Category Archives: Career

Startup Stock Options: Taxes and Risk

One of the supposed benefits of working at a startup is the equity you’re offered as part of your compensation package. Given that more often than not this equity is in place of a 401k and a portion of your salary, in theory it may offer great reward in the long run.

However, what I didn’t realize about stock options (ISOs and NSOs) years ago is that in order to actually receive the stock, you still have to pay for it. Options just mean that you are able to buy the stock at a strike price, which is “low” but may very well still be higher than what the stock ends up being worth. Continue reading

Personality Types: What’s INTP Got to Do With It?

Apparently a bunch of top personal finance bloggers over at Yakezie had a blog carnival of sorts discussing their Jungian personality types.

Since I’m a Myers Briggs addict, I figured it was as good a time as any to retake the test and see what my results would be. I tend to swing back and forth between INTP and INFP depending on my bipolar phase… hypomanic and I’m INTP, depressed and I’m INFP.

So, today I tested INTP.
I think that’s accurate, at least for now.

Introverted: 67%
Intuitive: 38%
Thinking: 12%
Perceiving: 56%

INTPs are known as “The Architects”

Bolded are the pieces of the description that really speak to me… and also, in a large part, explain much of my frustration in the various career paths I’ve pursued thus far…

Architects need not be thought of as only interested in drawing blueprints for buildings or roads or bridges. They are the master designers of all kinds of theoretical systems, including school curricula, corporate strategies, and new technologies. For Architects, the world exists primarily to be analyzed, understood, explained – and re-designed.

Continue reading

Faking Passion vs. Finding Passion

It’s 1pm on Wednesday, I’m wide awake, full from a nice lunch with co-workers, and my brain is stuck at writer’s block. While I’ll never pose that I’m the most talented writer in the universe, if I have passion for the topic I’m writing about, I can at least revel in getting a lot of copy out. Without that passion, I stare at my screen for hours on end, and don’t know what to say.

Everyone has that thing that drives them, that defines their passion. Mine has always been honesty. I love telling stories, but I love telling true stories. Marketing is not exactly about lying, but your job revolves around how good you are at making tiny successes seem like major accomplishments, and to find an interesting and relevant story around the day-to-day business in order to generate excitement, leads and ultimately sales.

If there’s anything I learned from being a theatre major, it’s how to put myself into another character’s mind, to improvise, to always accept what’s thrown your way and go with it — yet when it comes to marketing writing, I always find myself a wall. I guess when I’m not personally excited about something, I fail at faking it. I’d always rather be involved in improving things than promoting things that are good, but have room for growth and fixes.

The problem is that I have an amazing opportunity for a long and profitable career in marketing, and I don’t even need to go to grad school or get an MBA to accomplish this. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I’ve been lucky enough to fall into one opportunity after the next that has generated a solid resume (finally.) I certainly won’t be offered every job I apply to — far from it — but I’ve moved beyond “entry level” and now have 5+ years of experience with some impressive companies, and a lot of (true) stories to tell about those experiences.

Even though I won’t be CMO overnight I know if I could just get myself excited about this career path, I have a shot at really making a name for myself in this business. But I’m not sure this is the path I want to take for the rest of my life. My heart is in product, in building something people use, iterating, creating, and honesty. Marketing covers some of that, but not in the way I see myself looking back and feeling like I’ve used my true passion the right way over the years… if there is a right way.

If money had nothing to do with it, would I be on this marketing trajectory? I’m not so sure. Would I be happier in design or something related to that? Probably, but who knows. In the end it’s a job, and regardless of what your job is, sometimes it’s hard to be passionate about what you’re doing to make a living. And sometimes its better to keep your passion separate from your career, so you don’t kill it.

What do you think?

