Tag Archives: career

The Job Downward Spiral: There’s a Physics to my Employment

Either I’ve done a better job overall this time around or things just move slower in public companies. I think it’s a mix of both. But now a year-and-a-half in and it’s clear I’m past the phase of newcomers victories and excitement and well into the phase of “I suck at this.”

I’ve been assigned a few larger projects to manage and after failing at one or two my boss was really hoping I could pull off the latest and greatest, but nope, I fell right on my face. Looking back I see a few areas where I could have improved, but overall I just feel lost. I don’t know how to help drive collaboration when I’m unsure what the expectations are. I did uncover these expectations along the way (and feel I could do a much better job managing a project like this next time) but the problem is I seem to keep missing the obvious and not getting what I’m supposed to be doing… which at my level, as my boss points out, is not acceptable. She used nicer words, but that’s what she meant.

The good(?) news is that I’ve been assigned a slew of projects that I HAVE been successful at. Unfortunately, these projects are one-off “do not make any sense on a future resume” type of projects. Maybe it’s time I stop caring so much about said future resume and just try to do what I do best–which is run with the punches and take on creative projects that no one else would have the foggiest how to manage versus trying to become a manager of cut-and-dry processes and failing time and again.

At 35, it’s no longer cute to fail or figure shit out. I should have it figured out by now and it’s clear I don’t. I’m scared because without resume-building projects I have no where to go after this. It’s hard to have that conversation with your boss because you aren’t supposed to be thinking about “after this.” And it’s less about moving up at this point and more about maintaining some semblance of a living wage once this job is no more. Maybe I’ll stay in this role until I retire with inflation-based raises, but that’s unlikely. I know my boss sees that I can do SOME things well (otherwise I’d be OUT already) but is that enough? I don’t want to be the easy to cut person in the organization and without adding clear value I’ll be cut sooner or later.

I just wish the last project didn’t end up the mess it was. I really don’t know how I could have done it all better. I still am not sure I could really do it better if I started over, which is the scary part. I don’t know how to get teams inspired to do great work, or to collaborate. Everyone seems to think I go off and come up with ideas on my own and decide everything without consulting others, but I keep asking everyone else what they want and I’m not getting any answers. I guess I’m not asking them in the right way. Or… they just hate me and don’t want to collaborate. I don’t know. My one co-lead on the project was super nice, but he also ended up driving things down a path that made it all more complicated and took away my control–which, funny enough, is what my boss wanted me to have… control to make the project great, but then also be collaborative and get everyone else’s input, but to lead. At the end of the day, I’m a shitty leader. But I’m not going to stay in a senior-level role without BEING a leader in my field. Independent contributor is not worth much and I’m way overpaid to be one right now. Good problem to have? I guess. It makes me feel like crap every day. I can’t even look my colleagues in the eye anymore.

I’ve set 7 time-based goals for myself to stay in the company and just try to survive. And by survive I mean do great work that keeps me employed, but also do not try to move up or gain resume-building experience… just do whatever my boss(es) want me to do and stop trying to do the things that would help me move up but do not come naturally to me. That’s 7 dates across 33 months that I need to survive and then, as long as there isn’t a major recession, I’ll have some sort of flexibility to figure out my next steps… I mean, not a ton of flexibility because if I have a mortgage and another kid, flexibility is out the window unless my husband is willing to move to a lower cost of living area and he isn’t.

It is just all so suffocating… I’m so fortunate for all I have and I know I’m in a much better spot than many others in this country, but I just can’t breathe. I don’t want to get caught in this self pity crap but I also don’t know how to be better. Once I start thinking this way it’s hard to focus and be productive. Every little thing I do I self doubt so much that I slow down my output and my output gets worse and worse until I inevitably get let go. Fired. Whatever. That’s what I do. It’s not funny. It’s not poetic. It’s just my life.

