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I volunteered to be laid off from Amazon so I could try being a standup comedian

Sarah Whiteman at her first standup comedy show in Denver.Sarah Whiteman at her first standup comedy show in Denver.

Sarah Whiteman

  • Sarah Whiteman, 26, volunteered to be laid off at Amazon in January as part of its mass job cuts.
  • She felt it was time to move on to something else: standup comedy.
  • Whiteman described what it’s been like since taking the leap from desk to stage. 

This as-told-to article is based on a transcribed conversation with Sarah Whiteman, a 26-year-old former Amazon employee who volunteered to be laid off. Insider has verified her former employment. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I joined Amazon Web Services as a recruiter in April 2020, after being laid off from Nordstrom’s finance department after the pandemic struck.

I absolutely loved working at Amazon, and I moved into different roles before becoming a program manager for a new team handling onboarding across all of Amazon.

I was asked to join the team and I felt a little bit out of my comfort zone initially as it was different to what I’d done before. My annual salary was close to six figures, including stocks and bonuses.

Even though it was a great role and I loved the team, I volunteered to be laid off as part of Amazon’s January 2023 layoffs. I knew it wasn’t for me and I was ready to move on.

I got an elevated severance package that allowed me to focus on my passion – comedy – until the end of March.

I think I’m funny

Being a comedian has always been on my bucket list, but it was never my dream job — I actually wanted to be an FBI agent.

But after my friend Ashley N-G offered me a newbie spot on her comedy show, it was time to rip the Band-Aid off.

My first show, on March 6 at Rise Comedy in Denver, sold out, with about 85 official tickets sold. Since then, I have done five shows and each one has been different, but the first was the most exciting.

Performing in front of an audience was thrilling, but nerve-wracking. I’ve left each show feeling either extremely proud or regretting my mistakes: it’s never uneventful. While I would love to succeed in the industry, I do see it as a side hustle. 


Being a comedian made me feel more recognized

I had so much respect for comedians who continually put themselves in front of strangers to be scrutinized while honing their skills.  

So I posted on LinkedIn about how I chose bravery following the layoffs, trying out standup while looking for another role. My post went viral and things have already changed for me since.

I went to see the comedian Heather McMahon the night after my post, and there were people who recognized me and wanted to come to my show. 

I feel a lot more recognized for my talent than I did working for Amazon. I can be the business lady who gets things done, but I can also be this whole other person: a funny, charismatic individual.

But there are also some hassles. I dislike how hard it is to get a paid gig. To get them you also have to go to workshops and open mic nights to prove you’re putting in the work, hoping someone will notice you.

And once, I picked on a couple in the crowd during my set. I sat next to them to watch the next performer and apologized for poking fun at them, but the woman glared at me and said “Oh don’t worry, we were making fun of you more,” which was awkward.

It feels great to be recognized for qualities outside the typical business realm, though. It made me realize that you don’t have to stick to one profession. 

While I enjoy performing, and I see myself doing it long-term, it’s not a realistic full-time career right now. I’ll probably have to combine it with a job that offers health insurance.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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