Tables Turned: Hiring Interns and Reviewing Resumes

Five years ago, I was applying to every last internship and job position that remotely sounded like something I could be good at… PR, marketing, journalism, copywriting, anything writing… and in response I heard a bunch of crickets. Luckily amongst those crickets came a loud noise, then an interview, and then a job, and more jobs. But my time applying to internships while in college, and applying to my first job post graduation was really painful, and required unyielding tenacity. It seemed no one wanted to hire a theatre major from a large private college, go figure.

Today, I find myself reviewing the cover letters of intern applicants, and I feel for them. I see all those kids writing their optimistic cover letters all wide eyed and bushy tailed. It’s terribly difficult to not ignore the applications from mid-tier schools, when you have applicants from the likes of Stanford, Berkeley and Harvard interested in your job. Also, it doesn’t help matters when your boss tells you to hire someone from Stanford, Berkeley or Harvard (or the equivalent.)

While intern applicants from top-tier schools are not necessarily better than those from other schools, one thing that’s likely true is that anyone who has worked hard enough to get into a top school is someone who will be reliable and hard working. Intelligence can be defined in many different ways, but when hiring — even after a few interviews — it’s still a crapshoot. You have better odds to pick a winner if you pick someone who knows how to go out of their way to be, well, perfect.

At the same time, I’m trying to keep an open mind (by prying my mind open and, if needed, prying my boss’s mind open) and reading all of the applicants from any school (except the “University of Phoenix.” I’m not hiring anyone who spent money on a for-profit online degree, I have to draw the line somewhere.

In any case, it feels all twisted and strange being in the hiring seat now, just five years after I was one of those bright-eyed and bushy-tailed  young hopefuls, sending out my 300th cover letter and resume, and waiting, patiently, for the phone to ring.

Dilemma: Grad School vs. Work

Some say a graduate degree (in the right subject) can improve your future potential earnings. But I wonder if taking 2-3 years out of my career right now would actually equal more money in the long term.

Assuming I’d be missing out on an earning potential of $100k per year (let’s call that $60k after tax) and I go to school for 2 years. That’s -$120k plus -$50k per year on school and other costs So In the course of two years I’d be out $220k, give or take.

Let’s say I manage to save half of the money I earn, or $30k a year, $60k total. In 30 years at 5% annual compound interest rate, by the time I’m 60 I’d have $259,316 just from that $60k. Ok, that’s not too impressive — in theory I could make a lot more with a grad degree such as an MBA, which is one potential route.) But I’d also be $100k in debt. Ok, so how does that really add up…

Sans Grad School,
Investing $30k per year for next 30 years:
$2,222,481 by age 57

With Grad School,
assuming -$30k savings lost per year in school
plus $100k in student loans
Income increase to $150k / year, $90k after tax
Savings start 2 years later @ 29
Can save $50k / year after loan repayments
3,066,135.60, by age 57 – 259,316 in lost investment earnings

BUT — it’s really hard to say if that’s actually true. That’s assuming a lot of other variables that are unknown. Namely, it’s quite possible for my income to go up WITHOUT a graduate degree, and for my income to go down WITH one. Over the long run I believe a graduate degree would make my yearly income a bit more predictable (but not by much) and give me opportunities to pursue better paying jobs, but that doesn’t mean I will want to take them. But the two years I am in school may be two years I could have spent at a startup that ends up having a successful exit, and thus the grad school would never be able to equal the fiscal value of those lost years (not to mention the experience may be professionally just as valuable, at least in getting a job, as the degree.)

So the truth is the choice of grad school shouldn’t be about money. Clearly if I get a graduate degree and use it to find a better paying job over the long term it could mean a larger retirement nestegg. But it’s not a certain to say the least, and right now the experience and opportunities outside of graduate study are.

Fortune Mag Asks “Are Unpaid Jobs the New Normal?”

It may not be legal, but for the millions of Americans unemployed today, working for “free” in hopes of paid work in the future may be better than sitting at home and waiting for the phone to ring. The whole concept of minimum wage doesn’t apply when a college graduate is worth a job that deserves to be paid higher than minimum wage but, instead, isn’t paying a penny.

