Meltdowns come in all shapes and sizes as evident in The Mother of All Meltdowns, a book I just published along with twenty-nine fellow bloggers. The meltdowns in the book all revolve around our children, a primary trigger of the adult tantrum. But other things can elicit meltdowns as well, including our jobs and careers.
I experienced a major meltdown back in my early twenties, when I decided I wanted to pursue a career as an accountant. I took four years of accounting in high school, from a master accountant, and was ready to tackle the books—any books—for any company. So when offered, I immediately accepted a job with a local engineering firm. On the outside things look great! There appeared to be a steady flow of clients and projects, the firm was well-staffed, and the owner appeared well-off and financially stable—owning the latest in cars, electronics, and more. What was missing from the equation was a steady flow of cash coming in the door. There was much more going out than flowing in, and that can only last for so long.
When the head accountant quit and I was given an opportunity to take the reins, I jumped like a gymnast gone wild. It was my time to shine. I knew there were cash flow issues, but I was suddenly in denial. Things would, of course, get better. They had to, right? Not exactly.
Within days, the lack of cash became my problem. The owner didn’t understand why the checkbook was in the red or why we were being threatened with disconnect notices and worse, and suddenly it was all my fault. I was the one crunching the numbers and spitting out the reports. I was the one responsible for the cash or lack thereof. Having been with the firm only a few short months, I knew somewhere inside it couldn’t possibly be the result of something I did or didn’t do.
As I struggled to make good on our outstanding receivables and set up workable payment arrangements with creditors, I noticed an anomaly. When a dollar came through the door, two dollars went out—in the form of a new toy, fancier car, or bigger piece of jewelry. The owner was a spending fiend! He was either in a constant state of denial or really believed that money grew on trees.
I tried to approach the subject with him a number of times, but was disregarded. The more he spent, the worst things became for everyone. We began to lose contracts because we couldn’t afford the necessary supplies. We no longer had the funds to cover payroll and people were let go. There was even a day or two when the power was shut off and we were forced to do nothing but manual tasks like file paperwork and collate written documents. If a potential client called, well, there were no phones.
My breaking point came on a cold, blustery winter day when the owner pulled up in front of the building in a brand new sports car. It was dead winter, but here was a Dodge Viper sitting in the driveway. How could he afford to purchase something so extravagant while the rest of us were suffering? How could he claim that our money woes had anything to do with me? That.Was.It. I lost my marbles. Everything I had been holding inside came out in the form of a verbal throw down. I held nothing back.
When I was done melting, I packed my stuff and walked out the door. I never did see a final paycheck or get reimbursed for the expenses I covered during this difficult time. And truthfully, I didn’t care.
A few months after leaving, I accepted a job with a local property developer. Within weeks, I began to see a similar pattern develop. Although things looked rosy, I would soon discover they were anything but. This company was nearing a financial meltdown and, like the old firm, it was suddenly becoming my fault and my problem. I quickly gave a two-week notice.
Upon leaving I realized two very important things about my career. First, I did not love being an accountant. Even though I was young and knew that people did have happy careers in accounting, I didn’t want to take another chance. Second, I did not like working for horrible bosses. It was on that day I decided I wanted to start my own business.
Since 1998 I have operated a small marketing firm both on the side and as my full-time gig. Having my own business has allowed me extreme flexibility as I have and continue to raise my children. It has also given me the opportunity to control who I will and will not work for. If it wasn’t for a meltdown, I would never have discovered the joys of being my own boss.
I love entrepreneurship and highly recommend it to anyone seeking a career change or to supplement existing income. Just let any current or impending meltdowns pass before making a decision. It always helps to think with a clear head.
Crystal Ponti is a digital marketing consultant and online community expert who has worked for some of the largest sites in the world, including Answers.com and Google, among others. She is currently focused on helping authors market their books in the most efficient and productive ways possible—both on and offline. When she is not busy consulting, she can be found nurturing a beautiful family of five children, one much-younger husband, and a cat that drives them all up the wall. She started her blog MommiFried as an outlet for her creative writing and to share her later-in-motherhood experiences with all women and parents. Her work has been featured on BlogHer, The SITS Girls, and Business2Community, and she was recently named a Top 25 Foodie Mom for 2013 and a Top 25 Family Blog for 2012 by Circle of Moms.