But with a toddler and wanting another child, it CAN’T be my life. I’m really fucking scared right now. I don’t know if I’ll ever see the day I have a. job where I’m not worried about getting fired. This is the best situation yet as the head of the department likes my work and has given me the opportunity to do projects seen by our senior leadership team, but that still doesn’t make me professionally immortal. And I know even if I can hold on for dear life these next 33 months, there’s still after that… if my resume has nothing on it other than weird projects that make no sense at another company, or would be comparable to what a much more junior person would do with a much lower salary, I don’t know what I’ll do —

I was talking to my husband and we agreed that our mortgage should be no more than $5000 with his father adding another $2000  in rent (basically $2500 for each of us per month plus $2000 for his father.) My husband really wants his mother to go in with us on the property but I’d prefer to buy separately and just have his father rent from us (his parents aren’t married, it’s complicated, but I am comfortable living with his dad if he is renting from us and it’s clean cut like that.) So we can put down $300k on a $1.5M property which is about $7k a month. That might be doable even if I lose my job, but it will be hard to maintain 30 years of a career that can support $2500 a month. And it’s going to be very hard if not impossible to find a place that costs $1.5M that has a good place for his father to live.

Ugh. When will my life not be a mess?

How many kids do you want? Two… and an accident.

EVERYONE seems to think it’s completely ok to ask a new mom of a 9 month old the question “so, how many do you want?” My favorite is when colleagues ask me this out. loud in a public area where my boss can hear… of course I’m going to respond “I want 8 kids in the next 2 years” so she can flip out.

I don’t actually want 8 in the next two years – but I do want at least one more and I’ve always wanted to have 3 kids, even though rational brain says NO YOU DON’T. So, my answer when friends ask me – how many kids do you want – is “two. And an accident.” My answer to colleagues is… “I’m not sure. Maybe I’m done.”

But my heart says I’m definitely not done. Even though being a mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done (especially being a working mom), I absolutely love it. I no longer am searching for this greater purpose in life — I’ve found it in my son. I love being a mom. I don’t see how I can afford 3 kids but f it, who can? I can afford 3 kids better than most people with 3 kids…

Since I’ll be 36 in November, I don’t have a ton of time to have two more kids. It’s possible it’s already too late. At the same time, I have 2.5 more months of vesting my stock at my company, and while I am focused on doing my absolute best at work, it would be safer to be pregnant during some of this time. They COULD still fire me, but it’s less likely as long as I’m doing my work and the company is doing ok if they know I’m pregnant (**there are no legal protections for a woman who is pregnant outside of not being able to get fired because you are pregnant.) However, in order to get fired while you are pregnant you need to be doing a bad job, versus be doing an ok job but not an amazing job.

I won’t suddenly stop working as hard once I notify work that I’m pregnant (I didn’t last time either) – it will just be a bit of a relief knowing that for a year (9+3 months) they’re slightly less likely to fire me in that time. So I have about 30 months left of survival here… 15 months “pure survival” (12 months until May, get pregnant, 3 months until notifying company – or maybe I’d tell them early?) then 12 months of slightly more security, which gets me to 27, then I just need to make it 6 more months until… some form of freedom. It’s not that long to make this all happen… so if I play my cards right, I can, in the next 2.5 years, have one more child, and hit $1.5M in net worth (which then opens me up to IVF for my final child at 39/40 and my husband would be a lot more open to having a third if I have $1.5M accumulated in the bank/stock market.)

I know I am a bit crazy about my planning but it seems to work decently to have goals and to go for them. After hitting this goal, I want to loosen up a bit. That $1.5M will be a huge milestone, as will having $1M before giving birth to #2. I think it’s very doable as long as I keep this job. That on its own is the single biggest challenge I have. I’m doing better than in past roles, but not perfectly at all. My MO has been staying up all night to get a lot of stuff done always and that doesn’t work anymore being a mom, so I need to figure out new ways to be productive during daytime hours. I already am in a bit of a low this year after a few communication fuck ups so I’m digging myself out one day at a time. I know I have a lot of room for improvement and I’m just hoping that my team sees I’m not only making an effort but actually being ON in hitting all my deliverables and communicating the right amount with clarity and purpose.

