Day 1: The day I knew it was time to leave my job

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Here I was, a young black man climbing the corporate ladder of success, in the technology field with an opportunity to change not only my life but my families. This was the perfect opportunity, a rarity, something parallel to the American Dream that my family left a war for and my mother came to search for her children. Some might say I was a unicorn, the way I was able to prolong internship after internship into a full time role or my ability to network and grow relationships with not only my peers but top executives of the firm. This was a great opportunity, this was the perfect job, but it wasn’t my dream.

My thoughts after the Difficult Conversation

It was a very drawn out conversation. I already knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t know how to say it. I’ve been told when you leave a job, leave on good terms and don’t burn any bridges. Hearing it is one thing but trying to do it is another, especially if you grew up in the company and they invested so much time and energy into you. I mean how can you be so selfish and put your interest first when all they were trying to do is help? I thought about this a lot and this was one of the reasons that held me back from leaving earlier. It was very difficult to tell coworkers that care about you that it’s not them it’s you. That the job is not the right fit. But I knew I had to today or else I would be doing myself a disservice.

It’s not that I’m forever shutting the door when I decided to leave, I know that’s not the case because I truly enjoyed more aspects of the company then the few things that drove me to leave. Nonetheless I also knew that I wanted to see what else was out there for me. (Remember, I was working for this company for quite some years now..going on 3 years??)

Have you ever searched for a second, third, fourth, and even fifth opinion to help you make the decision you always needed to make?

I knew I was unhappy and this was the biggest factor for why I decided I needed to leave my job.  I spent the entire weekend calling everyone I’ve encountered at work over the last 3-4 years and even people outside of work. I was searching for something to make me stay, I was looking to get a second, third, fourth and even fifth opinion. With all the responses I gathered I didn’t feel like I had enough and I knew the final decision would eventually fall back on me

I am afraid because I don’t know what’s next. There is no masterplan nor is there a short term plan. I just wanted to get rid of this feeling- the feeling I would encounter every morning going into work. I just wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Am I making the right decision?

This feeling started long ago..

I never quite felt complete when I was working.  I always felt like I was meant for something bigger, something revolutionary. I’m not saying you can’t have that impact working behind a desk but I just had a different vision for who I was supposed to be. All my life I studied the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama and many others and so I  would always find myself  doing work that would change the course of the world or at least be meaningful and drive value for the greater good. You can say these were just BIG dreams and unrealistic (and in no way am I comparing myself with them, they are my idols and I admire them dearly).

Why was I throwing all of this away?

When I hung up the phone after letting my job know my decision, I still had doubts. I wasn’t quite sure. Nonetheless, I knew that something led me up to this moment. Let me explain…

The battle of the mind vs the heart (Internal vs External)

It’s easy to forget what you want when you care so much about what others think of you, not realizing what they wanted for me wasn’t what I wanted for myself. I was fighting this internal battle of doing what I truly wanted versus what everyone else had planned for me. Because I cared so much about their opinions as a result, it contained me.

Externally, everything was great. I was doing so well on the outside that no one knew or understood the internal battles that were happening deep within me. I mean I was making money, I could buy things to mask my happiness so no one knew that I was going through pain. Even my friends and family would pressure me into staying at work whenever I spoke about leaving. Therefore no amount of money could make me happy. (That’s not to say compensation doesn’t matters, of course it does)

Trust me, when I find something that’s fulfilling I’m up before my alarm clock.

The work I was doing wasn’t fulfilling to me. Yes, I was worked alongside Fortune 100 and 500 companies and executives helping them solve some of their highest revenue generating problems. Yes, It was great working with them, and yes I learned so much from them; however, It just wasn’t fulfilling. It didn’t get me out of my bed in the morning.

Finding the Impact/ Value

I often couldn’t see the value I was providing because I was working for such a large company sometimes. It’s less about feedback and completing a project but more about being able to see the big picture.

