Last week I started my first full time office job for nearly 5 years. Big changes. I am dusting off my public health training and working for a super awesome, Durham based start-up that specializes in clinical research in resource limited parts of the world in need of vaccines, medicines, and other health interventions. For example, managing an Ebola vaccine clinical trial in Sierra Leone. I get to manage proposals, which means I get to learn about how to bring expertise together to ask for big money for complex projects. If you haven’t guessed yet, this skill is very important for learning how to ask the government for big money to train high-end sewers to sew up garments to measure for women. So for those of you worried that the fun ends here with the apparel dream: fear not.
Rather, I am entering a stage in the apparel work that will occur nights and weekends. Many of the readers here will be able to relate to this. Many entrepreneurs build businesses this way. Some of us have children that we raise when we are not at work. I have a business.
And, of course, when it rains, it pours. Reid Miller Apparel was accepted into a manufacturing technology business incubator called the Commercialization Station in Bluefield, WV – the town over from our likely destination for the Women’s Made to Measure Fit Lab and Atelier. I get to work with a brilliant innovator in manufacturing, Dr. Bruce Mutter to apply digital pattern making to made to measure womenswear to make a case for investing in high quality sewing jobs in West Virginia. We hope to make 100 made to measure women’s blouses with digital pattern adaptation software and WV sewers over the coming year, to demonstrate that we have a business concept worth supporting.
I have been talking a lot about trust as of late. I’ve taken a radical perspective recently on trust. Trust that I can share my truth, that I am enough, and that I deserve everything I need to make my dream life come true. Yet it’s not always a peaceful flow of trust. I spent the week before my job worrying about how it would be. Whether I’d like it. Whether it would overwhelm my life, energy and time. Nervous, agitated, running from task to task to avoid the discomfort of facing my fear about the unknown job I was entering.
And then my first week arrived. For the first time in my life I felt like I belonged to an office. The team is very smart, and very kind, and fun to work with. People take their work seriously, but not themselves. I get to bike to work everyday. As I get better at sewing I will get to experiment with wearing prototypes to work since we are solidly business casual. I genuinely feel like my skills are valued. I feel pushed to learn and do my best. I love it. I am dumbfounded by this feeling.
And I was reflecting on why this was so surprising. Many of us older millennials entered the job market around 2008. Our early experiences were of the endless unpaid internships, the scarcity of jobs and the seemingly overabundance of qualified candidates with two masters degrees. Of going back for more and more training, taking on larger volumes of debt to be more competitive.
If we are women, often we ended up as the note taker in spite of advanced degrees and training, or got to witness our ideas attributed to male colleagues during a meeting. I had sketchy instances of supervisors publishing my work without my name on it. Of the drained energy of workers in dysfunctional organizations. Few of you know that I spent 1.5 years looking for a good job that would support me on my long path to my dream. 1.5 years of cover letters, informational interviews, Linkedin page updates and then again, resume update, resume update again. So brutal. At some points I wondered if I had any skills at all that someone would be willing to pay for. Seriously. You likely know the feeling when you get those automated emails (if you’re lucky) telling you that they had so many great candidates and best of luck with your continued search.
So I suppose that it is unsurprising that it was hard for me to imagine a good job situation. The idea of a rewarding job, that paid well, and supported me to live the life I want just defied my imagination.
And yet after shifting my mindset to wholeheartedly trust that things would work out, I found myself in this job. If you, like me, have walked this tough path of post 2008 recession job market searches, or have experienced the precarious workplace experiences that led up to the #MeToo movement, and you are looking for the next opportunity to support your dream life, I challenge you to let yourself imagine something better and then trust wholeheartedly that it will come.