Now, in reality – do I think I will last at this company 2.5 more years? Probably not. Being as there’s already a bit of a record on my poor communication skills and missing a few deadlines, as soon as someone better comes along they can get rid of me. It’s just hard to find a replacement for me because I do all the crazy projects that don’t really fit a set job description… you could hire 3 different people to take over for the work I do, because the work I do requires 3 different skillsets, at least. Do I do all of these “jobs” perfectly? No. But when. you can’t hire 3 people, sometimes you settle for one person who tries her best and gets it all done. As I’ve learned as a manager and in my years in business, sometimes it’s better to keep on people who are loyal and who won’t be leaving any time soon by choice, versus hiring someone who constantly has one foot out the door. I’m sure my boss sees me as a bit of a necessary evil–which is NOT what I want to be, but it is better job security than I’ve had in a while. My goal is to, in the next year, really make sure the whole team appreciates my contributions. I think I have a path to get there but there’s a long road ahead. So I have one year in which to really kick ass (as much as someone with such horrible human skills as myself can kick) and then head into my second pregnancy as a worker that’s valued in the organization–not on a PIP or worse.

It could definitely go either way. I just need to get my act together… which is so so so hard on this little sleep. But… I can look at the next 12 months–the next 4 quarters–and within those 4 quarters figure out how I can make sure in each quarter I’ve delivered a few major high-value projects, and also didn’t totally fuck up any internal communication. If I can become the best project manager in the company that would be amazing but let’s be real – that’s not going to happen. I can, however, start setting realistic deadlines, and do my best to get everyone’s feedback on time on projects so we can hit them.

I’m definitely worried this is all going to go downhill fast, but keeping this “12 months of greatest” in my head feels more achievable than the 2.5 years of survival. I have no idea what I’ll do after those 2.5 years, but the more money I can save, the more doors that will open–whether that’s freelancing part time and staying home with my kids, getting a job at a startup that’s really helping the world somehow, or – who knows. There are a zillion things I could do… I just need the money to feel stable enough to take that leap. I’m so fortunate to be in the place right now where I have a winning lottery ticket in my pocket and all I need to do is just KEEP MY JOB.

For someone who has been fired 8 times in her career, though, that’s easier said than done.

 

Another Rough Week – Thinking About the Future

Day 9029230952 where I have at least one mental breakdown in a bathroom stall at work. One project I thought was nearly finished (and got approved by a very senior person) and then theohead of my department looked at it and requested a pretty significant change that requires a ton of extra work and budget and may not even be possible.

It didn’t help that I have been sick for the last few days and the head of my department keeps telling me to take care of myself and work from home, and then a few moments before a senior lead in HR, who apparently heard I was sick, told me I should go home — and, I didn’t want to say “but if I am working from home then I know I’ll have less of a case to make to take time off after I have a baby because our unlimited vacation policy is confusing and I just feel like I have to be at work and show my face in order to have any chance of ever seeing my kid once my leave is up” and I just, well, I was a mess today, breaking into sobs about once an hour, and trying to make it look like the red eyes were only due to my cold and nothing more. Continue reading

10 Years from Now…

In 10 years, I’ll have an almost-10-year-old. I’ll also likely be at the same exact level in my career. I’ve been writing a lot about this lately, because it’s on my mind a lot. I see others my age who are already much higher up in their careers, and even though I know it’s not the right fit for me, I can’t help feel disappointment in myself and a bit of jealously.