Kelly Fallis, who has used 50 unpaid workers at her small company, probably shouldn’t be admitting to her illegal slave labor practices in Fortune magazine

“People who work for free are far hungrier than anybody who has a salary, so they’re going to outperform, they’re going to try to please, they’re going to be creative,” says Kelly Fallis, chief executive of Remote Stylist, a Toronto and New York-based startup that provides Web-based interior design services. “From a cost savings perspective, to get something off the ground, it’s huge. Especially if you’re a small business.”

The fact of the matter is there lies a fine line between “internship” and “taking advantage of someone,” and some days I’m not convinced that line exists. I’ve long questioned the concept of the “unpaid internship” in college, as not only is the work unpaid, but it requires college credit that you actually have to pay for (seems twisted, doesn’t it?) But this isn’t an article about college internships, it’s about adults who have graduated and can’t find work accepting unpaid “work” to keep themselves busy. Continue reading

I refuse to give up on the American Dream

My American Dream, like many others who grew up in the “upper middle class,” was to continue living that lifestyle — maybe better — as I grew into adulthood and beyond. That meant a house with a lawn, a few bedrooms (with at least one extra for guests), in a neighborhood where you felt safe and could go for a walk down the street without worrying about being shot or mugged. And in that dream was a family — 2 or 3 kids — and the ability to have them take dance classes or piano lessons or attend baseball camp over the summers. And all of this was going to be my reality before I turned 30 (pre birth of the kids).

At the age of 27, I’ve revised that dream slightly, though likely not enough. At 27, I have ~$120k saved. $109k in investments, $27k in cash & cds – what I owe in taxes this year ($10k?)

And still, that savings feels like nothing compared to what I need to give my future family the lifestyle I had as a kid. That amount is pennies towards owning even a 1br condo here.
Around this area, 1brs are going for $599k or $335k or $459k.

Meanwhile, I’m paying $635 per month, or about $7650 a year to live in a small-ish room in a nice-ish condo. I have two roommates (one of them is leaving this summer so we’re going to have to find another roommate, but that’s a tale for a diff post.)

It just seems unreasonable to dream of owning property ever. At least not here.

The American Dream seems out of reach mostly because of my choice in significant other, and maybe in my choice of career. I’m not quite hitting six figures yet, but I’ve saved a reasonable amount of money each year.

My boyfriend still lives at home, so any money he makes he can save. But at 28, he still isn’t working a full time job, he’s making $20 an hour on contract because he doesn’t want to look for a different job and he’s planning on maybe going to grad school next year. I am very supportive of his plans for grad school but with that come loans that will hit when we’re in our early 30s, exactly when we’ll want to have kids. And he has very little savings and no IRA. And he doesn’t want to talk about it. After all, we’re just dating now. But as I’m approaching my 30s, the money has to come into play, a little bit.

I look at my friends who are dating men who are more stable in their careers. I look at my friends who are dating older men who already can afford houses. Some of these friends also work full time, others are working at jobs they love that would never afford them a house on their own.

In my life — I see myself as the breadwinner. The one who will bring home the soy bacon. And I don’t see myself as having the ability to be the same kind of breadwinner my dad was — the kind that could afford the house, the summer camp, the suburban lifestyle. So sometimes I wonder if I should have been more picky in choosing a life partner. I could have targeted men with full-time jobs, already established in their careers. Instead, I fell in love with a guy who isn’t going to push to make a lot of money in his life. And while I admire that about him, it also scares me enough that I’m coming to terms with the possibility that I will rent for the rest of my life and never have children. I just cannot afford them.

Still, I don’t want to give up on the American Dream. It feels about 10 years away right now, but by then it will be too late to have kids. My having children will basically eat up my entire savings — I’m figuring $40k a kid due to my PCOS and need for various fertility treatments, so 2 kids (with no guarantees it will work) and I’m back to square one.

