Jumping off the Corporate Ladder, Halfway Up


When you have climbed the same corporate ladder for years, how do you get off without crashing down? How do you start over? Is it possible? Or at some point do you have to suck it up and keep going? I‘ve struggled with this A LOT.

During the first half of college my major was “Undeclared.” I was not one of those people who knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. In year three, my college counselor told me it was time…I had to choose something.

Hmmm, the only class I was really interested in up to that point was Sociology. But seriously, what the heck was I supposed to do with a Sociology degree? That didn’t seem like a great choice, so I settled on Business. Business school did not float my boat, to say the least. But it was responsible. It was a logical choice for someone who didn’t know what she wanted to do.

And responsible and logical was what I usually did.

So, there I was getting my higher education when it came time to pick my business specialty. Management, Economics, Accounting, Finance, etc. I chose Marketing. I chose it because I thought it sucked the least. Don’t all people choose their careers this way?

From there I went on to work in Marketing & Advertising for 12 years. And over the years, to compensate for my lack of interest at work, I got certifications in other things that I did find interesting. I became a Certified Nutritionist, I became a Certified Nutritional Chef, and I became a Certified Yoga Instructor. To this day, I’ve never used any of them to make money. These were definitely interests, but I wasn’t sold on doing them for a living.

So what did I want to do?

I knew that I had to get out of my own head. Every time I thought about what I wanted to do, I would immediately cancel out everything that didn’t seem logical or reasonable.

Then I came across Michelle, the When I Grow Up Coach. Michelle is awesome because she helps people figure out what they want to do, and in a non-corporate, non-traditional, doesn’t-always-have-to-be-logical sort of way. Her website felt fun, authentic, and true to who she was-which I liked.

In my first couple of sessions, Michelle was latching on to my health & wellness related background. And why wouldn’t she? Who gets three certifications just for the hell of it? But it didn’t take her long to realize that while I liked these things, they weren’t “it.” After a few homework exercises and phone calls, it became clear -I did have a passion, and it was for travel. It was the one thing that I got really excited about when I talked.

Now, I know what you’re thinking…travel isn’t a paying job.

Yes, that’s true. But it did lead me to know the following:

  1. What I do has to revolve around travel, be in another country, or allow me enough balance and flexibility to travel.
  2. I enjoy encouraging other people to take action on their own travel goals, and I want people to know they can overcome the limitations they think they have.
  3. If the work itself isn’t travel related, it needs to make me feel like I have a purpose. It would need to be related to a cause I feel strongly about.

A piece of cake right? — Not so much.

Michelle does not promise that finding your calling will be easy, but she does give you the motivation and focus to figure it out. And she’s a good sounding board when you feel insecure about it.

Now I had a framework to work within. So if a job didn’t fit the criteria, I wasn’t going to do it.

But first, I accept a few truths:

  1. I had to job search differently. I couldn’t go on the same job boards and search for awesome travel jobs that I would love and that would give me purpose. (But that website would be amazing)
  2. I would have to be okay taking a pay cut, at least initially. (That one hurts.)
  3. I would have to feel okay if what I decided on didn’t come with a 5–year plan. I couldn’t worry about the long-term. (Yep, uneasy with that one too.)

But here’s the deal-in order to get what you want, you have to make a few sacrifices, take a little risk, and most importantly, get started.

What happened?

One day I was on the Internet randomly searching for international opportunities. When you do this, you usually find a lot of postings for TEFL certifications and overpriced volunteer experiences. But this time, I came across an Office Manager position for a non-profit organization in Tanzania. This was a little out of the box. At first it sounded sort of interesting–but then I watched a video. It was the first time I that a job posting made my heart do a little pitter-patter. Although I didn’t think anyone would ever call me, I still went ahead and applied. I sent my resume and a sincere cover letter letting them know why I was applying. To my surprise, not only did I get a call, but I also got the job.

My first reaction…what the heck did I just do?

I start in three months.

I’ll write a whole blog about the organization and what I’ll be doing, but for now, let’s visit my original list of requirements:

  • A job in another country. Check.
  • A job that will allow me to travel. Check.
  • A job with a purpose. Check.

Layer on the decision to start this blog, which I will use as a platform to encourage others’ travel goals. Check.

And what would have happened if I just continued to complain about work instead of taking action? What if I didn’t accept those initial truths?

  • If I didn’t take the initiative to do Career Coaching with Michelle, then I wouldn’t have been focused to know what I was looking for.
  • If I hadn’t done some research, I wouldn’t have found this role.
  • If I hadn’t been open-minded, I definitely wouldn’t have applied for a job in a third-world country.
  • Oh, and did I mention not making money and the not knowing what I’d be doing when the 1-year position was over? Serious truth accepting!

If you are out there feeling stuck on a ladder within a career you don’t want, it’s never too late to make a change. A friend of mine decided to quit her job in Finance at 37 to pursue her dream of going to law school. Three years later, she passed the bar and recently accepted a job in the non-profit sector.

Whether there’s something out there you’ve always wanted to do, or you just know what you’re doing today isn’t it- you do have the power to make a change. You just have to do it. And your corporate ladder will still be there if you want to jump back on.

2 Responses to Jumping off the Corporate Ladder, Halfway Up

  1. Shannon October 16, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

    Travel is my biggest passion too. I wasn’t brave enough to leave my position in non-profit marketing but, like you, pursued other interests while working. I was a club DJ, deli owner, fitness instructor and writer for the newspaper. When I got laid off after 13 years with the same organization, it took me all of 10 minutes to realize that it was probably the best thing to ever happen to me. I was forced to make a decision about the direction I wanted to take in life and moved to the beach. I had no plan. I took a leap of faith. A few months later, friends and I traveled through Italy. After returning to Key West, I fell in love, got married, had a baby, pursued new interests and pursued new careers. With an infant, my traveling is on hold but I’m already planning my next adventure to Alaska and in the meantime, finding a ton of adventure on my little island. Good for you, Denise. I’m proud of you and share my story to encourage you. I’m so excited to hear about your adventures!

    • Denise Diamond October 16, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

      Shannon, I love your comment! I think changes in life always take a leap in faith, you just have to have the courage to take the risk. And I love to see couples and families to continue their adventures-I’m sure you’ll always find a way to work them in. Happy for you!

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