267. Why I Quit My Really Awesome Job.

Just getting paid to go to South Beach Wine & Food Festival... nbd! 
Just getting paid to go to South Beach Wine & Food Festival… nbd!

Last Wednesday marked the scariest things I’ve done in the past year. No, I didn’t swim with white sharks or vacation in that town overrun with maniacal clowns.

I quit my job.

But let me back up a sec.

Following college, I landed an absolutely terrible job where I got paid next to nothing to hand out fliers and other pointless crap to strangers, often while wearing a costume. A great use of my journalism degree!

It was awful.

So after a year, I did something perfectly naive: I put in my two weeks notice with zero plan.

I spent the next month celebrating my own personal Summer of George, doing awesome stuff like going to the farmers’ market on Thursday afternoons and laying by the pool.

There were also many, many margaritas.

The day I quit my crappy marketing job/my 25th birthday!
The day I quit my crappy marketing job/my 25th birthday!

But I knew I had to figure out my life. As cheesy as this seems in retrospect, I watched the movie version of The Secret (didn’t read the book.. who has time for that?!). It made me realize the importance of goals. So, I set one:

Get paid to eat, travel and tell people about it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Even more naive talk here, right? Who wouldn’t want that job?

But during my summer of freedom, I focused on it. I thought about it all the time. I pictured what my life would look like. I even took an online class on how to be a travel writer.

And then I had an epiphany.

There was this guy named Andrew Zimmern. He had this new show on Travel Channel called Bizarre Foods & I loved it. As it turned out, he also lived in the Twin Cities. I decided to ask Andrew Zimmern how he ended up getting paid to eat, travel and tell people about it. Then, I could just do the same!

On July 26, 2007, I cold-called (more specifically, cold-emailed) him, asking how he had achieved my dream job. I also attached this photo of me from a recent flight:

I think this pic sealed the deal.
I think this pic sealed the deal.

Instead of ignoring me or sending some canned response, Andrew took a risk and hired me.

Yes, you heard me right: I emailed Andrew Zimmern and he hired me.

I’ve spent the last 7+ years immersed in the world of food, travel and journalism.

Together, Andrew and I have written three books (this one, this one and MY FAVORITE, this one!). We’ve traveled to Miami, Wisconsin (exotic!), visited New York a lot, once even getting trapped at the W Hotel during Hurricane Sandy.

I was literally eating, traveling and telling people about it.

My first-ever book signing! 
My first-ever book signing!

I can’t even explain the fantastical nature of this job.

I’ve met so many amazing people and honed all sorts of skills (Twitter wasn’t even a thing when I started; now I’m a whiz!).

However, there comes a time in every career when your gut starts talking.

The moment you realize you need to move on to make your life happen is bittersweet. It’s especially difficult when your job is really good. Not only does it pay the bills, but you love your coworkers (loveloveLOVE!), the work is exciting, you’re having fun.

The time we destroyed a table at DQ to get the perfect photo for our holiday card.
The time we destroyed a table at DQ to get the perfect photo for our holiday card.

Sometimes you need to let go of good.

I just got married. We’re not starting a family any time soon-soon, but you know, probably in the next few years. I’ve realized my next two years are pivotal. My time, energy and creativity are finite and so valuable. Since starting Hey Eleanor, I’ve spent every morning and night writing. In between, I go to the office and write and write some more.

It’s exhausting.

I absolutely love everything I’m doing with Hey Eleanor, but simply haven’t had the time to make it into my vision. I had to make a big decision.

Last month, with butterflies in my stomach, I asked Andrew if we could change our working relationship.

He said yes.

Andrew and I will continue being our snarky selves on the Go Fork Yourself podcast, and I’ll still be pitching in on a few projects here and there. I’m devoting 90 percent of my time to building Hey Eleanor, working on a book proposal (!) and freelance writing.

The Go Fork Yourself podcast art... It sorta looks like Andrew & I! 
The Go Fork Yourself podcast art… It sorta looks like Andrew & I!

Without a doubt, leaving my job is scariest thing I’ve done to date.

(Yes, even scarier than going to Costco on a Saturday).

But quitting that stupid marketing job seven years ago was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I’m trusting my gut and leaping again.  It’s a lot harder this time, but I’m ready.

Just another day at the office.
Just another day at the office.
AZ & I at lumberjack camp. No, really.
AZ & I at lumberjack camp. No, really.

I am thankful for the love and support of my coworkers, friends, family, and of course, Andrew. I’ll be forever grateful for him taking a chance on me, and for not only being a great boss, but amazing mentor and friend.

I gotta give a huge shout out to my amazing husband, too.

I don’t think I’d have the courage to make this leap without his love, support and faith in me (and, on a practical note, his company’s health insurance plan). I promise I won’t be a freeloader forever!

* * *

Any advice for a newly self-employed freelancer/book writer/not-exactly-sure-what-they-wanna-be-er? Comment away; I need all the help I can get! EEEEEEEK!

P.S. Some scary work-related things from this year? The time I interviewed this Queen of Country Music and nearly cried; and that one time I ate this & liked it.

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Comments (28)

  • Rachel Shame 6 years ago Reply

    Congratulations on making this leap to a new adventure! I don’t have any advice for your specific situation but I have quit seemingly comfortable jobs before to make a big change. My husband & I are about to move to China to teach English and I’ve never been more excited, scared, or nervous in my whole life! Best of luck to you in your new journey!

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    Good for you! If you ever feel like sharing that story (once you’re settled in China, of course) you know where I live … on the internet, anyhow 🙂

  • lindsey clough 6 years ago Reply

    Geoff and I have been freelance for close to 10 years (!?!), and it is the absolute best and the absolute scariest! it’s an emotional roller coaster when a couple weeks go by and the phone doesn’t ring – but before you know it you’re slammed again and begging for weeks off. by far best part is we both get to be there for our son. we decided life is more important than a crazy work life so we select which jobs we take and prioritize our family. the hustle is hard, but what worth it isn’t?
    also – you’ll be able to go to the farmers market on Thursdays again! congratulations on your adventure!

