Category Archives: Career

Spiraling Out of Control: Fighting Horrible Anxiety Through Long Winter Nights

Anxiety ebbs and flows through my life, causing varying levels of disruption to my productivity and potential for success. Unlike depression, which feels somehow more real and worthy of concern because I can feel my body shifting into a state of inability to move, anxiety is different and fuels a sense of shame. It is a horrible loop of self sabotage – lack of sleep makes anxiety worse and anxiety makes the ability to get a good night’s rest impossible. My heart is breaking for the life I want that keeps inching further and further from my grasp. It feels like I’m attempting to breathe in a room where the oxygen is slowly being sucked out and I’m expected to perform just the same as I suffocate.

This anxiety makes it impossible to focus. My mind literally cannot stay focused on one task requiring intellectual processing for longer than a few seconds. Clearly that is not acceptable when my career relies on me to produce quality work leveraging my brain. I keep thinking I’ll just take a few minute’s break and then get back to work and make progress, and then I find myself staring at the same blank sheet of paper unable to do anything. I am exhausted and want to walk out of my job and never look back, except I can’t because I need my job and if not this job I need job and no role will be better.

My doctors wouldn’t give me anti anxiety medication because I may be trying to get pregnant soon, which makes sense since it would be dangerous to an unborn child. So I don’t know what to do at this point. The depression fueled by anxiety is much scarier to me than the one that stems from my actual depression. Anxiety is an alien attacking me from the inside, and I as I attempt to hide my hand’s tremors I long to to grab a knife and cut it out.

I try to breathe, do exercises which for a second may ease my mind. I listen to music in attempt to calm myself. Other than watching a television show or closing my eyes and falling asleep (if possible) I cannot stop thinking in these horrible loops over and over and over again. I feel incredibly alone and ashamed. Why can’t I just stop?

The current political system in the U.S. makes it worse, certainly. I feel helpless as I watch our country being taken over by an evil, self-serving man who may lead us into world war or who knows what. I fear for the safety of people of color and anyone who thinks differently. I wonder how I will be able to raise children in a society where a man who throws temper tantrums on Twitter is president. How the one person who is supposed to represent stability and calm in a big scary world filled with evil humans is actually the scariest of them all. And I want to do something to help, but my role in this great big world is to wake up each morning and convince companies to buy software that will make them more efficient. I’m part of the problem. Perhaps I am the problem. One of them many.

Maybe it will be better tomorrow. I hope to get home safe, I don’t feel comfortable driving right now but I must to get back to my bed, only to repeat the journey again – to feel like everyone is watching me in my small desk in our open office, or that everyone is noticing that I left to attempt to get work done at a coffee shop down the street except my head is spinning so fast the only time I can get anything done is late at night when it’s quiet and calm. But I need sleep, so staying up late to work is not the best idea either.

Trade jobs are being lost to efficiency and automation. The jobs that exist now and will continue to exist are those which create redundancy between human work and machine work, or the roles which produce more efficiency from the machines. Maybe one day we’ll be in a world where we won’t have to work so much because robots do all the things that need to get done, but that doesn’t work in a  capitalistic society. As all the science fiction shows and books try to warn us, this is not going to come to a happy end.

Perhaps I should just shut up, take a few big breaths and keep my head down, and live my life and make the world more efficient and pose it all as a positive as more and more people lose their jobs or are called out for not being efficient enough, not being 150% productive in a society where 100% is no longer good enough.

I want to feel excited again. To feel like my work is contributing to something greater that is helping the world or at least entertaining those who feel this same sinking anxiety and horror at the state of things.

Instead, again I find myself drowning yet again. I don’t even see the surface anymore. It’s just dark and cold and I’m losing the energy to kick and force myself to the surface for a quick gasp of brisk air before plunging back into the darkness.

 

 

The Second Coming of My Life

Watching my hands shake violently as I attempt to calm myself down  without anyone noticing, I realized that I really desperately need to make a massive change in my life. There is nothing in the world that will make this the right career fit for me, and I have the choice to either continue falling straight on my sword each time I fail to produce results, or doing a 180 and running in a completely new direction. I’m ready to run.

I’m 33. That’s not old but it isn’t young either. It’s old enough to know better to jump into the same old situation yet again. I’ve created a conundrum for myself, in which I’m too senior to qualify for junior roles where I can learn how to do my job better, but too inexperienced to be truly qualified for the senior roles. An old business acquaintance not too familiar with my professional contributions outside of my public resume this week asked me if I’ve be interested in a very senior level marketing role in his organization, where he is on the executive team. He assumed I had the appropriate experience to take on this role but I don’t. And I’m so tired of this whole “fake it to you make it” because I’m horrible at faking it. I can’t even get my head around how to do a good job.

