Category Archives: Grad School

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.

 

New Unemployment/Unemployed Budget

Well. Here I am. Unemployed. Since I received no severance and was not eligible for payout of any PTO (side effect of the supposed unlimited vacation perk), I’m left with my final paycheck and waiting for unemployment to (hopefully) kick in.

When you apply for unemployment they ask you a whole host of questions and I’m concerned I won’t qualify, though I should. Even if I do qualify, it’s a whopping $1800 a month (before taxes) and they make you wait a week to start claiming, so the first month is actually more like $1350 for the month. And $1350 is about how much I pay in rent. Thank goodness I’ve been somewhat smart about saving this year (I knew the job was not going to last long given how I performed with the heaping of anxiety and lack of sleep brought on by a very non-supportive work environment and a long commute I should have never signed on for in the first place.)

I thought it would be a good time to check in regarding my networth and budget. My networth goal for this year was $400k but that was a stretch to begin with (a $100k increase from 2014 including savings and interest.) Right now, counting all my assets I’m at about $350k – which isn’t bad considering the way the markets have performed this year to date. I’m sure with some better investments and less stress spending I’d be a little closer to my initial goal, but not by enough that it would really be meaningful. I have to take a moment and applaud myself for reaching $350k networth. Even though it’s not the big $500k, $350k feels sizable enough to merit a moment of self congratulations. For some reason, this amount makes me feel better about my lack of job stability due to my mental illness. While I can’t touch all that money immediately, and after taxes it would be less, if I was desperate there’s enough there to get through my own personal instances of deep depression (yeay bipolar life.) I don’t feel secure enough yet to have kids, or quite frankly, to get married (which is happening this spring anyway), but I feel like this is an accomplishment of some sort I can be secretly proud of… especially given that just 10 years ago I had about $5k to my name and was basically living paycheck to paycheck.

Here’s how the $350k breaks down:

  • $27.5k – cash
  • -$46 – credit debts
  • $153.5k – stocks (taxable)
  • $178.3k – retirement funds
  • $6.5k – 529 / grad school fund
  • $8k – approx car value

Now, my goal for the rest of the year, revised, is to end the year above $350k. This just brings me back to my older goals of saving $50k a year – which I’ve been doing for the last couple of years. I though this year given my income increase I could save a whole lot more, but you know, markets fluctuate so much, and maybe I actually bought enough stock “on sale” this year that I’ll have a really good 2016. Who knows.

The trick at this point is not significantly dipping into my cash to live between my current job and my next job… especially since I don’t know when said next job will start (or what it will be.) The $1350/$1800 a mo in unemployment is barely enough to cover standard recurring expenses, so I’ll have to dip into my savings a bit. I’m hoping that by Dec 1 I have a job so this leaves me with just 1.5 months of unemployment, which shouldn’t hurt too much. With the wedding coming up, and all the expenses for that, I really, really, really need a job – even though I admit it’s nice to have a few weeks to just stop and focus on planning this crazy event since the lack of time to do that was also stressing me out.

But I want to plan for “worst case scenerio” 3 months without a job. I’ll give myself 3 months to find something I really think I can be good at – because the last thing I want to do right now is to jump into a position where my anxiety will get to me again. I’m hoping to find something with a bit more flexible work environment – the amount of work I can get done at home in a quiet space far surpasses what I can do in some horrible open office environment filled with stress-inducing distractions. I’ve made a pact with myself that I’m not going to apply for things I know I’ll ultimately fail at given the work environment. I also am probably going to apply to grad school because I know the field I’m in now rarely meets my minimum requirements for sanity, so despite the great pay, I think I need to take a break from chasing income and now start to actually plan for sustainability. In short, I can’t be crazy mommy who gets fired from her job every year – my future kids don’t need to see that. I want them to see me in my best state – one where I actually like my job more or less. Not the me who I am now. I would never want them to see that person.

So I’m assuming I will need to spend about $2000 a month additional from my savings in order to cover everything from gas to get to job interviews to food to grad school applications to a potential trip home to the east coast to spend some quality time with family when I have the time (dad’s cancer isn’t getting better and despite that he drives me nutso whenever I see him I always think – will this be the last time?) So… say I have $5k of my savings to spend over the next 3 months… give or take. That puts me at roughly $350k at the end of the year – but I’d then be worried I couldn’t find another job. I know that I have some talent and abilities… but I just need to figure out where and how to apply them in a way where someone will pay me money to do so, and I won’t flip out after 3 months or so feeling like I’m so overwhelmed but the piles of things to do and not be able to prioritize those things or even know where to start. Yes, this is the life of a woman who has super anxiety, bipolar II and ADHD. I’m not saying those are excuses for anything – I take full responsibility for losing this job, for falling into the same pattern. But there’s a part of it that is just inherently who I am. I’m different than most people, that’s for sure. I just need to figure out where I fit.

