The Worst Thing An Executive Ever Told Me

My career path has been anything but straightforward. Growing up in “Hollywood North,” I spent most of my childhood on stage and screen. Naturally, a career in television and film seemed like a perfect fit, and for several years I thrived in that creative world, even contributing to several award-winning shows. However, as my family grew, the need for a “steady income” became a reality, necessitating a shift. So, I went back to school, obtained a degree in Professional Communication, and discovered that storytelling translated just as well from the screen to the corporate world. However, a pivotal moment awaited me, prompting another career change that would redefine my professional journey. This is the story of how I embraced entrepreneurship and built my own company.

The Moment the Penny Dropped

Several years into my corporate career, I was faced with what can only be described as the worst case of cognitive dissonance – one thing did not match the other.

It was the time of year for annual bonuses, promotions, and recognition. Like many of my colleagues, I received a customary raise, falling around the 2-5% range. I was grateful for the raise, but learned that other staff were getting raises much higher to my own. While I wasn’t upset, I was curious about what distinguished those who received raises that were much higher, upwards of 10% or more.

Having exceeded all my targets for the year, expanded my role from when I had been first hired, and increased the capacity of our department, I felt I had performed exceptionally. However, my raise did not reflect this. So, in a weekly all-staff meeting, I raised the question: “When evaluating employees for salary increases, what criteria are considered beyond tenure and role changes?” The answer floored me.

The Executive’s Eye-Opening Response

The executive explained that the highest raises were not awarded to those who merely met or exceeded their objectives. Instead, the top raises went to those who went above and beyond, volunteering on weekends, attending events, and serving on boards that benefited the company. When pushed for a deeper explanation, they added that it wasn’t about community involvement per se, but about representing the company during their extra time – in excess of 20-30 hours per week.

A knot of frustration tightened in my stomach. Juggling a young family with work was a constant challenge, and the executive’s explanation made it clear – unless I was willing to trade my family time, there was no path forward for me to financially benefit from simply doing great work.

Now, shortly before this I had begun taking on small side-gigs to help earn some extra money for the family. Mostly by helping friends, contacts, or former university classmates build communication plans, conduct PR outreach, or complete small design jobs whenever parenting duties afforded me time to spare. My day job was well aware of this and even supported my side work. However, the executive’s explanation instantly clarified my path forward.

“Sometimes, the most significant changes come from moments of clarity that challenge us to rethink our potential and pursue paths that truly align with our values and aspirations.”

Running the Numbers

Let’s do the math together. An extra 20 hours per week times 52 weeks equals 1,040 hours per year spent on company-related activities outside of paid work hours. So, even if said overachiever’s raise was a generous $10,000, that would amount to approximately $9.50 per extra hour worked, if they received the raise at all! By contrast, in less than 5 seconds I knew that if I invested the same time into my consulting business, earning $75-$100 per hour, I could potentially earn an extra $78,000-$104,000.

The Leap into Entrepreneurship

In a split second, I made up my mind. I mentally quit my job and dedicated myself to finding as much consulting work as possible. Within three months, I had replaced my regular salary with earnings from that consulting work. The results spoke for themselves. I made the leap and have never looked back.

Reflections on the Journey

Building my own company has been one of the hardest but most rewarding decisions of my life. It has given me the freedom to set my own priorities, pursue projects that excite me, and create value on my own terms. Plus, it has allowed my the flexibility to put family firmly in the front seat of that all-important life-work balance (you read that correctly, not work-life, but life-work).

I share this story not just as a reflection on my career path but as an encouragement to anyone feeling undervalued or constrained in their current role. Sometimes, the most significant changes come from moments of clarity that challenge us to rethink our potential and pursue paths that truly align with our values and aspirations.

Make the leap. Do what you’ve been dreaming of doing. Or, at least take that first step. You don’t need to know exactly where you are going, but I’m pretty sure you can see what the next step is on your path. Take it and let me know how it goes.

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Loomo is a full-service branding, creative design, and marketing agency with offices in Vancouver and Victoria, BC. We are dedicated to doing whatever it takes to see your business grow. 

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The Worst Thing An Executive Ever Told Me

Sometimes, the most significant changes come from moments of clarity that challenge us to rethink our potential and pursue paths that truly align with our values and aspirations.