So for the first time in 22 years, I am without title, colleagues, payroll.... Time is slowing down and my type 'A' brain doesn't like it. I'm excited to start my next opportunity yet keenly aware of the few weeks I will have here to learn, grow, and build more deeply my professional network and personal friendships.
Our startup might be acquired (I hope -- we scaled down due to cash constraints). I remain an equity owner and fan of this awesome technology to crowdsource jobs and enable all American's to be recruiters for their friends.
Tonight I am speaking at the DC Lean StartupCircle about the Rollercoaster Ride, the awesome ride this past 10 months, and sincerely hope I can add some value to other Startups on our successes and failings. I call this my 'Starter' Startup, but that's not truly the case. There was another one...
Twenty years ago I sat in my apartment at 50/60 Longwood Avenue in Brookline, Mass., and made a decision to start another company, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE- Boston). There was no salary, no revenues, no board, just a shared vision that every child living in poverty should learn the fundamental lifeskill of entrepreneurship. I gleaned courage at the age of 22 to start it up in Boston from a few amazing mentors (thank you, Mike Caslin, past national CEO, and Steve Mariotti, NFTE's founder) who believed in me and gave me a chance to build without a playbook.
My grandfather was an early investor in Sanford Inc. (Sharpie pens, Expo dry erase markers, Mr. Sketch) so I was in a good financial position to take a risk and completely and utterly follow my heart and create an company and career opportunity which I did from October 13, 1991 to June 28, 2012 building NFTE locally in Boston, DC Region, Baltimore and nationally.
Through building and serving now almost 600,000 youth globally, we have proven that teaching entrepreneurship is a phenomenal way of teaching math, reading and writing as it brings the three 'R's' of education to life and taps into the enlightened interest of youth. Couple that with learning how to 'code' and use cutting edge technology and low-income youth will have tremendous advantages in this new economy.
As I move to my next growing company and opportunities, I thought I should take pause and share four things I have learned so far about being in career transition:
1] "Julie, I like it when you're not working" more than one friend has said to me. I am so much more available to my family and friends. People around me all have challenges and great things happening. I have more time for phone conversation and my listening skills are becoming top notch. I listen more carefully and then can more easily connect people to personal and professional opportunity. One friend needed me to go to court with her, another to help write a Bar Mitzvah speech, one charity was in crisis and I had time to spend hours and really assist the board. This morning I had a tea ceremony orchestrated by my 10-year-old daughter for four 'stuffed' pandas visiting from 'out of town.' She organized plans for their week, tea, strawberries with grape jam, and gave them each vouchers for Spa World and a visit to meet their relatives at the National Zoo.
2] I am a spiritual person and a friend told me last night that when God takes something away, he/she is creating space for something awesome! I truly believe that and view myself going down a river now. The waters may be cold and turbulent but I am no longer holding onto a 'job' branch out of the water. I am on a journey and when I find another good professional 'FIT' opportunity, I will grab a stronger branch and get out of the water. I learned that some branches are green and break quickly and some we hold onto probably for too long in my journey. For now, I have to embrace the currents, hit a few rocks, maybe build a boat and do some real swimming.
3] I asked people for help which was hard for me as I am a very self-sufficient Virgo with a decent to large ego. That was a great move. Humbling and rewarding. People in my network agreed to help, make introductions, give advice. They are helping and now every day I have another opportunity to explore, another interview, another four key contacts connecting on LinkedIn thanks to my network and not being too proud to ask for help. I also decided to offer my time 12 hours a week for few respected causes. I took on leadership roles that require a lot of brain power and keeps me engaging and growing further my professional relationships which I really enjoy.
4] Being unemployed doesn't pay the mortgage so I certainly dont want to share only the upside, but I also know that these moments of total time freedom are fleeting. I will be 'back to work' soon. I know that I can learn from this process what I love so much that I would actually do for free and this will help drive my decision ultimately on what's next. I learned that I like to: build companies, to make decisions, to have partners, to network, to advise charities and startup executives, that I find the job search space fascinating, that I love building entrepreneurial ecosystem and connect entrepreneurs and investors. I also learned that I really like making jewelry for friends with semi-precious stones like tiger eye, seeing my husband walk out the door to his new job in an elegant suit with a skip in his step, and most of all having tea parties with my fifth grade daughter before she treks off to school and leaves me home in my black UGG slippers, jeans, flipping on my computer to start today's unchartered course as a free agent.