And I’m going to be 32 in a month, which is – such an adult. My body definitely feels like I’m in my 30s — I pinched a nerve a week ago and my back and arm are still in pain. If I don’t sleep a full 8 hours a night I feel it for many days later. And don’t get me started on drinking / hangovers, oy. That’s just to say that I’m not a kid anymore. I’m a full grown adult. Looking around at my apartment I have to stop and wonder if this is what I pictured adulthood to be like. Well, I never actually envisioned myself as an adult. Maybe that’s part of the problem. But when I envisioned adulthood as a general concept, it certainly didn’t look like this — unfinished apartment, used couch that’s falling apart, bike in the corner of the living room because there’s no where else to keep it, a career that doesn’t feel right at all, getting married (ok that’s a start) to a man who also doesn’t have much of anything figured out yet either, to a long life ahead of me that I imagine will poof suddenly transform into one filled with maturity once I have my own kids (I know it doesn’t happen that way, I just like to think there’s some kind of inciting incident to finally growing up.)

Oh well. Today, I just need to focus on not dipping in too deep to my savings this year, and ultimately continuing on to my “round 1” $500k goal. That was supposed to happen next year. It won’t. But maybe I’ll get there before I’m 40.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over and done and on to the next

While I’ll never say I was perfect at my job, my new boss REALLY didn’t like me. I believe he had it out for me from the day he joined the company less than three months ago. People respect executives that come in and make fast changes – it gives them credibility that they know what they are doing. And, looking at the scenario outside myself, AND if I was a heartless professional (i.e. the kind one has to be to survive in the corporate world, I’m not saying this is a bad thing) I’d probably make the same move. From his perspective, I was this employee who committed to a whole bunch of stuff, and then it took longer than she expected, and things were done late, and she lived so far away she came to office at 10am when the rest of the team got in at like, 8.

What sucks is that I was actually making good progress. It was way too slow as I really was learning as I went, and I made a lot of mistakes that I’d never make again. I came in and reachitected a sales database and all the corresponding marketing workflows. I focused way too much on the operations and not enough on the actual marketing. But when everything was in place and I did turn it all on, it really started to work. I could see in the system a large number of really great people who could buy our product who were engaging with our content. It was just too little, too late. And, so, off with my head.

Even though I did get a warning about 20 day ago, the actual getting fired was a bit jarring. For one, I thought I had 30 days or maybe a few more, as my boss and I discussed both 30 days AND my staying through to the beginning of November to wrap up projects. But for whatever reason he got pissed about something I did and decided that yesterday was the day. Maybe my CEO made the call – like many CEOs I’ve worked with he has a black-or-white view of the world and while he used to adore me and my work (when he hired me and shortly thereafter) I had moved over to the dark side, getting a few nasty emails from him about a press release he hated and my asking the office manager to help with some mailings, that, apparently I was supposed to do myself. I have a suspicion that they both had it out for me — they gave me a warning on Sept 23 and said I could go peacefully into the night right then and there, but I am not a quitter, so I said let me stay and prove to you I can be better. I’m so close to having things work. I’m so close to showing you I can do this.

The problem was, I didn’t really believe that. Even with the systems all set up and emails going out, I didn’t have enough content to send, or enough support to deal with the thousands of other requests pouring in — managing a series of conferences, getting PR up and running again, dealing with random asks from other teams that I didn’t plan for, et al. And, the thing is, my boss(es) really want someone who just willing to sacrifice their entire life for the job. That’s what they do, so why shouldn’t everyone else? And, in my 20s, I was all for that kind of life. I had being bored, I like feeling part of a team and helping contribute to a common goal  – so what if it’s at 11 at night and I’m half asleep and I have to wake up at 5am to get on a plane?

Now, that’s not how it would be every single day at this job, but the mentality certainly is either you’re the type to just spend every waking moment of your life working (or at least be smart enough to provide the appearance of this) or you’re out on the street.

