My first step into healthcare was 6 years ago. I'd just finished graduate school with a master's degree in occupational therapy and was ready for all my dreams to come true.
To finally be able to do work that I love and get paid well to do it.
Boy was I wrong.
- Minimal room for growth
None of which is anyone's fault but my own. I didn't understand the healthcare system until I got into the system.
I think we can all agree... it's broken.
To avoid the depths of how it's broken, let's just say, it wasn't for me.
I felt like a cog in a machine. Churning through patients with the sole purpose of "How can we hit our revenue metrics this month?"
I've never been motivated by money. But I've always been motivated by impact. By doing something I know has a positive impact on a person's life.
I stuck it out for 4 years in hopes that it would improve. That I could find a niche or a pocket within the healthcare industry where I felt like I could make a difference.
Unfortunately, the deeper into the rabbit hole I went, the more jaded I became.
The moment that changed everything is when I had a meeting with my boss.
We sat down with a list of items we needed to discuss.
There was one item on that list that made me want to smash the table into pieces.
I was working in an outpatient orthopedics clinic. A pretty casual environment to begin with. Dress pants and a polo were the norm.
That previous Friday I decided to wear black jeans with a nice shirt. One of the front desk employees decided to bring it up to my boss. My boss then decided to bring it up with me.
Boss - "So I heard you wore black jeans to work last Friday?"
Me - "Yeah...."
Boss - "Well you see, black jeans are a out of our dress code."
Me - "... then change the dress code."
Boss - "No, we can't do that, if you could refrain from wearing jeans again that would be great."
This was the moment I knew I wasn't made for Corporate America.
This was the day I decided I'd rather live in a box under a bridge than have another conversation about dress attire.
For the record, it wasn't actually about the dress attire conversation that pissed me off. It was the small-mindedness of it. It was that level of thinking that crushed my soul.
I literally couldn't care less about clothing.
- I want to help people.
- I want to have an impact.
- I want to make a difference.
- I want to do things that move the needle in the world.
There are so many things on this planet that are more important to me than black jeans.
There are so many things I would rather spend time time talking about.
- "How can we help a patient get better faster?"
- "How can we provide a better patient experience?"
- "How can we will help this organization of people?"
But nope... instead we had to talk about pants.
How I Got Out of Corporate America
The idea of working for myself scared the hell out of me.
I had always been an employee. Reliant on someone else to write me a paycheck.
At the time, I was reading a book called Choose Yourself by James Altucher. It taught me that the best bet I can make is to bet on myself. To stop asking others for permission to work on the projects that I'm excited about.
My first project was website design for a health coach.
I've always loved computers.
I grew up playing competitive video games, building computers, and learning computer programming.
With the skills I already had, and the desire to continue to work in the health industry. Helping health professionals with their websites felt like the easiest transition.
I Googled "health coaches nearby" and there happened to be one right down the street from where I lived in Minnesota.
I sent her a cold email and offered to redesign her website for free.
Working For Free
Should you work for free?
This is a highly debated topic. Mostly because there is no right answer. Like most things in life, it depends.
It depends on what your intentions are.
The reason I did it for free, is because my intention was to build relationships with people in the health industry and show them that I could add value to their business.
I had no experience or degree in website design and development, but I knew I could learn. And I was still angry enough about my conversation about black jeans that I would do anything to get out of my job.
If you have the skills and relationships to charge. By all means. Charge as much as you can mustard.
However, I didn't.
So I worked for free.
She is still a friend of mine today. I've never let her pay me but she has made me thousands of dollars through referrals.
As my skills developed and my network grew I started to charge people for my work. Initially, I was charging people $500 for a website build. From never making a dollar on my own to making $500 felt like a lot of money at the time.
As you can imagine, my prices have dramatically increased since then.
But it taught me an important business lesson. People don't value what they don't pay for.
These were some of the most challenging clients I had ever worked with.
They didn't appreciate the work, they complained the most and they were always trying to nickel and dime me.
I increased my rates and like magic, most of my problems disappeared.
I started attracting clients that appreciated my work, rarely complained, and were happy to pay a premium price for a premium service.
Maybe I could do this business thing?!
Build a Nest Egg
I love a good rags-to-riches story but I had a job. It didn't make sense to burn the boats just yet.
I was still working as an occupational therapist and saving every penny I could find.
Things I did to save money.
- Not dating anyone
- Living with my parents
- Rarely going out to eat
- Spending my free time at the gym
- Buying almost all my groceries from Costco
- Driving a car with great gas mileage (Mazda 3)
- Time with friends was doing something active
Eventually, I saved up a 6-month emergency fund.
It gave me the runway I needed to feel confident that if I never made another dollar for the next 6 months that I would be ok.
The Big Leap
It was around this time that my best friend was also working his way out of his Corporate job. He was working as a pharmacist and hated it.
We sat down for coffee one morning and decided it was time. The pain of staying the same was greater than the fear of the unknown.
We both set a quit date and made plans to move somewhere warm for the winter.
This is where I learned the importance of accountability.
Most people know what they should do.
Most people know how to do it.
Few people actually end up doing it.
It's often accountability that will get you to pull the trigger.
If you're struggling to take action on your goals. Find a coach. Find a mentor. Find a friend. Find someone that can hold you to a higher standard.
We will always do more for others than we will do for ourselves.
As the final day in Corporate America inched closer I started selling or donating all my belongings.
Every item I got rid of made me feel lighter and lighter. It made me realize that I'm a minimalist at heart.
The less I own the happier I seem to be.
The only item I had left to sell before we left town was my vehicle. I ended up selling it to the local dealership. Got a ride back to my parent's place from an employee at the dealership.
Packed what left I owned into the back of my buddies Jetta.
We moved to Austin Texas and I haven't looked back since.
- Bet on yourself, you won't regret it
- In the beginning, it's helpful to work for free.
- As your skills increase, increase your prices
- Create a runway by saving your money
- Find some accountability
If you're ready to step free from Corporate America. You can contact me here.
Hope you enjoyed this one, my friend.