I went from a Big Tech job to folding clothes at a retail store. My new role gave me confidence and joy when I needed it the most.

Reflecting on my conversation with my friend Jannet, little did I know uttering “I should totally go work there. I spend half my paycheck there anyway,” would lead to a pivotal shift in my career. This lighthearted comment became a significant turning point as I pivoted from a long-standing career in corporate to retail in the Fall of 2023.

After being laid off from a senior role at a tech company, where I had significant responsibilities including heading equality initiatives and advising employee resource groups, I started my own business, Boldly Speaking. Leveraging my speaker skills and extensive ERG experience, the business kicked off to a promising start. However, anticipating a slowdown during the holiday season, I decided to bridge the gap with a retail job. This not only provided a steady income but also allowed me to indulge in my love for coffee and gluten-free, vegan sweets guilt-free.

I joined the team at an Athleta store in NYC, a decision that I am profoundly glad I made. The job brought me an unexpected sense of confidence and joy during a period of uncertainty. Given that about 90% of my wardrobe is from Athleta and Gap, working in one of my favorite stores felt exhilarating—like a kid in a candy store.

My role as a seasonal brand associate was multifaceted—I assisted customers, maintained the store’s cleanliness, and managed various operational tasks. Surprisingly, I discovered a knack for retail, reminiscent of the days when I helped at my father’s shoe store. Despite my initial hesitation back then, I found that I inherited a flair for excellent customer service from my father, which customers truly appreciated.

Transitioning into retail had its amusing moments, such as learning that arriving more than five minutes early wasn’t necessary. Moreover, the legally mandated breaks during shifts were something I looked forward to, offering a moment to recharge.

Unlike my corporate roles, the store set daily sales targets, adding a new dynamic to my workday. Engaging with customers, understanding their needs, and seeing their satisfaction upon finding the perfect item was immensely fulfilling. These interactions became the highlight of my job.

Despite the enjoyment and success in retail, part of me yearns for the stability and routine of corporate life. The job market has proven challenging, and building a business from scratch has its own hurdles. It’s been one of the most testing times in my professional journey, filled with a rollercoaster of emotions post-layoff—from shock and anger to fear and profound sadness.

Yet, the entrepreneurial flexibility is incredibly appealing. The freedom to explore creative projects and align with my life’s purpose is something I cherish. It would take an exceptional opportunity to draw me back to corporate life.

As I reflect on this period, I understand that life has its seasons. This chapter has been about embracing the entrepreneurial journey with all its ups and downs. As for my role at Athleta, I feel a strong sense of belonging and have no immediate plans to leave. This job has not just been a bridge but a destination where I’ve found joy and purpose, for now.  

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