What I’ve Been Doing With My Life
“What’ve you been up to?”
That’s a pretty benign question, right?
Up until May of 2018, I almost always offered up the same answer no matter who was asking or when.
“Oh not much. Work’s good - Chris and I are still at Scorpion. Been pretty uneventful lately.”
I don’t mean to say that my life was boring, but it was very, very consistent aside from occasional travel, and even that developed its own rhythm and familiarity.
The reason this changed in May is that’s when I got hired at Moz. To put into perspective of how much of a shakeup this was, here’s some context:
I had been at the same company for 6.5 years.
It was my first “professional” job after college. I’d never really worked anywhere else.
I had a great role and a great team (#SuperTeam4EverInOurHearts).
I wasn’t actually looking to leave.
And then I saw this:
I have no problem admitting that, like most SEOs, I was a total Moz fangirl. I had also been spearheading a ton of SEO training initiatives for my organization and was loving it. Apparently, both those things were enough for me to bypass the fact that:
This was a short-term contract, and
The job was based in Seattle, and I live in Los Angeles
My thought process at the time went something like this:
How cool would it be to work for Moz and get to teach people about SEO? I should apply just to see how far I get. On the off chance that I get this, I hope Scorpion would just treat this as an extended leave and let me come back after my contract ends. If Moz let me work remotely, I could even come into the Scorpion office and check in on things every once in a while to make sure the team was running smoothly!
My first day at Moz was June 4. A few weeks after I left Scorpion, they dissolved my department. I didn’t hear back from them when my contract was ending at Moz - what would my job have looked like anyway?
I truly harbor no resentment over this, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the fact that I left on good terms. My husband still works there. Lots of my closest friends still work there. I still say “we” when referencing Scorpion. It’ll always be part of who I am.
That’s not to say it was easy though. When my team was dissolved, it made me feel that the work I had done to develop that department wasn’t important. And when no one contacted me to see if I was interested in coming back after my Moz contract was up, I felt abandoned. I say this not to disparage the company, but for the sake of transparency. This is how I felt, legitimate or not.
This was new to me. I was going from managing a department of 30 and being a part of both the leadership and training teams (read: I talked with people all day) to working from home, alone.
Needless to say, I dealt with a lot of anxiety over this. I was constantly thinking up ways to fill up my calendar, stay active, and stay engaged.
Here’s the thing. Work is not your social life. I know it feels like it, especially if you work in a hip, young “Google-y” office with bean bags, free food, and video games. But it’s not. It’s just not. Do you get social interaction at the workplace? Absolutely! And I miss that. But working from home highlighted the fact that nothing has to change if I truly have a social life.
Don’t use work as your crutch for a social life. As the catalyst for one? Sure! But please don’t say that remote workers don’t (or struggle to have) social interaction. Unless you choose to do nothing in the evenings or on your weekends (and it is a choice), that’s just not true.
So all those well-meaning people who said things like:
“Aren’t you lonely?” Some days, yeah, CAROL. Thanks for reminding me.
“Do you ever get out of the house?” Do you think that remote work also means I had to give up my car keys?
“Do you wear sweat pants every day?” Again, CAROL, it’s a case-by-case situation. If I’m going to the gym after work and I’m not seeing anyone before that, why should I wear anything but stretchy pants?
“I could never do that. I’m too social!” Not only does this imply that only introverts are capable of remote work. It implies that I myself am an introvert (I am not).
...please just be sensitive to the struggles remote workers have to deal with.
Working remotely is fine, but it’s hard.
Working in an office is fine, but it’s hard.
Life in general is full of tough situations we have to navigate, regardless of where we work.
I got through some of the hard days by telling myself that this was only short-term. I even had a countdown written on my bathroom mirror for a while.
So about that whole “short-term” thing…
The end of my contract
I was leaving Moz right as I felt like I was getting to know it. Six months really isn’t a long time.
Because my boss was leaving to go on paternity a little before my engagement with Moz was supposed to be over, he was responsible for giving me a definitive “yes or no” regarding any possible extension (there had been talk of that being a possibility, but it was never promised and I never expected this).
On his last day, he gave me the official “no.” We said our goodbyes, and I booked my final trip up to the office to film a few last Whiteboard Fridays.
At this point (late October - my contract would be over at the end of November), I started looking for new jobs. I decided to post on Twitter to see if I could get any leads there.
I could not believe the response. If you’re reading this and you were one of the many people who liked/shared/messaged to help me in my search, I want to sincerely thank you. Most of you have never even met me in person or worked with me directly, so I’m truly grateful for the care you gave for my situation.
By the time I flew up to Moz for my final visit, I was in fairly serious talks with about five people. I filmed my Whiteboard Fridays, I said goodbye to people, and I even got to catch up with an old Scorpion friend who had just moved up to Seattle. It was a great trip.
The day of my flight back home, I get an email from my boss’s boss (who was not in Seattle at the time). Apparently, although they were originally unable to get any new contracts approved, they were now able to, and wanted to see if I’d be willing to stay.
What an interesting predicament.
My contract extension
Remember, I love Moz, but I had also just gotten a taste of what other opportunities might be available to me. Do I stay and forego those opportunities? Or do I go and leave the company I worked so hard to join?