I am grateful for the opportunities and all the things I learned at that job.  So why was I throwing all of this away? After all allowed me to travel, to meet new people, to endure new experiences, and to gain irreplaceable work experience. I learned how to be a leader, how to be a team player, and how to engage and solve problems happening with billion dollar companies that are leaders in their respective industries. I was in rooms full of top executives and key decision makers. I was there not just as a note taker but as an active decision maker. I was making a difference, climbing the corporate ladder, and having a profound impact.

So What’s Next?

Getting back to what I love

Since leaving corporate I’ve spent everyday doing what it is I truly love: helping entrepreneurs and small businesses develop and become profitable. Taking the step to really commit and build a business around what I love was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Important note: I haven’t ruled out working for someone again or corporate because there were a lot of aspects I really enjoyed. There is a lot for me still to learn. If the right opportunity comes along (or when) to work with some incredible people to solve some difficult challenges, I’d be up for it. 

So if you’re wondering what I’ve been up to since the big #leapoffaith:

1. I officially launched AbuFofanah.com and decided it is time to return back to entrepreneurship.

AbuFofanah.com is geared towards using my own expertise in coaching and building profitable brands. As well as to grow my speaking engagements and my personal brand.

2. I’ve been working on the launch of Houseoffofanah.com an education platform

HouseofFofanah.com will be a catalyst for entrepreneurs and independent brands by providing resources they need to execute on their ideas, and offering virtual workplaces so we can help entrepreneurs in every corner of the world.

Update: It’s finally official! Sometime in January I will be launching HouseofFofanah.com a platform that provides resources and online courses to help entrepreneurs transform their brand and become profitable. There are 3 programs that will be part of House of Fofanah:

  1. Jump Start
  2. Accelerator Program
  3. Incubator Program

More to come soon…


Have you recently or at one point thought about leaving your job? Why? What are some things holding you back from finding true happiness? What risks have you taken recently and how did they turn out?


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DAY 2: FINDING THE SIGNS TO FURTHER CONFIRM MY DECISION (WHAT’S NEXT)

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I’m already freaking out!! It’s the second day since I decided to leave my job and I am feeling lost. I am more scared then I am excited believe me. The first person I told congratulated me and it sorta shocked me. I felt like I did something terribly wrong and now I’m front and center accepting an award that I didn’t even know I applied for… Yes thank you very much, I couldn’t have done it without.. Maybe I should repeat it again. I JUST LEFT MY JOB! This time they just looked at me and the cheers grew even louder.

Did I make the right choice? Why does everyone keep congratulating me? Why am I afraid to tell anyone else? Deep down I knew the answer to these questions and it was evident that I was trying to avoid the proverbial question: “so..what’s next?”

Wait. Should you have a plan fully mapped it before you leave your job? I believe it’s highly recommended but I just didn’t have the patience to wait another day, week, or year. I knew how I was feeling and acted on it. There was another thing I also took into consideration: my passion for entrepreneurship.

For some time now, I had been thinking about returning back into entrepreneurship and starting a business idea I had been testing out over the last few years. Looking at the money I saved and my minimal expenses I thought there’s no better time then now to take a leap of faith. I’m also not ruling out working again so I’m just keeping the door open for the right opportunity.


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DAY 3: IMPORTANCE OF LEAVING ON GOOD TERMS

Having that conversation can be scary but here’s why you need it

The reason why it’s never a good idea to burn bridges is because you never know when you might cross paths again with that person or company. In my case, I was leaving one of the most recognizable and trusted companies in the world and leaving on bad terms wouldn’t have been great. Again, it’s not that I’m forever shutting the door when I decided to leave, I know that’s not the case because I truly enjoyed more aspects of the company then the few things that drove me to leave. I was being selfish with my career and trying to find what else is out there for me. It had more to do with my desires then the company itself.

Today, I made sure to start calling everyone that I had worked with to just thank them for the opportunity to get to know and work with them. Some of them knew me as an intern and others as a young man but all of them helped in molding me to who I am today. They were sad that I was leaving but also knew in their hearts that it’s okay to go see what else is out there for you. And for that reason alone, I knew not only do these people care about me but they are willing to support me along my journey if it’s not at the company.