Today, I’m again fantasizing about grad school. I go back and forth over whether I should pursue an MBA or a design degree. The MBA would definitely make me better suited for my current role in its more senior incarnations, but the design degree would set me up for a job that I have a chance to actually love – thus, the design degree is probably the better choice. Either way, I need to take a standardized test and apply within the next month or so, which is a lot to do for someone who hasn’t prepared at all yet other than to categorize all the elements of math that I’d need to learn in the next 30 days. I can always wait another year, but I feel like it’s now or never at this point.

The best situation would be to stay in my current role and do the best I can for the next 8-9 months and leave for grad school in the fall. I’m sure I’ll be the oldest in my class by far which will be disheartening but maybe I’m finally mature enough to get a lot out of school (which I definitely wasn’t in undergrad) and I’d learn a ton and be employable for roles that I’d actually want once I finish. I’m less concerned about finances at this point – I’m still worried about retirement and such, but being as right now I’m not unable to afford a house and miserable in my career choice, I might as well be unable to afford a house and happy. Right?

I’m keeping the grad application thing secret as I probably won’t get in anyway and I’m trying to learn how to be self motivated to study for the tests. I really would like to just focus on the standardized test at a separate goal which, if I complete that and do well enough, I can move on to the next part of the journey which is actually applying to the schools. The problem with that is all the apps are due between Jan 1 and Jan 15… it doesn’t give me nearly enough time to pull together my portfolio and such. The MBA programs are a bit more flexible as I can apply to later rounds, so I might go the MBA route anyway and find a school where I can take a few design classes. Either way, I think the educational route will help me break out of this decade-long funk. I’ve learned a lot, but I need a massive shift right now, or this will be the rest of my life, and I can’t handle not knowing what I’m doing and falling apart on a daily basis.

 

And So Life Begins… Thoughts on Turning 33

In five days, I will be turning 33 years old. I was just reminiscing the time of my life when I thought 33 was quite old, and I realized I still think it’s substantially ancient. Sure, I have a lot of years ahead of me, but 33 is no longer my “early 30s” which could pass off as an accidental overage of my 20s. Thirty-three is serious adult business.

I honestly never pictured myself at 33 because I couldn’t imagine it. I’m not sure how many people see themselves as working professionals or mothers or whatever else it is 33 is supposed to be when they’re younger, but I didn’t have any sort of vision of who I’d be at this age. If a six-figure salary and wedding ring on my finger = success then I guess I’ve made it. But I feel ridiculously behind and lost, which is much scarier at this age than it was my 20s. Continue reading

Why Aren’t There More Female Senior Managers?

Continuing on my last post about why will never become a vice president, I’ve been thinking a lot about all these articles about gender equality in the workplace. The findings show that the higher in the organization, the more male it becomes – and, most shockingly, this starts with the first promotion when men are more likely to be promoted to manager than women.

The report assumes women WANT to be senior leaders (or that we should want to be senior leaders.) Who really wants to be a senior leader? There are two reasons you would want to become an executive – money and power. You can make money without being a senior executive – definitely not as much money – but you can make enough to have a happy and satisfying life lower in the organization. Since men tend to make more money anyway, women have the option to marry someone who is making a lot and have other ways to have that lifestyle anyway (*I did not go this route as I marry a man who makes less than50% of what I earn today.) If you don’t desire a high income and you don’t want power, then why WOULD you want to be a C-level executive? Continue reading

I Could Be a VP and Why I Never Will Become One

I am at the point in my career where I know the exact traits and skills required to climb the corporate ladder. And, despite seeing a clear path to the top, I’ve looked down to see I have no feet and I don’t have the strength or energy to continue climbing upwards. I look back down at the steep hill of my 20’s behind me and feel my legs buckle beneath me as I slowly slip and begin to roll back down the hill. I’m scared and sad and partially so excited to jump fall all the way down and lie there at the bottom in a pile of my own failure, staring up at this giant hill I once climbed, seeing my feet appear on my ankles again and, for the first time in years, I can stand without feeling myself falling.

Here is what it takes to become a Vice President in my field, and why I’ll never be one: Continue reading

What Kind of Person Are You?