How much of the American Dream should I give up on? Should I strategically place myself somewhere I can earn more than $100k a year? The odds of my stock options ever being worth enough to get me where I need to be at 31 (when they’d vest) are slim to null — even if my company does well. So I get depressed about this… I can’t comprehend how to get to financial stability in my life. Or, I can’t comprehend it where I’m the breadwinner of the story… where I can’t count on a reasonable dual income household. And that really freaks me out. Well, it makes me, again, accept that I’ll be renting a tiny room in a shared space with no kids my entire life. Maybe that’s not so bad. But that’s certainly not my American Dream.

All of the Happiness Your Money Can’t Buy

I was driving home from work the other day on a four-lane street with red lights every couple of blocks. My tank on empty, the orange light slowly blinking its death dance. Like many other days of my life, I was panicking. Tears were streaming down my face in an over-dramatic fashion, my heart racing, my mind toying with thoughts of suicide — more for effect than attempt. Still, the deep feeling of being overwhelmed, and more importantly, lacking a clear, quantifiable route towards happiness, kept my smile at bay and the tears flowing.

Happiness is a word I’d like to be able to define, to purchase, to set on a shelf and put on one arm at a time when I need a heaping of motivation and will to live. But it doesn’t work like that. I’ve spent my life trying to find happiness and keeping myself from it. I can complain on and on about my parent’s poor job at instilling a sense of healthy confidence in me, but I refuse to blame them entirely for my failures, or successes. The truth is, though, having been raised by a family with no comprehension of non-narcissistic care or love, it’s tough to comprehend my own definition of success, and if that success should even equate to happiness.

If I were homeless, or unemployed for an extended period, my parents would certainly see me as a failure. I had never seen my father proud of me until the day earlier this year when I announced to him I had secured a $65 / hr job (well, contract.) He immediately bragged to other family members about my success. “My daughter is a real person now,” he said, beaming, and although he never really understood my job (social media marketing?) he was still quite content with taking some sort of credit for my income. And when that contract ended and I moved on to another job – lower paying albeit still of a good salary, he didn’t let anyone know my income had been reduced, though he quit bragging since I had again joined the group of Americans making under $100k.

Happiness… in my life… has always felt like something you need to strive for, in being someone other than yourself if you can’t be perfect. I was never perfect. I was far from it. As a child, my parents assumed I was smart, and because I could draw something that somewhat resembled a still life sat down in front of me I was also a brilliant artist. My singing voice, while something I enjoyed using, was not, however, reflective of natural talent.

My mother always beamed when I was on stage, however, as she both knew I had no talent and wanted me to be her shining star. For what it’s worth, she’s tone deaf, and I’m unable to maintain pitch, so quality vocals equated to being able to belt loud with a lot of vibrato, even though later I learned that my soprano voice could never accomplish that style in a healthy way (despite that, I still try to sound like Sutton Foster when I’m alone in the shower.) I always felt if I had talent people would love me, and I’d be happy. But talent, at least in the performing arts, has not proven to be my forte.

My father would always be proud of my academic accomplishments, though his praise faded once I reached second grade and lost my drive, focus, and/or care on academics. A math man who likely also has ADD (though he’d never admit it), he would teach me about math and science and I would not pay attention, then he’d get upset with me for not listening, and eventually he gave up trying to teach me, he gave up on my ever being an academic. And so did I. I would daydream in class. I never read my assignments or did my work. I don’t know how I got by school, but I managed to do as little work as possible, and make up stories when asked questions about history that were on occasion 75% accurate (or at least creative enough the teacher didn’t mind passing me out of pity and amusement.)

