Career Advice for Leaving The Corporate Ladder

This blog post is about how climbing up the corporate ladder may not be everyone's path. I am so passionate about validating this fear among young professionals that if you don't ascend, you're a failure. -Kayley

Once upon a time, I aspired to be in the role of President of a college or university.

Climbing the organizational ladder was appealing to me at one point in my life, as I planned out my career out ten years in advance. My number one strength from StrengthsQuest was futuristic. Can anyone relate?

While redefining my own career strategy, I’ve realized that success is being redefined in mainstream society. While some people enjoy working their 9-5, aspiring to reach the next promotion, the reality is that many people don’t. Many people choose to be stay-at-home parents, tend to their garden while working part-time, or simply don’t have the option to work because they are on long-term disability leave. I’m starting to see the generalized ‘society’ embrace a rogue life that is very different from our ancestors of fulfilling the “American Dream”. It simply does not exist in the same way anymore.

About two years ago now, I had a huge breakthrough about working at a particular job I felt I was supposed to be in. My values weren’t aligned with the company I was working for and it was physically exhausting for me to get up out of bed each morning. My kidneys started to fail due to the stress of feeling what seemed the weight of the world and I didn’t know what was happening to my body. It was a reality check for sure. Everyone else around me seemed to love their job, so I thought I could somehow put my stress aside, and get the work done. I found myself uninspired, procrastinating, calling out for mental health days, and the relationships around me started to become distant because I wasn’t happy. I had this limiting belief that if I stayed in my job I could help more people and the organization would crumble if I left. I was also scared of the unknown: Where was I going to work if I wasn’t doing this?

I realized I wasn’t showing up fully to my life. I allowed my self-care routine to slip, I was too tired to hang out with friends, and I needed change.

It was a dark time in my life, but I would never trade these past two years for anything.

I decided to hire a therapist and life coach, and worked with my doctor to monitor my stress levels. I had a pivotal conversation with my life coach about things I dreamed of doing: traveling, writing, and pursuing a new path of supporting women. She pointed out the only barriers to my personal success were the limitations I was putting on myself.

She helped me re-frame some of my dysfunctional beliefs. For example:

My belief: “If I am successful, I will be happy.”

Reframed belief: “True happiness comes from designing a life aligned with your values.”

I was stuck in a place of fear. A place where I thought my peers and colleagues would judge me for not wanting to advance in my role or within the company. It took me time to unlearn behaviors around what success means, most of which I inherited from my upbringing. Some of which include, “You should buy house. You should get married. You should have x amount of dollars in your bank account.”  When started to align my values with the type of lifestyle I actually wanted to live, I immediately felt a sense of relief.

After doing a lot of mindset work and working through depression, I finally stepped into my authentic self. It’s amazing what happens in life when you start tapping into your true strengths and start living the life you’ve always dreamed of. I removed the expectations that had been layered upon me from childhood. It took me almost two years to get where I am today: Leaving my 9-5, starting my own business, and empowering others to be their best selves. I’m confident that the decisions I make will only benefit my mental health and overall wellness in the future because they are aligned with my values.

Whether you’re in a job that you worked hard for and you no longer enjoy it, or you’re not keen on climbing the corporate ladder, I’m here to tell you, you’re not a failure.

Nothing defines you unless you allow it.