The Recession is Bullhonkey: Eileen’s Story

This is part of The Recession is Bullhonkey series, where I share stories of those who have gotten hired and/or started their own businesses (or sometimes both!) since 2008. This is Eileen‘s Story, and if you can relate to “boring office job + crazy boss” being your reality, then definitely read on.


Original photo by Eileen

I once had a friend tell me how grateful she was for all the horrible jobs and bosses she’d had over the years – with the reasoning that if they had only been marginally bad?  She might never have left.  I heard that sentiment loud and clear, as a boring office job + crazy boss was my reality for nine years.  This story is not so much about working there though, but about how I left.

For starters, you might be wondering . . . if it was really that miserable, why did I stay so long?  The truth is complicated, but I’d say the two biggest reasons were:

  1. Crazy people can be alternately really cruel, and really funny.  Those funny moments combined with a sense of responsibility and love for my small staff probably kept me around much longer than they should have.
  2. At about the seven year mark when it was crystal clear that it was time for me to leave – the recession had taken its’ toll on our family, in the form of my ex-husband being unemployed.  Oh sure, it was great that he was able to take the kids to all their activities, and be around on the days when they didn’t have school, but what it looked like to me was that I was earning the sole income for the family.  And with my job & pay came medical benefits for the kids, my ability to help with bills, more responsibility and a lot of anxiety.

My biggest worry was that I wouldn’t be able to find a new job that would pay me what I was making at that time, and the fact that my employer told me on a regular basis that he was paying me too much didn’t do anything to quell those fears.

I knew I had to try though, so over a two-year period I posted my resume and applied for jobs here and there, which led to a few interviews.  At one point I even got offered a position with the same salary, which I politely turned down.  I felt a little nuts saying no at the time, but something about having to take out my nose-ring to work in an office just didn’t sit very well with me – a sign that it probably wasn’t a good fit. (I.e. if it was a requirement of my dream job?  I would have taken it out and never looked back!)  Honestly?  I was comfortable where I was and being a lifelong resistor of change, I wasn’t mustering up the mojo I needed to find something new.

The moment of clarity came in May of 2011, after I had been cross-training someone else on my job duties for several months (with the verbal understanding that I wasn’t being replaced).  I went on vacation for my 40th birthday, and while I was gone the staff was told that I was going to be leaving within 30 days.  I was given a different message when I returned to work, which was that my hours were going to be reduced to part-time within 90 days.

So there I was.

My boss was telling me I was overpaid.

My ex was telling me not to quit.

The world was telling me that it was the worst time in decades to look for a new job.

And I believed it all, which left me completely immobilized by fear.

The cruel reality was that I had no choice.  My comfy days were over and I had to take the leap of faith.  I felt like Indiana Jones at the end of The Last Crusade.  You know where they think they’ve found the location of The Holy Grail, and the only way to get to it is across a giant chasm with no bridge?  And then he throws dirt out over the void and an invisible walkway appears?  Yah – like that, but with more tears.

The next day my job search went into hyper-drive.  I spent morning, noon and night cruising job postings on Craigslist.  I put my resume on, networked on LinkedIn and put the word out to every single vendor and professional contact I had worked with over nine years.  If you were my friend, relative, neighbor or I had just met you on the little league field – you knew I was looking for a job.

In addition (and perhaps even more importantly), I consciously chose a new approach:  I decided to apply for any and every job that sounded like it was something I would LOVE, regardless of how much or how little it paid, and whether or not I had the required experience.  In essence I opened myself up to the universe and said, “I’m ready for something amazing . . . bring it!”

I think it was that mindset, more than anything else that got me the job I have now – a mere eight weeks after I started my search.

Here’s what it looked like by the numbers:  In two months I sent out 82 cover letters which led to five interviews, three second-interviews, and ONE job offer with a negotiated salary of just a hair more than I’d been making before.  YES!

I will say that as a photographer and artist, I would have loved to have seized the opportunity (of you know – basically getting fired) and struck out on my own to make it big as a full-time creative person.  To say the timing wasn’t right for that would be a giant understatement.  So this new job?  It wasn’t the full-time creative gig I had been dreaming of, but it did give me the opportunity to do something that was part of my long-term goal . . . teach!  For almost a year I had been simmering on an idea for a photography e-course but wasn’t sure about teaching it since I had no experience.  Now I could check that off the list – awesome!

From then on, at the same time as I was embracing a giant learning curve at work, I jumped into creating my photography class full tilt.  Every minute of free time over the next six months was spent writing, photographing, video-ing, researching, advertising, social networking . . . you get the picture.  It was a bit over the top, but on April 1st of 2012 I launched my photography e-course:  {eye} wonder ::  intuitive photography for everyday people ::  I felt like I’d just run a marathon, and I was so proud of myself.

In my darkest hour I listened to a lot of people tell me stories about how a bad economy was going to impact my job search.  But when I tuned those voices out and listened to the only one that mattered – mine! – I manifested an amazing career opportunity and created a kick-ass online photography class.  Gratitude for crappy jobs & bad bosses?  Hell YES!  All part of the perfect-storm that has gotten me to where I am today.

Eileen Profile PicEileen Nishi is a global “waker” in the making, enlivening and inspiring others through her many roles as an insightful photographer, e-course instructor, loyal friend, devoted baseball mama & believer in the universe. She blogs at





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