School was always about watching the red second hand slowly scroll around the clock. I enthusiastically participated when I randomly knew an answer, I dreaded gym class and wished art class were longer. In high school I took as many arts electives as possible and had to take the lowest level match class junior year because I had already completed the higher level math — taking Algebra I in 8th grade, Geometry in 9th and Algebra II in 10th, I needed one more year of math and Functions, Statistics and Trig was beyond my ability to fake. I easily see myself as a giant failure of academia. Whether that was due to lack of intellect, focus, or out of a deep-seated hatred towards my parent’s idea of success, I don’t know. I just failed. But, I also passed. I passed, I managed a 1230 on my SATs (back when the total was 1600), I showed off my paintings for college applications — having decided only to apply to schools for theatre design, not academics — and received admissions letters from four out of the five, with the fifth — Emerson — denying my admission since I had only taken one year of a foreign language in high school (the theater department told me I would have been admitted otherwise.)

I still hated school… but I was excited about college, about starting over, about maybe finding happiness. I hadn’t found it at home. My life was this — disappointing parents while at the same time parents being convinced that I’m the next Picasso (I’m not), being obsessed with people I admired, convincing myself that I was a waste of space, ugly, nothing, and not good enough for anyone I’d want to spend time with, sitting in the hallway painting flowers, trees, hoping that someone would recognize talent in me, see me as good enough, but I just felt more and more lost, removed from people, hated or misunderstood, but never connected. And the only thing that remotely brought me happiness was being a goofball, slightly annoying, and making my friends laugh. That’s how I had any friends… I was a joke, and that was my happiness.

In college I felt lonelier than ever. My major — costume design — which I choose because I wanted to be a famous actress but was told I had no talent in acting but only in art — was a terrible choice. I hated costume design, and I was jealous of the actors, and I disliked most of my classes. I didn’t fit in anywhere – certainly not in the theatre school, not the feminist group which I started to hang out with, nor with anyone else. I still got off on being the joke, found a few people who liked to roll their eyes at me and kept them entertained. But I was alone without a purpose — and while failure was not an option, it presented itself at the buffet come sophomore year.

So I was kicked out of the costume design program, but not entirely out of school. I almost had all my credits for theatre studies, so I switched to that, took some other theatre classes, things got a little better. Realized I was interested in some softer academic topics… specifically sociology… enrolled in classes that dissected culture, not frogs or the history of architecture. Loved my class on the sociology of celebrity. Even had some good classes in the theatre school… found I enjoyed theatre criticism, and the professor, a Chicago Tribune critic even enjoyed my reviews and told me I had talent.

Talent… that unique magic that makes one person better(?) than the next was still the only path to happiness I understood. So I clung to the rare moment when a professor would tell me I had — it. Some special way of looking at the world that held value outside of my skull. All I ever wanted was to feel special. And that was something I knew no amount of money could buy. But I wanted to be able to one day know that my parents were proud of me, and that I did it my own way.

Fast forward five years out of college. I’ve had a thousand ups and downs. More downs than ups. I’ve kept running, left college, graduated, moved to California, tried to start over again. Tried to put a claim on my own definition of happiness. To be applauded for something unique inside me so I could one day prove that I’ve achieved the necessary divinity to be a success in my parents eyes, and in the eyes of all the other kids, parents and teachers who didn’t know what to make of me, who bullied me, who didn’t even see me.

And, so, this week I’m driving home from work, tears pouring out of my eyes, like an overly dramatic soap opera star who had just been betrayed, listening to the horn of the train, thinking about how wonderful it would be if I could relieve myself of this duty to be special, to be anything, and just to end it all. Not that I ever would, I’m far to terrified of death, of the moment in which my actions made the end inevitable, and any pain I’d feel, or thoughts I’d have, but I bring this up only to share how lost I am in my quest for happiness, and how painful it is to have no direction. How scary it is to have all my motivation tied towards this blurry and constantly moving picture of success, an undeniably selfish and impractical goal that is on the top of a tall mountain with a cliff on the other side.