It’s nice to work in a larger company where there are some older folks (late 30s, 40s, etc) that are in mid-level roles and probably will never go much further. It’s hard to accept that for myself. But it’s so hard for women in my industry to get ahead, even if they’re rockstars and socially capable.  Continue reading

Thinking I might need a new gameplan…

Although I really like this job, I think I’m going to fail at it because there are quite a few unrealistic expectations and I am now thinking I should be proactive in looking for what’s next before I fall on my face.

While I appreciate that I have been given the opportunity to lead a few high-visibility projects, I have very senior team members who are unhappy with their progression. I feel like I’ve done my best in managing them (a billion moving parts) but I am not delivering fast enough, and although I don’t think my job is necessarily at risk, I am not in a state right now where I can handle being yelled at for doing my actual best. Continue reading

Why I’ll Never Ask for a Raise

At my last job, I negotiated like a boss coming into my role. I managed to be rewarded with a base salary of $190k–even though it made my hiring manager clearly feel uncomfortable–and I regretted that negotiation every day on the job, feeling like I couldn’t live up to that value. That job lasted less than two years.

In my current role, I was fortunate to have a hiring manager who knew me from a prior position, and I trusted he would get me the best / fair offer possible. Could I have pushed for a few thousand dollars more a year? Sure. But would leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. The comp package was quite attractive–base salary a lot less than I had been making, but I knew making less would me feel more comfortable in my position. With bonus and such, the comp would be about the same as my prior role — but bonus isn’t real until it happens. Continue reading

My Legitimate Path to $1 Million Dollars

My $1M networth goal is far away, yet also, it appears, achievable. “All I need to do” is keep my job. That’s it. It helps a lot if my company continues performing strongly, but I don’t need to get a raise in the next four years. I just need to remain employed at the same exact rate. Based on my calculations, if I do just that, the following is a reasonable outcome:

Year AGE Networth Increase
2017 33 $423,000
2018 34 $565,000 33.57%
2019 35 $685,374 21.31%
2020 36 $813,785 18.74%
2021 37 $945,160 13.63%
2022 38 $1,097,934 16.16%

Continue reading

Nothing Lasts Forever

My last boss (the one who fired me) — who joined the company after I was there for about a year and a few months — has apparently left after an even shorter tenure than the one I managed to maintain prior to getting the axe. I have no idea why she left — I can only guess, and I have plenty of guesses–but why she left doesn’t matter. The fact that she left less than a year after firing me means that clearly I wasn’t the problem. Or the only problem.

Now that I’m in my 30s, I’m trying very hard to view my job as just a job. I mean, it is. My job is to help my company make more money. And, if I do this, even indirectly, I likely can keep my job. We’re not curing cancer. So I try–incredibly, ridiculously hard–to care, but not care like that. Continue reading

How To: Career Change in Mid 30s

It has become increasingly clear that I cannot successfully remain in this career for the next 25+ years of my life. My immediate goal is to stay in my position for four years and hit my next major net worth objective of $1,000,000. I know the number is an arbitrary amount to define as some level of financial stability, but I feel like something will click when I have that amount in my investments, and I’ll no longer be afraid to try something new.

My husband is going back to school to change careers, why can’t I? I do feel rather old, and, you know, pregnant. I can’t go back to school immediately – at least, not when he’s doing it and I’m home with a newborn. But I’m interested in pursuing this longer term… maybe, in four years, when I can save up enough to quit my job or continue part time while studying for a new life. Continue reading

Trouble at Work… Again.

My biggest problem in the workplace is that I’m incapable of estimating how long projects will take — especially when they involve delegating work to others and/or finding outside vendors for that project. My new job requires lots of this, and it’s becoming more and more apparent but the day that this has the potential to  put a significant wrench in my plan to stay in this role for at least four years.

I have the opportunity to be successful in this role. I have a supportive boss who believes in my general ability. But he has big goals and my role in achieving those goals is not a small one – which is great – I have an important position that can really move the needle. I have a chance to make a difference for the whole team, and to maybe, finally, contribute consistent quality work. Continue reading