Well, I’m out on the street. My boss set up a 3pm meeting and someone at the company actually leaked a memo that gave me a little bit of a heads up, which I am forever grateful to them for. I spent the day clearing off my computer and starting to clean out my desk. I wasn’t 100% sure it was going to happen that day — after all, there’s an event next week and I’m the only person who was going to be able to set up the booth, so I thought. I thought wrong.

He must have been really pissed at me because … he set up a 1:1 at 3pm, then at 3 he asked me if we could meet at 4:30pm and then at 4 he comes over to my desk and – out loud in front of everyone else says – “let’s just get this done with. We only need 30 minutes.” That’s when my suspicions were confirmed.

And that was it. “We’re going to let you go,” he said. I waited for more. I waited for a list of specifics which I failed to do in the last 20 days when he had told me I at least had 30. But he basically gave me the look like “you know.” Yes, I do know, I wasn’t willing or able to dedicate the entirety of my life to the job, nor was I able to successfully be about 5 other employees that I wasn’t able to hire for the team, for various reasons. Ok, this is it, I thought… what crazy paperwork do I have to sign in order to get my severance and how little is it going to be (being as I was there a year, I thought they’d at least pay me out until the end of the month.)

But there would be no severance. Clearly they don’t think I’m a lawsuit risk. They just want me out. Last paycheck, last expense check, and good day. This guy is so irrational that he told me that I should consider coming in the next day to pack up in the morning, early, so no one else would be around to see me do it – or I could pack up then. LUCKILY I had already done most of my packing earlier in the day, you know, standard fall cleaning, nothing to see here folks – what was left was just a lot of trash and work content that I didn’t want to deal with anyway. About an hour after I left I get a text message from him saying it’s a bad idea to come in tomorrow and they’ll pack up my desk and mail me things. I love how quickly he changes his mind.

The entire situation at the company was impossible. Sure, I could have done a better job, worked harder, slept less, took a 5am train and returned home after 9. I could have lasted a bit longer. But the company itself is a mess. The product has been entirely rebuilt and that isn’t going so well. Clients are unhappy. Everyone knows the CEO is crazy. I caveat that by saying all CEOs are crazy and that on its own isn’t a ding in my book. Just look at Elon Musk or Steve Jobs. The problem is that CEOs think they HAVE to be like that in order to ensure the success of their company, but not all have such inherent intuitive genius. Some are just swayed easily by whatever they hear from someone else, and suddenly the world will end if that particular issue isn’t resolved (while in reality the rest of the world is burning around them, but they have to hyper focus on this one issue to make them feel like they have control of the entire situation, which, they don’t.)

Maybe the company will get purchased by someone and there will be some kind of a successful exit, but it’s like one of those many startups out there dying a slow and painful death. I don’t envy the CEOs of these companies — they come in, usually after the founder has given up or has been pushed out by the board, and they’re handed this pile of shit to try to refurbish. These CEOs are the type that are in it primarily for the money (founding CEOs sometimes actually care about the product and maybe even changing the world.) Second and third CEOs just want to get rich, or more rich. I don’t fault them for that — trying to turn around a failing startup is not an easy task. And there are still a number of people employed by the company, so this CEO is day in and day out fighting for not only his shot at wealth, but also their livelihood. It can be an admirable position.

The problem is more often then not, the new CEO isn’t able to recover. It’s kind of like handing a kid a broken toy and seeing if they can fix it or have fun with it. Maybe they’ll turn this broken toy into something amazing (maybe even something better than it was meant to be) – but – really, you’re probably going to end up with a very frustrated kid having a temper tantrum and throwing the broken toy across the room once he realizes it’s not at all salvageable.

That said, I did respect the CEO of this company because he was handed a broken toy and sold said toy to some pretty big, well-repected toy buyers, so to speak. He works his ass off and for that I can’t not respect him. And, despite his having some pretty unrealistic expectations when it comes to the performance of the team, I can’t fault him for pushing everyone really hard. His management strategy is push people as hard as he can until they break. Make the ones who are working hard feel really special (i.e. CEO is paying attention to you and “invested” in your success!) Then people get super burnt out and either they leave on their own accord or, in the rare case that someone stays because they refuse to quit or move on, he gets someone else to fire them (i.e. new boss, three months later, hands me the ax.)

Well, here I am, unemployed – yet again – but I feel ok this time around. I’m actually in a much better place now than I was a year ago because I learned A LOT over the last year. I have been talking to a few companies while I was still employed so I want to move quickly on those opportunities. I also feel like I need a break. I know it has been just a year since I was last unemployed and it’s embarrassing that I’m this tired and burnt out right now,  but I’m this tired and burnt out right now. I threw out my back/neck/shoulder/something last week and even though I sleep at least 7 hours a night I’m always about ready to fall asleep. I can use a week or two to recharge and hopefully will be ready to head into the next thing.

