This one is for all my boss ladies, the Chingonas, the hustle queens that grind to make their lives better every single day on this earth. We don’t make excuses; we make sacrifices. We work multiple jobs, we go to school, we wear many hats. And we do it for the sole purpose of blasting Destiny’s Child’s Independent Women, Pt. 1 at full volume in our self-bought cars scream-singing “all the honeys who makin’ money, throw your hands up at me babyyyy”.
But when you start out with nothing, independence is really hard to come by. The struggle to make something of yourself is enough to put you in your grave. It takes serious ambition, and the ability to keep pushing through difficulties to get out on the other end.
I’ve always felt a strong sense of independence, even as a child. A psychologist might say my independent mentality was a self-preservation technique to gain a sense of control over my somewhat chaotic upbringing, but like, whatever.
Fast forward to my decision to marry young, and marry into the military no less. I didn’t realize at the time what that meant, even though I didn’t enlist, my life belonged to the US government. Where I lived and how I often I moved was no longer a choice.
It meant every few semesters I would be displaced, find a new job, re-enroll in whatever school was available, lose many credit hours toward my degree, and start anew. I moved seven times in the seven years I was married. I didn’t regret my choices, but it made my ability to gain my degree and start a career damn near impossible. And because I was still in school, I was financially dependent on my spouse.
Started from the bottom, now we — 😕
When my marriage ended it finally meant true independence… which wasn’t necessarily a good thing. I declined the alimony my ex offered because it felt wrong to accept when I was the one choosing to leave. So, because of my principles, I was now out on my own, a full-time student and part-time employee working several low-pay jobs. I moved into a house with four roommates and still barely made my measly $450 rent.
My levels of stress and anxiety were a rollercoaster: Did I make a mistake? Will I ever survive to graduation? What if I don’t get a good job? Will I ever be financially secure? This ‘independence’ thing wasn’t all that appealing anymore.
All I could think about was money, my career path, day dreaming of a nice apartment and a bank account that I didn’t have to check on a daily basis. My only goal was to be a boss ass sugar mama, but instead, the financial strain eventually led to moving back in with my mom. 👍
In my last semester I got an internship that paid a whopping $12 an hour. I took it because I knew it was valuable on my resume and necessary to get my foot in the door. But nothing says “WINNER” like a 29-year-old intern living with mom and still trying to get a damn undergrad. Every single day that I woke up, I felt like a capital-L Loser. Seeing all my successful friends on Instagram and LinkedIn post about promotions and vacations to Saint Tropez only added to that feeling.
BUT. Within a few months of interning and graduating, I got a job offer in the news industry that paid $36,000 a year. It was just enough to get my own teeny tiny place, and still have no money in my bank account.
The feeling was a mix of accomplishment and frustration. I was happy to have the job and my own space but it wasn’t enough. I needed and wanted more.
Everyone I worked with were young fresh graduates, and they all had the same plan. There’s some unspoken rule that you must work for a company for a minimum of three years before applying elsewhere. Company hopping on your resume supposedly makes prospective hirers think you’re disloyal or problematic.
I have to tell you, THIS IS THE BIGGEST LOAD OF PROFESSIONAL SHIT you could ever fall for — particularly when you’re just starting out. What loyalty do you owe a company that isn’t loyal to you? How many promises of “opportunity” and “growth” do you hear from an interviewer, only to find out that the only growth you’ll experience is additional duties within the same role yet no pay increase.
There was no way in hell I would stick out three more years of being broke AF. So my plan was to keep pushing myself up the ladder, and to never stop looking for opportunities. I was accepting new jobs with higher pay, on a yearly basis. With each job I was growing my skill set which only created more opportunity for me.
There is one key element that I lived by during this time, I wasn’t merely throwing my resume out there and taking any job that paid a buck more. I was looking for the right jobs, and when I found them, I did every single thing in my power to take on more responsibility within the role, prove my worth to my superiors, and try to move up the ladder.
Every time the company faced an issue, needed more hands, or there was something outside my scope, I was the first one to raise my hand. And I was usually the only one to raise my hand. The corporate world is truly a sea of people doing the bare minimum, and the bare minimum really isn’t my style.
If I didn’t have the necessary background for the ask, I figured it out. I wasn’t faking it, I was putting in the time and research to do whatever was necessary to get the job done. Sticking to that mentality, and building my worth to those around me, I worked my way into promotions and new positions. In less than three years, I went from $36,000 to a six figure income. So the “three-year” rule can kiss my ass.
Eventually, you’ll find a company that you love working for and in return will value your contribution and not let you go. These are the employers that deserve your loyalty and tenure.
— Now we here.
Thinking back on those stressful times to where I’m at now can bring me to tears. I went from removing things out of my grocery basket at the checkout counter in a panic, to having my favorite energy drink, in bulk, on a monthly subscription from Amazon, i.e., baller status.
I didn’t let those stressful times defeat me, and I didn’t blame others for my hard lot. I packed down all of that frustration and distress into a ball in my gut, I allowed myself five minutes every day to cry or have a full blown panic attack, and then recouped and pushed on.
What does it take?
Making a decision to start over, going back to school (at whatever age), pursuing post-grad, starting your own business, changing careers — whatever it may be — is daunting. There’s always so many reasons not to, so many obstacles and fears to face. And it all sounds maybe not that bad when you read the overview of my experience in five minutes, but the reality was years of absolute misery and stress.
It takes putting yourself out there on the edge, networking, sleepless nights, low-to-no funds, part-time shitty jobs, sacrificing instant gratification, comparing yourself to those more successful around you, questioning why some have it so easy when you have it so hard, and maybe some psychiatric hospitalization, among other things.
Some actual tips: if you work in web design, or communications, build a stellar online portfolio with your best work samples. You can build one on a platform like this (WordPress) or other sites like Wix for free. It’s super easy and fun — just like building your rad MySpace profile, circa 2006. I’ve had many interviewers give unsolicited positive feedback on my portfolio.
LinkedIn and Indeed are my go-to for finding new positions, so make sure to build a strong profile and recruiters will come to you. In my last two jobs, I didn’t apply to the companies, I was scouted by their recruiting teams based on my profile.
For those of you going through the struggle right now, I know the finish line seems forever away. It seems un-accomplishable and sometimes obstacles push your finish line miles further than you expected. But the only thing that can keep you from crossing it, is yourself. Yourself is the only thing you have control over. Just keep grinding, keep Destiny’s Child on repeat, and you will find yourself in a better life. And once you’re there, it’s that much easier to keep pushing for more and more.
Thanks for reading babes & love you! Feel free to comment your shared experiences because I love to hear em, and subscribe if you want to hang around 🙂