Chicago women battle career burnout
These Chicago women felt career burnout coming–and did something about it.
She quit corporate life to pursue her passion
Attalie Dexter, 31, knew she had to make a change when, after six years as a creative technologist at a consulting firm, she began to feel the routine was sapping her of the mental energy she wanted to devote to other pursuits—namely, jewelry-making.
“I realized I couldn’t be myself—I had no life outside of work,” Dexter says. The North Carolina native learned to sew at an early age from her mother and studied multimedia arts and sciences at a small liberal arts college in Asheville. When her boyfriend (now fiancé) moved to Chicago to go to grad school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago seven years ago, Dexter came along and soon found herself stuck in a downtown cube.
In her spare time, she took metalsmithing classes at Lillstreet Art Center (4401 N Ravenswood Ave, 773-769-4226) and when strangers began trying to buy her jewelry creations right off her neck, Dexter began considering a new career. With encouragement from her fiancé and a group of freelancer friends, Dexter quit her job four months ago (she still does contract work for the company) and began designing jewelry under the label name Shades of Grey in a spare-bedroom studio in her Bucktown apartment.
Now, with her line not only available on Etsy but also in local boutiques, Dexter is running a full-fledged jewelry business. She produces seasonal collections and lookbooks; and like any diligent self-employed adult, she stays on top of all of her business finances, from saving receipts for supplies and lunch meetings to projecting her annual profit margin. For now, she’s making about two-thirds of her previous income.
“I’m young, I don’t have a mortgage or kids yet, and it was as good a time as any to do this,” Dexter says. The change led Dexter to chip a tooth while nervously grinding in her sleep, but now she says, “I’m a million times happier.”