What I don’t know is what that next thing should be. It’s one thing to be recruited for how great I look on paper, it’s another to be able to actually execute and be successful. I don’t want to jump into yet another situation where someone has convinced themselves I’m so great when in reality I’m, well, not quite all that and a bag of chips. Or maybe now that I’ve had some more experience I can be better. I did learn a lot. I see the bigger picture more clearly. I understand the framework of what needs to get done to be successful. But if, at the end of the day, this entire field isn’t right for me, and I’m not right for it, then should I really try to stay in it just because it’s the only place I can get hired? I can take some time off… take classes… figure out who I am and what I’m good at…

I’m still planning to take the GRE soon and I still have my grad school applications in process. Maybe that’s the right way to go. I feel like I need a change. Maybe it’s just a change of company. Maybe it’s a complete 180. In any case, I guess I am relieved right now that I am no longer struggling to promote the wonders of a broken toy that may not be at all fixable.

 

 

 

I don’t care about money anymore.

For the last almost 15 years of my life since I graduated from high school, I’ve felt overwhelmingly lost. I may as well have been wandering blindfolded through Siberia with my hands tied behind my back. Somehow or other I’ve managed to float from one job to the next, things I never really wanted to do, but it all just happened. I got really good at faking it enough to get hired in only the things I didn’t actually want to do.

I always return to my $325k+ networth, because that’s my one heaping achievement at this point in my life. I don’t own a house. I paid for my used car outright. I live in a relatively modest one bedroom shared with my boyfriend. I have no kids. I barely have a social life. I spend most of my time working or thinking about work or doing something related to work, despite not being nearly as productive as I should be. And I’ve given up on all of my dreams for fame or fortune. Right now, I just want to find my calling. I don’t need a six figure job. Ironically I find the more money I make the less I want to spend, the more I want to save – and I’ve figured out I can get away with about $3k a month in expenses, or less if I was desperate.

Part of me thinks I’m absolutely crazy. I should be fighting for my current life, my current job, with every ounce of my being. It may not be enough – I may just not be intellectually capable of doing a good job in this specific type of role – but I should at least be trying with all my might. I don’t feel like I have the right to be burnt out at this point – it isn’t burn out, it’s just the wrong fit. My whole life has been the wrong fit.

But I see a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not completely on the wrong path. There are elements of my role, the industry I am in, which are more than fulfilling. I just know that the only thing that stands between me and a life I can be proud of is the GRE. Yes, there’s graduate school as well, but the GRE is the big giant monster standing in my way. When I say this out loud it sounds like I’m throwing a pity party but I’m really not that intelligent in the book smart sense of the term. While I need a billion hour of study on quant to score decently on that section, I feel like I have a chance to master quant if I put my mind to it. I’m terrified of verbal, surprisingly enough, because my comprehension skills are limited.

Clearly I’ll need to study a lot for the GRE. With an undergraduate GPA of 3.2 (barely, it’s a bit all over the place) I don’t know i fan self-respecting graduate program would seriously consider my application without some crazy stellar GRE score. I’m talking top 95%. Or, you know, I just don’t go to grad school, and I figure out something else. But the longer I think about it… you know… 10 years or so… the more it’s clear that I need to go back to school to get where I want to be. There are specific programs I want to apply to, and all of these are at top schools to where I wouldn’t have dreamed of applying for undergrad. And I still think it’s rather funny I’m considering applying to them for grad school. If I were to actually get in, I think that would be the first actual accomplishment of my life that I’d be proud of.

At the moment I’m trying to figure out how to arrange my studying. I’m not opposed to putting $1000+ down on a class, but I feel like it would make more sense to TRY to study on my own and take the test first – see how I do after seriously studying on my own for two months or so, and then go take a class or get a tutor to hone up on the parts I couldn’t learn on my own. The whole prep class thing reeks of scam — the GRE is supposed to be the type of test one can learn themselves. And would 8 weeks of classes really get me where I need to be? Tutors are crazy expensive though. I realize compared to a $100k graduate program spending $5k on getting in is really not that insane. I just don’t think a one-size-fits-all type of program would really work. So I’m going to see what I can do on my own first… probably. I’d like to double down on quant first. Answering verbal questions is frustrating because I can’t go back and “work” them and figure out what I did wrong – other than memorizing words. And I SUCK at memorization.