If there’s anything I can leave you with is to always leave on good terms, no matter what. At times, it will require you to have the difficult conversations and that’s okay, but be respectful and clear about your intentions.


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DAY 4: REACHING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY

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Giving a hand, making a difference

When BLOCC reached out to me to sit on The Building Black Legacy panel at The University of Pennsylvania, I knew I had to do everything in my powers to be there that day. The panel was an opportunity to connect with individuals in the broader community and students from many different universities. They were bringing together over 400 black millennials from across the nation for a weekend of networking, shared wisdom, and powerful resources. With the mission to eliminate the black collegiate unemployment rate and bridge the gap between standout talent and companies. The purpose is to connect the students to the resources, connections, and opportunities.

It was one of my proudest moments to be able to come to The University of Pennsylvania to speak with students about a variety of topics, especially students who looked like me. It was a great opportunity to connect with other up and coming minorities from various backgrounds. I hope I was able to say what they needed to hear and could use to change their life.

I was chosen to speak on the Finance and Consulting panel because of my experience in the industry. Then I would later find out I would be sitting on the panel with my brother from Girard College and a very good friend of mine Omar T. Woodard the Executive Director of the GreenLight Philadelphia.

 

Minorities in the workforce

During the panel discussion, I focused on life as a minority working in corporate and the challenges that I’ve faced. Look.. We’re not quite there yet as a nation. My mother used to always tell me, doing the same as my white peers would never be enough, I would have to work twice as hard and then go above and beyond on top of that just to make an impact. However, my message was clear and direct today; you can succeed in corporate America. My story might not be their story and my challenges might not be their challenges but if they are faced, it gives those coming behind you more courage and determination to change the future working environments and culture.

Companies often times applaud themselves for having a diverse and inclusive working environment however from personal experience that’s not always the case. Sometimes I do question whether it’s a marketing tactic or they actually walk the walk. I have friends from prominent tech companies and other industries that tell me all the time they don’t feel welcomed at their jobs. Often times, we discuss how when something happens outside of work that affects a community (such as the many shootings of African Americans this past year) we have a difficult time not allowing it to affect us in the workplace because the issue is so dear to our hearts. It’s simple, we are afraid it can happen to us. Being told it doesn’t matter leaves us with a pain in our stomach that we can’t fathom and we feel trapped because there’s no place for us to go and no one who cares enough to listen.

To know that they might not feel safe, especially from individuals of color who’ve come so far along from home to be in a place where they’re not already wanted or welcomed. There’s still a lot of education that needs happen to inform the workplace on how they can combat these issues and make their peers, employees, and friends feel safe. Looking into the future and being optimistic I hope we can all get their together.


What are some suggestions to help make the workplace more inclusive? Have you ever had a time where you didn’t feel like you belonged? I’m really interested in hearing your stories and engaging in the comments below.


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DAY 5: HIKING LIFE’S TRAILS

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It’s officially 5 days after I put my two week notice in at work. This morning I spent the day hiking the trails over at Valley Forge with a good friend of mine. I broke the news to her and she gave me a look of shock but also happy with my decision because the last we spoke she could see the weight of work on my face and hear it in my voice.

We had an interesting conversation about ideas. We talked about them and why it’s so difficult for people to start, grow or nurture them. Well, what’s actually behind a successful idea or an unsuccessful one. It’s a question I think many people have a difficult time figuring out. I believe you can get closer to the solution through trial and error. I believe having failed better prepares you to nurture new ideas because you’re able to handle it a different way.

The more we spoke about ideas the more I began to think about my own. There’s no doubt in my mind entrepreneurship came to mind when I left my job. I’ve always had ideas that I always test to see if any had the potential. Some were successful and others I learned a lot from. I also thought about how I’ve taken a few years from starting my own idea and instead helping others succeed in their ventures. A goal of mine in the near future is to create a platform that’s both supportive to entrepreneurs and small to medium size business. It’s something special giving others the tools and resources to succeed.


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