Last year, I resigned from my job as editor of Harvard Business Review to try to get a better grip on work-life balance. As part of my life recalibration, I moved to London with my British husband and two daughters and promised myself I’d only accept freelance assignments that excited me. I imagined all kinds of opportunities, but my favorite project was one that had never even crossed my mind: a three-day stint working for someone who used to be very junior to me.
I had to swallow a bit of pride putting myself in the “junior” position for the first time in a very long time. This included figuring out how to value my time on the project. I came to understand the value of seeing work through the eyes of my colleagues, not just my own perspective. Finally, I learned just how important it is to stretch myself to do things outside of my comfort zone, even this far into my career. When I came home from the assignment each night, I was bursting with details to share with my husband about the day—something I last did in my early 20s.
I stumbled into this gig by accident. I heard that a colleague was coming to London to shoot some video of business leaders and thinkers for the HBR website. Ah, perfect, I thought. I can be a local ambassador, helping her find the right people for the videos, breezing in and out of the location making sure all is well. I envisioned a kind of senior statesman role. I didn’t expect to work much—and I didn’t expect to be paid.