Forget the Myers Briggs and DISC and all those fancy assessments that try to tell you what kind of job you should have. I wish I was told this back in high school, but jobs can be easily broken down into a few simple categories:

  1. Create Value (Engineer, Artist, Product Manager, Doctor, Researcher)
  2. Create Efficiency (HR, Finance, General Management, Consulting, Operations)
  3. Sell Value (Marketing, Sales, PR, Real Estate Agent, Promoter)

Really, most jobs fit into one of those three buckets. What’s important is you have a job in the right bucket that fits with where you find your flow. Is it in creating new things? Fixing things? Selling things? Of course, each bucket has a wide variety of roles under it and not every role will be right for every person – but in order to be happy with the work you do, you need to ask yourself are you a creator, an optimizer, or a seller? If you find yourself in the wrong bucket, you will add unnecessary stress because the role with not fundamentally provide intrinsic satisfaction.

Take, for instance, yours truly. I am definitely a Type I (Create Value) but I am in a Type III role (Sell Value). This is a very poor fit for me. Now, would I be a great doctor? Probably not. But, assuming I could become a doctor, I’d be happier being a doctor over a salesperson (type III) or an accountant (type II).

Which type are you?

Didn’t Get the Job – Back to the Drawing Board

The hiring manager seemed to love me. Within two weeks of applying for the job via a cold online application I was in late-stage interviews, presenting a powerpoint I put together in front of 1/3 of their pedigreed team including their CEO. When I asked why I didn’t get the job, she was very nice about it – “culture fit,” she said, adding that based on what I said in the interviews and what my references said I needed more stability to thrive. Maybe that’s true. Or, maybe they just picked someone more junior who was lower risk to the business.

I’m not devastated, as the timing was moving way too fast and I wasn’t ready yet to throw in the towel at my current company – but I did get excited about the opportunity and how FINALLY I could move away from sales-focused marketing roles into something more focused on product. Even my old boss, who I thought didn’t like me, told me over lunch that he thinks I’m great and jumped in to give me a reference that should have sealed the deal. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.  Continue reading

Our American Dream: Two Sisters Losing the Middle Class

We grew up in a nice suburb of New York where you would run into a mall in 30 minutes any direction you drove unless you were to drive towards the ocean. Our dad went into the city daily for his job that kept him out late, mom stayed home and took care of us by trying to get me to do my homework and fighting the school system to ensure my learning-disabled sister got the access to the education she needed. Outside of my father’s raging temper and my mother’s relentless narcissism and hoarding disorder, life was pretty good. It was all we knew.

I definitely took my class status for granted, and my sister is now learning that she did too. My sister is seven years younger than I am, and with her learning disability also graduated college later than I did. Nonetheless, after going to a private school for special needs students, she managed to obtain a bachelor’s degree from a state school. Unfortunately, that degree didn’t help her much in terms of setting her up for the real world.

Continue reading

Imposter Syndrome vs. Not Being Good Enough vs. Figuring Shit Out

Most days, I feel lost and hopeless. In between those days, there are moments where I get into Csikszentmihalyi-esque “flow” and I see, through all the mess of the dark-thorned forest, a clearing at the end of the tunnel – a life where I can be GOOD at my job on a consistent basis, get paid well for it, and afford a decent life in one of the most expensive places to live in the world.

I write this from one of my favorite gourmet supermarkets. Walking down the carefully-organized aisles filled with perfectly stacked imports and local delicacies, I acknowledge that this is a life I have to fight for, tooth and nail, mostly on my own. With my husband going back to school for teaching he’ll be in the $45k-$50k salary range starting out, so it’s up to me to make the life I want – to be able to afford a house in the Bay Area (or a nice enough rental in a safe neighborhood) for my future family to live in. Some days, in between the gloom and doom of telling myself I’m on the verge of getting fired and that my boss hates me, I think – damn it, maybe I actually know what I’m doing. Maybe I deserve my salary (or at least, I deserve it as much as the next person would have asked for it) – and I CAN DO THIS. Continue reading

Should I stay or should I go?

I was depressed about my job and decided it couldn’t hurt to start applying to roles that really struck my eye, full well knowing that historically I’d apply to hundreds of positions before getting a few calls… and it would take weeks to hear back, if I ever did.

My plan was to stay at my current job at least until the end of December, so I could finish out my year and really wrap up the current projects I’m working on so hopefully all involved could look at my time at the company as a success where I clearly added value, even if it was time to move on. I figured starting to apply for jobs now meant I’d maybe have a few interviews starting in late September/early October, being drawn out through October, with the earliest I’d get an offer being late October/early November. With a little negotiating I could bump out my start date until sometime in December. Continue reading