Erica Williams Simon is a writer, host, and the CEO of Sage House media. Her new book reveals how she re-wrote her life story and shares how you can do the same. She walked us through how she makes tough decisions, starting with how she quit a perfect-on-paper job and moved across the country.
Here’s a skimm of our conversation with Erica.
On Learning from an Unfulfilling Work Environment
Carly: A lot of people would say they also are gut-driven. What you were talking about resonates with them, which is that there are very key parts of themselves that they are bringing to work, and then parts of themselves that maybe people don't see yet… but that doesn't mean that those people are gonna necessarily quit their jobs and start something. So I'm very curious what advice you would give to those people about how to thrive in a more corporate environment.
Erica: I would see these environments as, "Okay, this is like school. I'm here to learn something." Learn people, learn what it is they're doing and how they are making decisions, and I started to see it as a challenge to kind of learn as much as I could. We tend to... have very surface and shallow conversations with the people that we work with. The more I was really transparent and honest at work about what I was struggling with at work… the more my connections with my bosses were authentic and they actually wanted to help me thrive.
On the Stigma (and Challenges) Of Quitting
Carly: Lots of people have a job and feel like, "This isn't me." Like, "I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm not fulfilled because of a multitude of reasons, but ultimately this isn't for me." That doesn't mean that everybody [says], "Okay, I'm gonna take a step back and rewrite my story."
Erica: … There's a stigma around the idea of quitting. And I just encourage people not to abruptly quit or make unwise decisions, but to know that it is okay to step away from something that isn't serving you. The world will not end, if you can figure out, and we'll get into that part, the financial piece of it, which is huge.
I just want to take away the stigma of that, because sometimes you have to take a step away. Even if you can't quit your job though, I do think it's imperative that however you can in your life, that you create some space, as opposed to just dwelling in the unhappiness and the being unfulfilled and the complaining.
On ‘Bringing Your Whole Self’ To Work:
Danielle: How do you react when people say, "I want to be able to bring my whole self to work"?
Erica: It's very rare. The metaphor that I give in the book is that statement is like pretending you have to get all of your belongings in a carry-on suitcase, in one carry-on, right? But you don't have to fit your entire life in a carry-on. You have multiple suitcases. And so it is important that you can bring your best self to work, meaning if you are coming to work and the part of you that is showing up is not, you know, positive, is not maximizing your talent, that's a problem.
But you don't have to bring your whole self. Even when I was talking about my faith side and my progressive political side, I wasn't looking for a job that was going to let me have a protest sign in one arm and a communion cup in the other. I'm not expecting my job to allow me to express all of those.
“Sometimes I have to mat-talk myself.”
“My friends were sneaking out to parties and I was sneaking out to protests.”
“When push comes to shove... skillset doesn’t matter. It’s the trust in the relationship.”