According to a research study done earlier this year by PwC, 65 percent of employees in the United States are seeking new jobs. And the thousands of people who left their employers are part of what is being called “The Great Resignation” of 2021. This movement is causing a pause among employers and employees alike.
So three years before this great movement, I found myself voluntarily resigning from a corporate job I held for over fifteen years. It was done over months of great deliberation and heartfelt angst (literally), but I knew both in my gut and head that if I didn’t break up now it would cost me my mental health and physical well- being.
After months of being on the receiving end of less than supportive comments from my co- workers, I decided to consult various professionals (i.e., accountant, medical doctor) and get serious about my options. I did what every non- accounting major should do, and that is schedule an appointment with an accountant.
With a lump in my throat and dozens of tax returns stuffed in my backpack, I schelped my way into her office. And what I received I wasn’t expecting- good news. After working in a less than positive workplace, I was so used to hearing negative words, it was difficult to digest her conclusions. I could start a consulting business and it wouldn’t bankrupt me.
Of course, being single and worried, I got a second accounting opinion. Still holding my breath as I sat in their office with the same filled backpack (I never unzipped it) I expected conflicting opinions. Afterall, I hadn’t prepared financially for this career break-up, and I didn’t have an MBA either. Thier conclusions were nearly identical to the first accountant’s words, and I wondered aloud if they somehow discussed my case prior without my knowledge. I was assured this wasn’t the situation. I kindly thanked this accountant for their words of advice, and mulled over both of their opinions for the next several weeks.
A Wake-Up Call
On the personal front, my health was suffering. For the first time, in several months, I started getting recurring migraine headaches. The doctor told me he thought it was stress related, and if it continued at this rate, I would need to consider a medical leave. I knew it was true. I knew there was a direct connection between my current work stress and my health status.
And in an effort to help me gain confidence to leave and start my own business I began to ask myself and my confidants important questions: How will I attract new business? What do I tell others about my new work? What if no one wants to work with me? Where do I begin? They answered my questions with sage advice, offering sound business guidance, and reminding me that my physical health is priceless. I could sense they knew how much I was suffering and needed this change.
Forget Trying to Patch Things Up
When I did leave my job, I didn’t have a stack full of email referrals for my new consulting/ coaching business. And yes, this was scary but this fear was more palpable than the one I felt sitting in my car at the parking lot of my former employer, scared to enter the building.
On my social media channels I shared my new business. I wrote that I had the ability to help others cope with change and loss. As a licensed mental health professional, I knew the people agreeing to work with me would need the confidence in my professional and personal experiences because credibility comes from both areas of life.
I started to share on my social media and in my “Psychology Today” blogs more of how I coped with my losses (death of my husband in 2007 and my father in 1979) and what I learned from other widows in researching my now best- selling book, “ A Widow’s Guide to Healing” co- written with psychologist James Windell.
During this time, I also shared how I went about doing the outreach for it, gaining major influencers (i.e, Katie Couric, Dr. Deepak Chopra, Maria Shriver) to support my work without having any formal P.R. training or media background. The lessons I learned and shared bridged a gap for those seeking to write their first book and wondering if they could succeed.
People Couldn’t Stop Sharing
I was relieved to see others were sharing my pieces and posts. And my journey to writer, author, and life coach gained momentum. I joked that I was the first person I coached as a first-time author. There were joyful tears as my inbox started to fill with emails of clients wanting to work with me. But there was also worry about how I would sustain this cadence.
Then I figured out that to conserve travel costs, I would need to do many things virtually, using Zoom. This was before 2020, and I could picture the faces of my clients grimacing when I told them we would have to meet virtually. And yet, the pushback I anticipated never happened. They welcomed it because it wouldn’t interrupt their work flow. They could hop on for one hour, receive my career or book coaching and never leave their comfortable space.
Overcoming What I Did Not Know
What I learned here is the ability to stop doubting myself, the ability to respond instead of react. To be able to help people choose how they would handle their losses- emotional breakup, job, divorce, or death became a blessing. To be professionally useful, to be valued, to be paid, and to thrive so that I can use my energy to reclaim my health and happiness was priceless. It had me asking myself why I didn’t do it sooner. And the choice to function well as I can, to be of service and to heal from the past workplace, did not go unnoticed. My friends began to tell me how happy I seemed. The worry that consumed my sleepless nights and so many of my daytime moments began to diminish.
I found my clients respected and reached out to me because I had compassion and the ability to respond to their concerns because I had lived through their fears. I sacrificed the security of a corporate job to see what lies beyond the daily grind. I am no longer hostage to the mental exhaustion of annual performance reviews, quarterly goal setting (made by others), and hundreds of emails offering little to no guidance for my work or well- being.
Sure there are unavoidable stresses (i.e, social distancing guidelines), but this comes with daily living in general and being part of any community. Nowadays, I am able to document my life without any obligation to report to someone why I need to take a morning off to care for a family member or deliver a care package. My schedule can appear iffy to a C- Suite executive, but my abundance in relationships says otherwise.
While the rest of the labor industry is struggling to retain good employees, I’m still making changes to offer the best steady flow of content and wisdom to my clients, but this process is being done without stress or squeezing in a call. I’m shifting things as there always seems to be something new coming in; however, I still find myself grounded in health- friendly self- talk.
I’m loyal to good things, like creativity, mental wellness, and physical health. The acceleration in the number of clients came in a shorter amount of time because I stayed close to what I knew- teaching how to cope with change and thrive after loss.
Kristin A. Meekhof is a best- selling co-author of the book “A Widow’s Guide to Healing”, speaker, writer, and life coach. She obtained her M.S.W. from the University of Michigan, and graduated from Kalamazoo College with a major in psychology. She’s appeared on CNN, WXYZ (Metro Detroit), and HuffPost Live. Kristin has spoken at Harvard Medical School, as well as contributed to the University of Michigan/ Pixar collaboration Coursea course. Kristin can also be seen in Oprah Daily / Yahoo Life, Today (online), People, Katie Couric media, Chicago Tribune, Huff Post, Architectual Digest, Thrive Global, Psychology Today, Detroit Free Press, Organic Spa, and many more. Kristin can be reached via her website form.Kristin Meekhof