In any case, the next 4 months of my life = intense GRE study. I need to approach this like a game. The game is the GRE. And I want to win it.

Tenacity and Intellect, the Perfect Combo

For the longest time, I believed that people were either smart or not smart. Either you could easily figure out how to do something or it just wasn’t meant for you. Now, to some extent, that’s true, as some people find certain things easier than others naturally. But one of the things I’ve come to appreciate in life today is that intellect only gets you so far – it’s tenacity that gets you the other however many miles you need to go. But everyone can get there as long you try hard enough.

It has been interesting getting to know my friend better over the last year as he has been preparing for a major exam for graduate school. The amount of focused studying, both self-study and via outside tutors, he put into the exam, showed me how even for a very smart person, the amount of practice required to get a great score takes a lot of work. In fact, even after taking the exam once and scoring very well, but apparently not quite as high as he wanted, he went back to the books, studied even harder, and walked away with one of the best scores you can get on his second try.

Most of my anxiety stems from not knowing how to handle being challenged. When I was a young child, I loved math, doing multiplication workbooks over dinners out waiting for the food to be served in first grade and probably kindergarten. I loved it when it came easy. Then it got harder and I gave up too quickly. My father would get frustrated at me for not understanding things fast enough. I grew distracted and antsy and sad that I couldn’t just get everything as easily as I once did. I gave up way too soon. I gave up because I figured most things in school were irrelevant to my life.

Fast forward X # of years and – I’m still that person who gives up too easily. Who freaks out over every minor imperfection. I’ve never actually witnessed the work it takes to succeed at the highest levels of intellectual performance. And for everyone, even the most intelligent people out there, it takes work. But it’s the work, and the efficiency of that work, that defines their intellect. Focus (to keep attention on one problem until it is solved, even if it has multiple steps), creativity (the ability to think outside the box for answers to problems that are trick questions or don’t have obvious answers), processing power (how fast do you compute?) and memory (how well do you store and receive information) and determination (how quickly do you give up when it gets hard?) are the five core tenants of intellect, IMO. As a person with ADHD I struggle with all except creativity. Every person can become smart is they can fix those four tenants of themselves. Not everyone will be Einstein but we can all get good scores on exams, or be loved by our colleagues for the work we produce, if we try hard enough.

I’m thankful for being able to get to know this friend better over the past year, as his refusal to give up on what he wants, and ultimately walking away with a major victory en-route to the prize, has shown me the truth about being the best person you can be. In 2015, I want to be the best person I can be. I feel inspired. And I know this is going to be a trying but great year.

 

It’s Been One Week Since I Lost My Job.

In terms of sharing the news that I lost my job, so far I’ve only told a few close friends, and of course all my anonymous readers here (whoever you are, hi.) This morning I’m glad I had a dentist appointment scheduled at 8am so I got out bright and early, got my teeth cleaned, then walked a few miles home while stopping for a quick bite to eat. I also – and probably shouldn’t have – treated myself to a manicure, pedicure – mostly because my nail were a hot mess and I needed to get the gel polish professionally removed. I spent $80 on my nails, which was probably a terrible idea unemployed, but if I’m going on job interviews (and I am) having good looking nails is important. That’s my justification for my bad decision.

The colors I chose for my nails are bright and happy. I have a beautiful fuchsia on my fingernails and an orange pink with glitter on my toes. I know you’re all not interested in what color my nails are but my point is that things like the color of my nails can significantly impact my mood – and right now I need all the help I can get to keep myself from falling into a depression like last time I was unemployed.

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Fantasizing About Graduate School

It’s time. For almost nine years I’ve been in the workforce, far away from academia, exploring a multitude of careers and learning more about myself while saving nearly $300k. What I’ve learned is that in order to be happy, I must have a day job that satisfies much of my fundamental needs:

  1. Enables me to be a SOCIAL, collaborative creature, interacting with the same people on a regular basis, over the course of multiple projects.
  2. Enables me to work on PROJECTS as opposed to ongoing, never-ending, headache-inducing programs. I need a sense of completion. My brain requires the structured chunking of time in order to be most productive and content.
  3. Enables me to APPLY CREATIVITY. I do not want to live a life where creativity is the end goal. The creativity should be a means to accomplish a very clear problem that has been identified via patterns or an examination of problems that are likely to arise in the near-term future. Continue reading