I was an independent consultant for a little over three years. I loved it. I loved the variety, the freedom, and the daily outfits of hoodies and yoga pants. Even so, I decided to jump back into the world of full-time employment.
It wasn’t about the money. I have the good fortune of being in a discipline full of lovely, kind people who often sent referrals, so I was getting plenty of work.
But I missed the daily collaboration with other content strategists and user experience professionals. And after three years of working (and living) solo, I sometimes found myself looking up at 2 PM on a Thursday and realizing I hadn't left the house all week.
“This,” I thought, “is not healthy.”
But returning to full-time work seemed like I was broadcasting failure. Being my own boss was appealing to everyone else. So sexy. Why in the world would I give it up?
Around this time I was asked to interview with two big-name companies. Joining one of these companies would make sense. It would certainly create the sexy narrative I longed for.
So I labored on the assignments they gave me, confidently presented my work, and had one-on-one discussions with lots of people. And though my experience varied from person to person, the overall feeling I got was, “Impress us.”
And sure, that’s part of any interview process, especially at a big name. But shouldn’t any successful relationship be mutually beneficial? Shouldn’t there be a conversation about what I wanted as well? At one point I asked an interviewer, “How will you interact with this position?” and was told, “I’m not going to talk about that right now.” I was floored.
During all of this, I was consulting for a little-known company in Sunnyvale. The woman who hired me was an adored former boss, and her team was made up of smart, talented women. They were tackling interesting problems and I had fun working with them.
Sunnyvale wanted me full time.
“Unsexxxxxxxxxy,” my brain hissed. After years of trying to build my career with big names and the “glamour” of working for myself, would it look like I was settling? “But this is a great team,” I thought. “The work is super interesting. I’ll get to build a brand from the ground up. When does anyone get to do that in an established company?”
“Unnnnnnsexxxxxxxxxxy,” my brain insisted. Taking this job meant I would need to repeat my company name and explain what we do. There would be no envious looks. No one clambering to talk to me at meetups or conferences. A steeper hill to climb to get a speaking engagement.
But in contrast to the big names, Sunnyvale was working really hard to make sure this was a good fit all around. They rewrote the job description to better match my interests and skills. They took my salary requirements to heart. They were cool with me starting five months later to accommodate my living arrangements and travel plans.
Meanwhile, from the big names, I got a turn-down and a never-heard-from-again. The rejection from the first left me heartbroken and confused, but I was relieved about number two. I knew it wasn’t a good fit, but I might have accepted because of the sheer sexiness.
Sunnyvale was still batting their not-bedroom eyes at me.
With no-gos from the sexy twins, I worried even more that taking the Sunnyvale job would look like I had no other options.
But I did have other options. Lots of them. I could keep consulting. I could talk to other companies. I could maybe try again with the big-name heartbreaker.
Sunnyvale continued to serenade me in sandals and black socks.
And you know, it felt good. No, it felt fantastic. And I realized that making a decision based on “sexy” or how it would appear to other people is a spectacularly bad idea. This was a great company with a great team making me a great offer. And honestly, who did I think I was that I assumed anyone would give a shit about my career?
Sexy is wonderful. Nothing wrong with it. But it alone can’t sustain a relationship.
I accepted the offer. It was, without a doubt, the right decision. Because sexy is as sexy does.
And damn, I’m feeling sexxxxxxxxxxxy.