With less than a month till my business school graduation, I landed an advertising job in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, just up the road from where I had gone to school. The owner of the company was utterly brilliant, my prospective co-workers seemed like fun, the starting salary was right and best of all, in my new job I would be outfitted in a stunning corner office. It was the perfect situation, the opportunity too good to ignore! Still, I kept getting this nagging feeling that this perfect job was not perfect for me. I knew there was something else for me, but my need for security and affirmation made me want to accept it. I should have trusted my instincts.
May 2010 -- celebrating my degree from grad school my family from NYC came down and we had a blast. Seeing North Carolina from their eyes reminded me of how lucky I was to experience university life in the South. I looked at my two younger brothers, who were smaller than me when I left for college but now they towered over me in what seemed like just a few quick years. I felt that nagging feeling again. Again, I ignored it.
Two weeks later over Memorial Day weekend, I decided to drive home to my city to see them again. I had a car named "Greta," that was almost as old as I was at the time, that only had AM/FM radio. With my hair in my face, the music pumping, and a big old smile, I felt destiny calling when "Empire State of Mind" came on my radio on Hot 97 as I was nearing the Holland Tunnel. At that moment it was more than just a song, it was the soundtrack to my life. It reminded me of every reason New York was in my blood and somehow Jay-Z and Alicia were calling me, telling me New York needed me to come back home.
The weekend was everything I needed; rooftop parties in the city, late night pizza after the club, proper dancehall music for the barbecues, train rides in high heels and cute shorts, random conversations with old friends on the steps of the Met. Boy, did I miss this place and it was over way before I was ready. I had to make my way back to North Carolina to prepare myself for my first week of work. This time, there were no big smiles. Instead, I found myself crying uncontrollably some place midway through rural Virginia listening to the only country station Greta managed to pick up. The nagging feeling came again, only this time I couldn't ignore it. My job in Winston-Salem seemed perfect, but finally admitted that I needed to be home.
Decisiveness finally took over. My job was supposed to start in a week, my lease was about to be renewed and I didn't have any spare time to mull it over. I had to be home and I needed to turn that job down and move. Immediately. I'd never moved so quickly for anything as I did in that moment. I composed myself, called my employer and humbly and honestly told him what I was feeling. He was slightly disappointed, but more so encouraging. I was shocked by how easy it seemed, when it really felt like it was going to be the hardest thing in the world at that time. In less than two days, I packed up an entire apartment, moved my things into storage and loaded Greta up for a one-way trip home. I had no job to go home to, no apartment, and no plan, I had nothing but a firm conviction that it was going to work out and my city was going to make room for me.
Having an unshakable conviction proved helpful, and after almost daily interviews, in less than a month, I found myself fortunate to work at a place I had once interned. As I got older, I found there were other times that previous nagging feeling came and went. It seemed easy as a 23-year-old, bursting with the confidence of freshly earning my business degree and nothing to lose, to make the necessary changes to address my happiness. It got harder as I got more settled into my career and financial obligations. I found myself thriving in roles that weren't always as fulfilling as I needed them to be. Despite that, I was scared of what giving it up could mean. It was much easier to listen to the voices of others telling me that I was doing a great job, than to my own which told me I needed more.
When I got involved in the My Black Is Beautiful (MBIB) campaign, I got reacquainted with that fearless 23-year-old who left a great job behind for a chance to make it in New York City; somehow she got lost. For over five years I had been leading workshops for young professionals on job skills, taking risks, leveraging digital tools to differentiate themselves, and navigating corporate America as a person from an underrepresented background. Now it was time for me to take my own advice. My involvement with MBIB pushed me to lead deeper conversations with a different audience. Instead of talking to 20-somethings about how to be more corporate, I began talking to 13-18-year-olds about how to love themselves and feel beautiful in a world where they are constantly receiving messages that they shouldn't.
Speaking to young women about how to love themselves was a constant reminder that I needed to love myself more. Over the years I had become satisfied with my job as a senior manager in a digital business development/strategy role at a major media company and all the perks that came with it, but I wasn't fulfilled. Surprisingly, it was conversations about the meaning of self-love with 15-year-old black girls that helped me realize that settling for less than I wanted professionally was the equivalent of not truly loving myself. The bubbly teenagers I met with challenged me to love myself harder.
I put a plan into place to launch my own business, monetizing the professional development passion of mine. I recently founded C-Suite Coach, a career coaching destination for underserved millennials. My beta version is now ready; my pitch decks for funders are being created; I'm recruiting coaches and clients, and my vision is massive. I'm working to address two very real and current business needs: For employers, C-Suite Coach will help retain diverse millennial talent; for diverse millennials, C-Suite Coach will help this underserved audience thrive and succeed at work.
I still don't have all the answers, but I have a trust in my intuition and a conviction that this is where I need to be at that point in my life. I also am more prepared this time around than I was at 23. I've learned that in order to be all together beautiful and love myself, I have to allow myself to be fully fulfilled and listen to that nagging feeling.