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    Thanks for the note! I am sure I will have plenty of panicky moments (spoiler alert: already did last thursday on my first day solo!), but I think the reward will be worth it. Excited to see what’s next.

    Also, I am excited to see your kitchen. So fabulous! Maybe I’ll have to sneak over next time I’m in LA. 🙂

  • BJthaGr8 6 years ago Reply

    Hi, My name is Brion, and I am trying to figure out that dynamic myself. I just graduated from a University in here in California with a degree in International Relations. I’ve had several amazing internships(currently intern for a high priority foreign embassy in SF), I’m very close to attaining a full-time job with that embassy in several of their offices across the country where I will have the opportunity to travel internationally to that particular country, but I still want to be able to travel the world and do what I want without workplace/office limitations. I do heavy research on ways to live and work abroad, and I’m pretty versed on most of the ways to do it, with the exception of travel writing. From what it seems like, you sent Andrew a message, but how can someone like myself, fresh out of school, smart, great international organizational intern experience go about putting myself in that kind of position? I’ve had an internship before where I would do writing, and interviews with very important people, which was fun because I would set it all up myself, but any tips on how to turn that into getting paid to do it internationally? Freelance?

  • Melissa Joulwan 6 years ago Reply

    Oooooh! This is so awesome. At our house, we call it "frexciting" (frightening + exciting). I’m thrilled for you. YAY, you! Sending giant virtual hug and multiple high fives.

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    Thanks so much, Melissa! So frexcited!

    I have oodles of questions for you… as the song from the Lion King goes: be prepared!

  • Jackie Dela Pole 6 years ago Reply

    Hip-Hip-Hooray! Go Molly!

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    Thanks, Jackie!!

  • Annie D'Souza 6 years ago Reply


    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    Excellent… hang on just a sec while I figure out what it’s going to be about, then write it.

  • Becca Dilley 6 years ago Reply

    If not now, when? Excited to see what happens next for you!

  • Libby G 6 years ago Reply

    Congrats, Molly! Self-employment is the BEST THING EVER. It never gets old to go to yoga in the middle of the day, because you can. My only (Type A self-employment) advice: set aside time to celebrate your accomplishments! It’s easy to wrap a big project and move directly to "panic/oh my god/I’m never getting paid again/where is my next meal coming from?!" anxiety. It will work out. Enjoy it!

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    Thanks Libby! And that’s excellent advice.

  • Kathleen Anderson 6 years ago Reply

    Tried to write something yesterday and it never came through, but! Congratulations! What a bold move. I’m very excited for you!

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    First of all, I am so sad that your post didn’t go through! This isn’t the first time I’ve heard that and it bums me out. Thanks for trying again 🙂 and thanks for your kind words, too.

  • Emma 6 years ago Reply

    I am self-employed, which isn’t something I thought I would do because the security a job gives you is so comforting. But, you just have to remember to budget differently- because when it rains it pours. And then sometimes times will be slower.

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    I keep hearing this. Waiting for this pouring thing to start anytime now… 😉

  • yesandyes 6 years ago Reply

    SO PROUD OF YOU! (Also: come co-work with me.)

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    Thank you! And I’d love to. How do we do that?

  • April Hill 6 years ago Reply

    Glad to hear you’ll still be on the podcast! I’m not self employed, but over the last several years I’ve made big moves and taken big leaps to further my career (on my own, without the benefit of a spouse), and there have been nights I laid in bed thinking ‘What the hell am I doing, I must be crazy! I want to go back home to what I know’. But I’ve always tried to focus on the new adventure ahead and not on how scared I am. And I’ve never regretted any of it yet! Best of luck and I know you will do great in whatever you do! 🙂

  • katie dohman 6 years ago Reply

    Molly! I quit an amazing job and went off on my own, too! And I’ve worked with/for Andrew before too. 🙂 We can totally meet up and talk if you want!!

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    Yep, I definitely want that! Coffee post-Thanksgiving??!

  • Kyle 6 years ago Reply

    My wife said it beautifully, a few years ago when I was at a career cross-roads.

    "What would you do if you had a million dollars and didn’t have to work another day in your life? Ok, now figure out how to get paid to do that."

    I’ve been with SKORA Running ever since. I spend my days discussing running with cool people all around the world and coaching athletes.

    When people ask, I even go as far as to say I’m retired. My definition below, quoted from CostaRicaCurious.com

    "Basically, I define retirement as the lack of having a job… a structured job and instead, spending time working on projects that interest me as opposed to those that are going to generate the most income."

  • Mufaso 6 years ago Reply

    You are so gorgeous!

  • Mike B. 6 years ago Reply

    Hi Molly. I am self employed and a financial planner. I totally agree with Libby G. Self employment is the BEST THING EVER. The financial planner in me wants to tell you to be organized and "business like" with your business finances. Most self-employed people, especially the creative types, struggle with this. You don’t have to go out and start up your own 401k on day one, but at least get a separate business checking account and separate business credit card. Next start using Quickbooks or something similar. This part of being self employed is the least fun, but it needs to be done.

    That’s my advice. I hope you experience great success!

  • SM. 5 years ago Reply

    Molly, you’re an incredible woman, & I’m happy I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to you. Even if it was for a brief time. AZ always said nothing but the best things about you and I know you will be very successful in which ever path you choose to take. Much love.

    molly mogren katt 5 years ago Reply

    Aw, thank you so much! & agreed! Thank for the kind words. I hope you are doing well. 🙂 xo

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