I Tried the Safe Career and Got Laid Off
When I moved to the City of Angels in 2015, I was a wide-eyed twenty-something, a young woman with big dreams of being a writer and magazine editor. Despite the naysayers, I was a believer that it was possible to simultaneously pursue my passion while making a livable income. A little bit of childlike faith (yes, sometimes I’d click my heels twice) mixed with hard work and persistence meant that I knew nothing and no one could stop me.
Like the Miley Cyrus lyric, “I hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan”—although unlike Miley, I made it to LA after a grueling 24-hour drive from Oklahoma. I will never forget the moment I first saw the Los Angeles skyline. It was so beautiful. I was ready to do whatever it took to make it.
Within my first week, I landed a barista job at Starbucks. The 3:30 a.m. wake times for opening shifts were brutal but worth it—and those shifts meant I could spend my afternoons applying for editorial jobs. Within a month of living in LA, I was invited to interview for an online editorial assistant position.
From there, the ball just kept rolling. One week I had a phone interview, the next an edit test, and the next an in-person interview. After weeks of nail-biting and hoping for the best, I got the job. My first big-girl job in LA.
My first year in LA looked pretty picturesque, career-wise. I worked the 9–5 grind. My commute was only 10 minutes (which is unheard of in LA), and I was managing PR, editing, and getting to write occasionally—all while making good money. It was ideal, but it wasn’t enough. Somewhere around my eighth month, I felt the tide of discontentment rising. For the life of me, I couldn’t get it to subside.
I told myself I’d give it another six months and then re-evaluate my position. Six months came and went, but I didn’t re-evaluate. To be honest, I was scared. My life, my income, my routine, were all so stable, so safe. I didn’t want to upset that because I wasn’t fulfilled in my job. Although my reasons were legitimate (lack of growth in my position, poor communication with my boss, and a feeling of not fitting with the company culture), I stayed. Unhappy and unfulfilled.
Then, life did what it does best. It hit me with a curve ball and landed me right on my butt. I was laid off from my job, unexpectedly and painfully. I thought my dreams were coming true, living in LA and working as an editor, until suddenly my train was derailed. I was at a loss.
In the weeks and months post-layoff, I would learn enough lessons to write a book. Lessons about rejection, bouncing back, how a “no” isn’t always a bad thing, the importance of an emergency fund, and the value of authentic friendships during hard times. I think the biggest lesson I took is this: Sometimes, an unexpected turn in your life can take you down a better path than you could have ever imagined.
When I got laid off, I thought I’d have another full-time editorial role with one to two months minimum. When the first month passed and no jobs were in sight, I began taking on freelance work to supplement my income. As the months crept by without any job leads, slowly but surely, I started to get more freelance work. I began editing, writing, pitching story ideas, and managing social media accounts for numerous publications.
Now, almost nine months since being laid off, the freelance hustle has become my full-time career. I would have never expected to take this route, but honestly, I am so much happier than I ever was in my safe, 9–5 editorial position.
Freelance life is no walk in the park. It takes confidence to pitch ideas to clients. It takes thick skin to hear a no and go back to the drawing board and try again. It takes excellent organizational skills to budget your time wisely between clients and separate your personal and professional life (especially if you work at home). It takes discipline to work when no one is there to tell you to do so. Before, if I missed a deadline it was frowned upon. Now, if I don’t write, I don’t eat.
Freelance life is not for everyone, but my time as a freelance journalist has given me back the confidence my layoff tried to take from me. It has helped remind me that not only do I enjoy writing, but I am also a capable, talented writer. It has also shown me that while writing is something I love, it is not who I am.
Perhaps losing my job was a chance to discover myself and pursue a career path more authentic to that person. My layoff, the “no” that felt like a punch in my gut, only made my skin thicker. I see now that rejection is the perfect time to see the stuff you are made of: perseverance, endurance, strength and grit. Confidence is built out of enduring hard times.
Stephanie Taylor, affectionately known as Stevie, is a two-year LA transplant who has lived in New York, Minnesota and Oklahoma. When she is not writing, you can likely find her in a yoga studio or training for a race.
This story is part of The Billfold’s Career History series.