Why does this story belong in my personal finance blog? Because right now I’m torn in attempting to develop a healthy and reasonable definition of happiness. I live and work in an area where many are very well off, and the well off are often special in that way I dream of being special. They’re brilliant engineers and entrepreneurs who are changing the world. They’re millionaires and billionaires. They’re humble yet living in glorious homes with breathtaking views, nestled in the hills overlooking the Bay. They’re my coworkers. They’re the people I drive behind on 280, all sharing in the priceless scenery. They’re the people I stand on line with at Bloomingdales when I shouldn’t be buying a $400 dress, and they’re buying $2000 shoes to wear to a charity dinner.

I hate stuff. I used to want stuff. Not even nice stuff, just stuff. Being able to buy without concern about one’s bank account felt good. I wanted a nice house, all this stuff… and to get that stuff I needed money. And maybe that would be happiness, success, that would be enough.

But I’m over that. I’m over stuff. I still would like a house one day but that day seems so far off and unlikely. And I also now realize that owning a house would be a pain. I’d rather rent. I’d rather own little. I’d rather have an old car in case it gets a dent than a nice new car that I’m terrified to drive.

So… in this constantly shifting concept of happiness and success, I’ve finally come to a conclusion…

1) I want kids. But the reason I want kids, to raise them better than my parents raised me, is selfish, and probably won’t work. Therefore, it’s probably the best that I don’t have kids.

2) I could spend my life being successful and I’d be miserable. I’m only truly happy when I feel like I’m helping people. That’s selfish too, but maybe that’s ok.

3) I’ve never learned how to love, or to care for other people. But I have so much love to give. So much care. And I need a place to spend that without worrying about getting something back for it. Without money or success getting in the way. So I want to get my life in order by February, and then find a place to volunteer. Maybe with kids. Maybe at a hospital. I like to help people. I don’t know if I can, I don’t trust myself to be able to, but if I had a choice between a new pair of jeans or spending a day with a sick kid, I’d surely chose the later. So maybe I’m not as bad of a person as I think I am…

4) I need to start somewhere — to volunteer — see if I can maintain this generosity in action versus just in thought. If that works out, maybe I need to confront my career path and ask myself why I’m here. Marketing can help people, yes, but no one will pretend my current product is designed to help society. It’s designed to help business. And that’s great. And that’s capitalism. And that’s my ticket to maybe, just maybe, being a millionaire like the woman at the mall with the small dog and casual Burberry ensemble.

… but if I ever made it there, if my bank account statement ever read $1,000,000 or more, would that change anything? My father (if he were alive then) would call everyone he knows to brag that his daughter is a millionaire. My mom would expect me to buy her things, and complain that she never has enough money. My boyfriend wouldn’t care. I might be able to put a sizable down payment on a house here, but I’d still feel empty. Had I obtained the money through building my own company, maybe that would feel a little bit like success, but I’d still feel empty. I’d still feel like I’m chasing everyone else’s dreams.

Today, I want to find out what my dreams are. I started reading “The Last Lecture,” the famous book of lectures by a a then dying Carnegie Mellon computer science professor who wanted to pass on his legacy and wisdom. Two adderall and a now empty carpet into cleaning, I picked up the book that was gifted at a “Women and MBA” weekend at CMU, and started to read. I got to chapter three — entirely focused on the words, my mind not skipping any of them — and then stopped, and started to write this blog post.

What are my dreams? I think that’s to lead a simple life, to make people smile, to feel needed, to read, to love, and to care. Most importantly to feel it’s ok to care deeply for imperfection, and to strive for happiness sans external praise in the form of applause or paycheck. After all, life is extremely short, whether I end it myself today or live to 100, and as long as I’m living I might as well find the means to smile.

Your Drug is My Love

This morning, I’ve achieved clarity, all with the help of two tiny blue pills.

I’m pausing to reflect — not because I feel a urge to stop being productive — but just to note my state of mind and then return to productivity.

For the past 27 years I have been a roller coaster of mood swings stemming from my lack of control. Control over my intentions and my actions. The fog which I live in. The way in which time seems to pass faster and faster as I daydream in a haze, terrified of tomorrow.