As per usual with me, I decided to try for both.
I responded to the offer asking if I could work part-time at Moz so that I could pursue my own opportunities.
In my mind, this was a great opportunity to continue working for Moz while getting back into the practitioner’s seat -- my job at Moz is “SEO Wordsmith,” which means I write and speak about SEO without actually doing any SEO. I was afraid of getting rusty, so to me this seemed like the best of both worlds.
The response was positive - I could do both! As of December 2018, my contract was renewed for another six months at part-time.
It’s not uncommon for me to get the occasional request for SEO or content services, but for some reason I had never thought about turning that into a business.
Sometime in mid-December, shortly after Moz renewed my contract, I opened up a fresh Google doc and started jotting down some notes and clippings of things I liked. I guess it was sort of like a vision board.
There was a megaphone. The word “soapbox.” A list of some of my favorite things to do (content strategy, copywriting, content pruning, etc.). A hodgepodge of bright, fun colors and stock photos of people working in an agency.
Yeah I guess that’s totally a vision board.
I shared it with my husband and he immediately said “Should I buy the domain?”
Woah. I was just messing around. You mean we’re actually going to take the steps to do this thing?
He responded as if I was crazy, “Well yeah, what’s stopping you? You have a vision and you’re going to make it amazing. No doubt.”
Chris is great because he has enough confidence for two people. He always transfers some of that to me when I feel stuck, uncertain, or inadequate.
So, Soapboxly was born! Like any good side hustle, it’s moving slowly but surely. It’s “ready” enough to have launched a website (even though there’s plenty I still want and need to do), and every day I get a little closer to actualizing my vision.
While it’s just me and my husband right now, my ultimate goal is for it to grow into a boutique agency. We’ve got big plans, so stay tuned!
Haha…yeah. So before all of this, I had applied to Purdue’s graduate program in communication advertising.
As soon as I started working from home, I started looking for ways to keep busy (see “existential dread cartoon” above). I had always wanted to go to grad school, and would have done so right after getting my undergraduate degree if I hadn’t gotten such a great job.
Once I started working from home, I felt I had the time and schedule flexibility needed to finally realize that dream.
Here’s the thing though. By the time my first semester was starting (first week of January), I had just made Soapboxly official. I was not only working at Moz and doing the occasional side project, but I was also spending 10-15 hours a week on grad school while also trying to get my business off the ground.
I love school because I love learning. But you know what? I’m also learning a ton by starting a business. It’s hard to reconcile spending so much time on theoretical knowledge when I could be spending it on practical knowledge that could grow my business.
I’m still currently in grad school, but to be fully transparent, I may take a few semesters off to dedicate to Soapboxly.
Mark & Method
Did I mention that I’m overly ambitious?
When my friend Franzine started looking for someone to co-host a podcast with her, of course I volunteered. Because honestly, how fun does that sound?
She already had the greatest idea. The podcast would be called Mark & Method, a play on the words branding and marketing. She, as the design and branding expert, would serve as the “Mark” while I, with the background in digital marketing, would serve as the “Method.”
We’ve only recorded one episode so far, but let me tell you, I can already tell it’s going to be so much fun. And not only that. I know it’s going to add value.
The podcast is specifically geared toward startups, entrepreneurs, and really any relatively new business owner who feels overwhelmed by the thought of branding and marketing their business.
As an entrepreneur myself now, I’m incredibly passionate about helping people with amazing ideas and talent be able to spend more time doing what they’re good at and less time worrying about learning how to market themselves.
Yeah, also that.
I’ve yet to venture into the world of conference speaking, but I’m not unfamiliar to teaching -- I spearheaded most of the SEO trainings at my last organization. I loved it and miss it.
So one thing I’m really excited about this year is the possibility of taking various speaking engagements. Right now, I’ve got four good potentials (none confirmed just quite yet) and I’m really excited about them.
I love speaking because it keeps me sharp. Having to explain something to someone else forces you learn the subject well. I mean really well. This is especially true when your audience is your fellow practitioners.
If you’re reading this and are either looking for speakers or know someone who is, please reach out! I’d love to challenge myself in this new way this year.
I can’t do everything (& no one should)
Honestly, I’m probably even forgetting something.
While I love saying “yes” to things, I know I can’t keep that up forever. I’m learning (slowly) that I need to say “no” to some things. Even those things that seem really fun and exciting and great opportunities.
Because what happens when I say “yes” to everything is that I burn out quickly and end up not being able to dive deeply into any one thing. Instead, I’m spread thinly over many things. That’s why you’ll probably notice mistakes on my website (that’s not an invitation to hunt for them - for real, I don’t have the emotional stability to handle that right now) or I might forget a meeting or miss an email now-and-then.
One thing I do see as a worthy use of my time is creating more positive connections (and positivity in general) in our professional community. As I’m sure has not gone unnoticed to you, we could all use a bit more of that.
So I’d like to extend an invitation to anyone who’s made it this far (seriously you deserve a medal) to reach out if you ever need a good word. We may have never met, but I’m here for you.
Here’s to doing less so we can impact more.