Setting Fire to the Ship

It seemed like an innocent enough request. “Can we call you if we have questions?” asked the interim CEO of the non-profit I will be leaving on Friday. “We would pay you as a contractor for your time, of course,” she added. Being me, I said sure. After all, what’s the harm in taking a phone call every now and then?

If my life were a movie, you might hear the familiar strains of my theme music in the background right about now. I goes something like ~

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
‘Relax’ said the night man,
‘We are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave!’

Somehow my saying “sure” turned into a request for “5 hours a week, to start”.

This is my 3rd time to quit this same job, and the 3rd time someone has asked me to stay in some way, shape, form, or fashion. One day, I’m sure I’ll look back on this whole thing and laugh, but on that particular day, I didn’t find it funny at all.

I spent my whole weekend stressing over how best to say no, wrestling with whether “no” was even the right thing to say. I mean, 5 hours is nothing. I could do that in my sleep and I’d be earning at least some money, right?

Not even my head could rationalize that in a way that convinced my heart.

After struggling for what seemed like hours to find the right words to backtrack my way out of this mess I had inadvertently (almost) agreed to, I decided to take a break and read. Right now, I’m reading One Woman Farm by Jenna Woginrich, a book about sheep and growing things; absolutely the farthest thing in the world from my problems with work. Wrong!

In the midst of chopping wood or butchering a pig (I can’t remember which), Jenna starts talking about failure. Specifically, she tells the story of how Cortez, upon arriving in the New World in 1519, set fire to his ships. His idea was simple – with no way to return home, his men had no choice but to give their all to this new venture.

I thought about that for a good minute and I knew. There was no way I was going to move forward on my own if I still had any connection to my old job. 5 hours or 25 hours, it didn’t matter, they both represented the same thing – a commitment to continue on a path I’d been trying to get off of for more than three years. I had to burn the ship.

So I did. And I did it with just that same anecdote. Whether they enjoyed the story of Cortez, I’ll never know. I never received a reply to that email, just a note from HR confirming my eligibility for COBRA benefits and a payout of my vacation days at the end of this month. But that’s okay. For the first time in all the many years I have had this job, I actually said no when I meant no, and I have no regrets.

Hiding in Plain Sight

I outed myself on LinkedIn this week. I figured it was high time everyone knew the truth, if for no other reason than to stop the onslaught of solicitous emails that I receive every week. Okay, pull your mind back on track! This is LinkedIn we’re talking about. The closet I came out of this time was the one that a lot of us as bloggers like to hide in, the one where we are open about who we are in our posts but disguise ourselves as somebody else when it comes to the “real world”.

Truthfully, I don’t visit my LinkedIn profile very often. It bores me. It’s basically a series of paragraphs detailing my prior work experience and what I have accomplished at each job, written in the same voice that I use to craft compelling narratives for prospective grant funders.  My HR friends say that it’s a great profile and that it paints the picture of someone who is “highly employable”. And guess what! It works…too well sometimes.

In an average week, I get at least two emails that start off with “I saw your profile on LinkedIn”. Most are from folks looking for someone in my area to do merchandising work, a few are from IT companies, and the rest are from non-profits looking for a grant writer. Occasionally I may read one of these emails, but more often than not, they get deleted. Why? Because I have about zero interest in getting another job. I’m even avoiding side-hustles this year. But folks browsing around LinkedIn don’t know that. They see an over-achieving workaholic with a giant list of accomplishments that anyone would be proud of. But am I proud of them? Yes…maybe…sometimes. You know what I am most proud of though? The things that I do outside of my job – things that, if you were to look at my LinkedIn profile, you would never know about.

I work 32 hours a week. Nowhere in my profile do I even mention what I do with the other 136 hours – the things that are the true essence of who I am as a person – like volunteering in the community or working to end food waste; and nowhere do I mention this blog. In fact, I purposely left out this information because (at the time it was created) I didn’t want current (or future) employers to know I was committed to anything that wasn’t “work related”. How silly is that?!?

If I’m not looking for work, do I even need a LinkedIn profile? I’ve been debating this with myself for a few months now. On the one hand, I could delete it. Just disappear from the platform altogether. I’d probably be okay with that, except that I have connections on LinkedIn that I don’t have on any other social media site and sometimes I like to reach out to those people for advice. So, my other option was to change my profile – create a more accurate picture of the person that it represents – and hope to attract opportunities that are more in-line with with my interests. (And by opportunities, I mean collaborations, volunteer gigs, and new connections with folks that share my goals and dreams.)

So instead of hiding in plain sight, I sat down this week and updated my LinkedIn profile. Where I was once an experienced grant writer, web content author, and non-profit development professional, I am now a minimalist blogger, food waste warrior, and perpetual student of life – who happens to also write grants. The professional photo of me at the airport on my way to NY for a conference has now been replaced by a fun pic of me at the zoo. The wordy paragraphs are gone and, in their place, a simple list of my previous employers. I didn’t discuss my strengths or detail my accomplishments, because it’s not important. There’s no point in being “highly employable” if your main goal in life is to spend less time as an employee.

Right now, I write grants. Before that I built e-commerce websites. Before that I trained sales reps to sell pet products. And before that, I don’t even remember. Alongside these various career paths, I’ve delivered phone books, drove a day-care bus, reset the soup aisle at Walmart, and worked about 40 other side hustles. Next year, I may still be writing grants (I kind of like this gig) or I may be selling hot dogs outside Lowe’s. I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t really care. I work to live. I don’t live to work.

My new profile says all that and I’m pretty happy with it, though for a minute I felt really exposed after I finalized it. You see, for the first time ever, I included a link to this blog, essentially connecting my “professional” life with my “personal” life and letting all the folks I work with in on what I consider to be my proudest accomplishments. Every piece of my life is now connected. I am who I am because of the things I have chosen to do with my life. From working in a warehouse to diving in a dumpster, these are the things that comprise the whole of who I am. To separate life into “work” and “play” and hide one to showcase the other, that’s not just inaccurate, it’s self-limiting.

So, what does this mean to folks who are looking to use LinkedIn as their CV? Everything! As someone who was once responsible for hiring dozens of employees a month, I can tell you that the best resumes, the ones that I called in for interviews, were not the polished ones. They were the honest ones, the ones that showed that the person had a life outside of their job. People who are passionate about their life make excellent employees – maybe because we have other things to do with our time so our expectations from any one job are few. I don’t know, but from my own experience, I believe that could be true.

What are your thoughts? Do you include your personal goals, your hobbies, your side hustles, or your interests on your professional resume or LinkedIn profile? If not, why?

PS – I’d love to connect with more folks from the blogging, zero-waste, minimalist, and simple living communities on LinkedIn. Send me a request at linkedin.com/in/melodyglover/.