I just got fired from Yahoo Finance.
The long road to my quick termination started in the spring, when I grew friendly with one of the higher-ups in engineering at Yahoo. When he became my boss’s boss’s boss at Yahoo, he suggested that we meet if we were ever both in New York at the same time.
It turned out that we would both be there in December, so I asked him if he wanted to get together, and he said yes. His secretary said she’d email me the venue when the date was closer.
The week before, the venue turned out to be the Yahoo offices in New York. I thought that was weird for a casual meeting with a guy who did not even have his own office at that building. That is when I should have called to find out if we had a specific topic for the meeting.
When I got to the meeting my boss’s boss was there as well, so I knew there was a big topic. I told myself to never ever walk into another meeting in my life without knowing who is coming and why I am there. I told myself to stay calm and start looking for clues about our topic so I could mentally prepare.
They went on and on about some sort of technical problem that was happening that day. Of the three of us, two were nontechnical, so I realized this topic was selected due to nervous energy: A clue that this meeting would be really bad.
To his credit, the guy I thought I was friendly with got right down to the point: “We are not renewing your contract.”
The first thought I had was: When is my contract up?
And then I realized: Oh. Now.
The next thought I had was: Be poised. Do not break down right now.
I have been fired a lot. Sometimes it has not mattered, like when my grandma fired me from her bookstore because I kept reading on the job. Sometimes it has been a bad scene with me shaking because I was so scared – like when I was fired at Ingram Micro for using the computer for non-work-related stuff (Yes, people got fired for that in 1995.)
But I checked in with myself at Yahoo and realized that I was fine. I was not going to cry. I was actually in problem-solving mode.
So I asked why I was being fired.
Maybe you are thinking it’s because every week, 400 people leave comments on Yahoo saying how stupid I am. (And surely today’s final column at Yahoo Finance will break records for she-is-so-stupid comments.) But that’s not the reason my column was cancelled; Yahoo is about traffic, and according to Wikipedia, my column has some of the highest traffic on all of Yahoo.
It turns out that financial content gets a higher CPM (advertising rate) than career content. So while my column has a lot of traffic, Yahoo sells my career column to advertisers as part of the Yahoo Finance package, and I bring down the CPM of the whole package.
That’s a fair reason to cancel the column. And actually, if it were not resulting in a huge financial hit for me, it would be an interesting reason.
Here’s what a career advisor does when she is being fired: She tries to remember the advice she gives to everyone else when they are getting fired.
I asked if there’s another place I can write at Yahoo. This tactic is straight out of the book: Use your last moments to network, even if you are getting fired.
Here’s what my boss’s boss’s boss said: “You should write for Lifestyles. That is more women oriented.”
Immediately I was reminded of when my column was cancelled at Business 2.0 magazine. After I had recently announced that I was pregnant and said I did not plan to take any time off from writing the column.
My editor told me, as he was firing me, “Now that you’re going to be a mom you should try writing someplace like Working Mother.”
This advice from ex-bosses makes me question my own advice about getting help from people who are firing you. But still, discussions progressed at Yahoo to HotJobs, which is a Yahoo channel, and I could end up writing for them.
Also, a big trade publication called me last week to see if I want to write a column for them. The editor said that she sees me as such a huge risk taker, and she expects that the column will be a lot about that – how to take risks.
The thing is, I don’t think I’m a huge risk taker. I just choose the lifestyle I want first, before I choose my work. Lifestyle first means that I turned down entry-level bullshit jobs in favor of playing professional beach volleyball. Not because I was dying to have all my friends think I was a lunatic, but because I couldn’t believe people expect you to do mindless work after earning a college degree.
And the same is true now. I am a freelance writer because if I worked nine-to-five I wouldn’t see my kids. That’s my bottom line. There have been so many times when I’ve told myself that I can’t stand the instability of a freelancer’s life. But more than that, I can’t stand the idea that I would only see my kids on the weekends.
People ask me all the time how can they get this life that I have where I do something I love, get to make my own hours, and support a family. Seems great, right? But that life also comes with this: having no idea how I’ll get paid next. And it happens all the time.
Soon, I hope, I’ll be able to draw a salary from my startup. And my speaking career is going well enough that getting fired from Yahoo won’t kill me. But I am worried, and I think about not telling people that I feel worried because everyone who is negotiating with me now knows that money is super important to me, and I’m probably not going to walk away from an offer.
But more important than preserving an edge negotiating money is somehow documenting how hard it is to be true to yourself, how hard it is to be at risk all the time. It’s a tradeoff. Sometimes my life looks glamorous. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s all the same life though.