Today, a new life begins. Or so I hope. So I hope this isn’t only a sugar pill reaction. My mind convincing itself it can be saved. I don’t think it’s that. Too many people are helped by this drug. Too many Ivy Leaguers swear by its ability to help them focus for this to be created in my mind.

It was 10:48am 8 minutes ago. It is now 10:56. Yesterday, the same time would pass and it would be 12:30pm. I feel like seconds are seconds again. Minutes aren’t escaping to distraction, to anxiety, to a thousand thoughts in my head battling for attention, binge eating the clock until the sun goes down and it’s suddenly 4am.

What is this new life of mine? Can I really be this changed? Can I now face my fears of inadequacy from a level playing field? Only time will tell. Time that’s now mine.

The drug will wear off, I’ll grow numb, I won’t remember life without this clarity, or this new kind of fog. Somehow the anxiety is gone. Somehow I feel ok despite my mile-high to-do list.

And for years doctors have put me on anti-depressants, anxiety meds, all these things that just flung me further into the haze, made me feel like a tired zombie. “We have to combat the depression first,” they’d say. As if somehow my depression was caused by something other than my lack of attention. All these years… failing over and over again. And why? The clutter in my mind became the clutter in my life. A thousand songs playing at once.

Now, all I hear is the laundry machine, the birds chirping, the soft California winter air, and I’m only a tiny bit sad for all the lost years, now knowing what it’s like not to be lost. I can only hope this is real. I can only hope this feeling stays constant when it’s Monday, and I’m sitting at my office desk, with a thousand tasks and distractions, already so behind, in order to save my career, my life, and my mind.

When Your Career Ladder Looks Like a Jungle Gym

My resume was a great conversation starter at an MBA recruiting event I went to this weekend. My takeaways were that I can likely get into at least one of my top choice schools if I manage to get a really, really high score on the GMATs (as in, over 700.) Most schools seem to like that I’m not the typical MBA candidate, which is a good thing.

But this post isn’t about my quest to get an MBA, or it isn’t directly about this quest. Instead, it’s about moving up, down, and diagonal on the career “ladder.”

My current job is a huge leap up from any positions I had before in both responsibility, salary, and company respect. But it’s a six month contract which is ending soon, and likely won’t be renewed (more to do with the state the company is in than my work here, my boss wants to keep me on.) So I’m in a pickle. Where do I go from here?

The biggest problem is defining my career goals and understanding how my next steps will get me there. Incredibly, with the large-name company on my resume I’m getting calls back on my applications from other respectable companies. That’s not to say I’ll get past the first interview, but the phone is at least ringing.

It isn’t clear where I’m supposed to step to go up in my career. Most of the jobs I really want require an MBA or a lot of luck. Then there are all these very good jobs that are all so very different and can lead me in very, very different directions. Do I want to do customer support? B2B or B2c? General marketing? Social media marketing? How do these answers change when each option has a specific company attached to it? How do they change when each company has a salary attached to it?

Honestly, I’d be happiest doing online customer support. Because I love helping people and solving problems. That role is at an excellent company, but I bet my pay would be cut in half. Or maybe I could negotiate a little more, but I can’t imagine they’d pay a customer support person the same amount I’d make as a marketing manager or even marketing assistant. I’d be happier in the short-term, and there’s a chance getting a foot in the door at this company can lead to bigger and better things, but is it really a step up in my career? Should I care?

When it comes down to it, I need to look at what I’m good at and what makes me happy. I know I get the most reward out of helping people, solving problems, etc. Those types of jobs don’t pay as well as selling to people. Ideally I’d find a role where I can solve problems and help people while developing and marketing products. That may require an MBA. Right now I can possibly get hired as a social media manager, but that career path is limiting. It’s also all marketing and not as much about improving a product. It can be, it just depends on the role, product and company.

Regardless, the pickle I’m in now will only continue to, well, pickle, before I can take a bite and discover the taste of my future.