build it along with my career in writing.
I took a break from writing after my mom passed, but then entered into yet another quiet period of my life when the pandemic hit. During this time I wrote and published my first fiction book “Stories for the (Urban) Soul”. I am also now in the process of completing my first novel which will be released soon.
I can look back at my journey and see the patterns. There are these very long seasons of the mundane where I am waiting and there is quiet and then there are very intense seasons where I feel I am at my wits end. Often I feel overworked and stretched.
In college, I was bogged down with titles and responsibilities. I was an RA my junior and senior years. I was in a gospel choir. I helped start and lead a dance organization as well as a campus ministry. And I was a student! I was doing the most! So in hindsight, I now understand that that standstill after college was for my good. It was a much needed season of rest and recovery that I didn’t understand that I needed because I was so used to working. I also believe God wanted to remove the idol of work in my heart. I come from a long line of hardworking women and I’d defined myself by my job roles previously, but when they were taken away, I could not use them to define me.
There was a lot of character building that was happening during my time at my first job. I was being humbled and God was setting a sturdy foundation for the fruit and elevation that would eventually happen. I was working 12-13 hours as a manager at the call center so the 2 months off was another recovery period. I was being overworked at the bookkeeping company, so the time after that was used for my healing and grief recovery also. But what stands out to me the most is that during those last few times of the standstill is when my writing was born. If it were not for the pandemic (which created a mandatory stillness) I may have never written fiction again.
Often we look at society and we think there is this cookie cutter life we are all supposed to experience, yet we are all different so that mindset isn’t even logical. Look at the road you have navigated this far. What doors have opened and not opened? What purpose is there in your current season? Sometimes we are angry, hurt and frustrated because where we are doesn’t seem purposeful but we were all created with purpose, it is just about learning what that purpose is.
Now I can say I am an Author, a homeowner, a business owner and so much more. But the purpose has not come without the process, and even so, I am still in process! I am still learning my purpose and wanting to see my goals come to pass. I still have unrealized dreams that I am waiting to come to fruition. But I can look back and see that the path, as circuitous and treacherous as it has felt at times, has always led me to my best self and my best possible outcome. I believe the same for you!
My encouragement is for you to take 15-20 minutes and journal your story. Look at the major transitions in your life. I have done this not only with my career but also with relationships. Looking back and reflecting on the patterns helped me to discover that I kept selecting the wrong type of man who just happened to have the same poor traits as my own father (whom I was never raised with).
What have you learned from your past and what are your goals for the future? What resources do you currently have in your life to obtain those goals? Even when I was unemployed, I had my relationship with God and I had people. When I was unemployed after college I wasn’t working but I was very active with my church group. I was participating in youth ministry and had purposeful assignments. I was growing in character and faith. I was healing from trauma and hurt. I was building up a positive mindset. I may not have had a good job but I had love in my life. And since then I have been surrounded by love. Which I am learning is the true measure of success: To be loved.