How to Escape the Seven Circles of Cubicle Hell

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on October 10, 2007
Tags: , , , ,

mike c.

If you could judge the usefulness of the books on my bookshelf by how many pages in each are dog-eared, this one has a score of 22 (I just counted). Though the freelance life was something I had dreamed about for quite some time, being able to reach that dream had always seemed too daunting and super-impossible. Then I saw Michelle Goodman’s The Anti 9 to 5 Guide in the Career section of B&N, and my awesome-self-help radar started twitching.

Now look at me. I have large amounts of credit card debt, my interest rate is astronomical, and my husband worries that I will drag him down with me into the depths of bankruptcy!

Yet I’m happy.

Before I go on, let me point out that I did not follow the author’s very first bit of advice. I did not build up a monetary cushion before making the leap into self-employment. I am far too impatient for such things.

But I did get going on the rest of the steps Goodman walks the reader through and, as a result, I now spend my lunch breaks three days a week wandering Soho with a strange grin on my face, thinking of how lucky I am to be…where I am. The rest of my days, when I’m spending my mornings and afternoons at home, I use my lunch break to become more intimate with the inner workings of America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway. Life has never been so rich.

Please please please buy this book if you are at all interested in making your moolah in an unconventional way. Let me walk you through the steps I took:

  1. Get Your Social Network On
  • Create or update a profile that includes your work history on LinkedIn or another social network. (I think I must be on just about every online social network that exists. Check me out on Tribe, StumbleUpon, Flickr, LiveJournal, MySpace, and Facebook. God, I’m sure I’m missing something here. I left out a few that I haven’t updated in awhile.)
  • Call your friend the resume queen to help you update your resume in exchange for a six-pack. (In my case, the resume queen is my husband [sorry honey!] and I totally stole his entire resume format and stuff. I didn’t give him anything in return, unless you count the pleasure of my company…for all eternity!)
  • Get business cards made (if you don’t already have up-to-date ones). (I always get my business cards done through VistaPrint, which is awesomely cheap. Which is important, especially when you’re starting out. You can choose from one of the pre-made designs, or design your own.)
  • Update your resume or portfolio on your website or blog (if you have either). (Voila!) (Except that it totally needs to be updated again.)
  • Select three networking events to attend in the next two months. (In addition to classes and workshops, which I find to be a great opportunity for networking with like-minded folks and generous professors, I tend to attend the MediaBistro cocktail parties here in NYC. When interviewing at a staffing agency the other day — for the purpose of obtaining some additional freelance proofing work –I found out about a Jersey-based group that has monthly events as well! Troll the websites of your local professional organizations to fid events near you.)
  • Aaaaand, I never got past stage one. A contact I had made through a writing class forwarded a job ad my way, and I got myself a freelance nighttime proofreading gig that provided enough hours and income to allow me to resign from my full-time job. Since then, I’ve also signed on for a web magazine internship and have several other freelance projects coming my way via former colleagues and old friends. (Remember, everyone is a possible career contact. For the love of god, network the hell out of yourself with every damn person you come across, including your mom. My mom got me my first job out of college through a lady in our exercise class.)

I still refer to Goodman’s book, however, when I’m feeling nervous or lost or in danger of having to go full-time again (god forbid). She goes into detail on informational interviews, patchwork paychecks, “pimp[ing] your personal office,” business plans, flex time, and more.

Goodman actually has a blog associated with her Guide, so be sure to check that out, as well as the book itself.

And just so you know, it could be a rough road ahead, but it will all be worth it in the end. Lately, this is the only view I get of my husband:

michael sleeping.

but someday, after lots and lots of work, we will surely find ourselves miraculously awake at the same exact time.

How inspirational is that!?


4 Responses to 'How to Escape the Seven Circles of Cubicle Hell'

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  1. Mike C. said,

    Very informative and fascinating! Thank you for the well-thought-out advice! I wish I could escape my cubicle “hell” but the guy in the cube next to me is such a ridiculously “out-there” character, I’m afraid to leave and risk missing out on his daily acts of insanity! Best of luck to you and your future 9-to-5-less endeavors. I’m sure your husband’s worries of bankruptcy will lessen. Tell him to take some Pepto or something!

  2. Liz said,

    Excellent advice my friend! Your example makes me dream daily of leaving this place. But when you’re freelancing, there’s no free coffee, right?

  3. DecoratorBob said,

    I posted your blog on my website. Great picture! I worked a total of three weeks in a cubicle during the rollout of Windoze2000. I’m using this vast experience to start a social network of decorators and cubicle dwellers.

  4. stephanerd said,

    I have to admit, there is no coffee to be had in my condo. Then again, I never felt this deep need for caffeine before I started gulping it down every five minutes in cubicle-land, merely for an excuse to take a walk. Oy.

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