Tag Archives: career

What’s Next: Thoughts on the Future While Firmly Planted in the Present

May 9, 2017. Tuesday. I’m in a state of purgatory between employed and unemployed, a limbo where my employer has kindly provided a period of time in which I can complete a few key projects and look for a new job.

Although I’m well aware the logic behind this is to help minimize risk for the company, it is a luxury to have any sort of a transition period after being shown the door. Even though I collapsed into an embarrassing ball of tears upon being let go, I know they’ve done this in a very respectful way. I’ve yet to step foot back in the office — though I will later this week — and I’ve attempted to mitigate my supervisor’s faux interest in creating smooth communications regarding my “decision” to leave the business for new opportunities. Maybe others could play this game well, but I’m a horrible liar. Everyone knows (or will know) that I’ve been asked to leave, and I don’t imagine I’ll attempt to adjust the story if asked. I just want to be heads down, get my work done, and survive the last few weeks of this job before… who knows what. Continue reading

Day 3: Unfunemployment

Day 3. Told husband. He’s sad, but not surprised. He knows I’ve been struggling for a while (i.e. all my life.) The reality of the situation is sinking in. The “transition” period my boss mentioned is now clearly going to be two weeks at most, likely less. At least I have a few days to wrap up projects and try to leave on a positive note, vs the ‘ol being walked to my desk and out the door.

I regret how I handled being notified of my firing as I was not prepared in the moment and thus my reaction was shock more than anything. It was in some ways a release of accepting that I was in far over my head, or that my anxieties rapidly dug me into a hole too deep to every dig myself out of.

Looking back, I am trying to embrace this as a learning opportunity to determine where to go from here, and how to make sure I don’t fall flat on my face when I get there. In terms of my career, in 2010 I started doing some freelance work for a company that sold software to other businesses. Seven years later, I’ve worked for 4 businesses like this, and in each role have learned a bit more. I’ve never learned how to effectively build and lead teams, but I’ve learned a lot about my specific area of business, and what works and what doesn’t.

There’s still the very real issue of my poor interpersonal communications (and just overall people skills.) Had people in the organization liked me more personally, they might be more willing to forgive a few less-than-stellar moments. But I have no social skills and I don’t think this is going to change significantly enough to impact the outcome of my career.

As I meditated on life in a park yesterday in between doing probably too much work for the day I was told to not do any work, I thought about the people who I worked with over the last year and then immediately thought about my childhood — as a kid, I didn’t fit in with the kids who were highly political, smart, yet extremely competitive. I work with a clique which I clearly am not capable of being part of — a sorority of people who say they’re nice and accepting but really who want only other people like them on their team.

That’s not just this company – that’s most companies, especially small companies where people really do become this odd sort of family. I’m that odd duck cousin that no one really wants to invite to the holiday party but they do anyway to keep up appearances, and then everyone talks about me behind my back the second I walk out the door “isn’t she odd.”

I haven’t actually worked for a company where I felt like I fit in, with the exception of one which at times I felt connected with the team because they were a bit more quirky and open to weirdos like myself. The issues I have with interpersonal communication were still quite present, but the feel of the whole company was more open and accepting, so less of my energy was spent on failing to fit in.

I still have few ideas re: what’s next. I spoke with the head of a small agency who does some work for me and told her I’ll be leaving the company, and she offered to provide some consulting work to me if I was interested – which really meant a lot to me because I work with her often and she knows my talents and lack there of, and she didn’t have to offer. I might take her up on that and will at least explore the option of freelancing for a while.

I wanted to experience management and I have, and it’s not for everyone. Or, it may be for me at some point in the future, but in the mean time I want to really focus on being good at what I’m good at, and with that improve my communication skills versus trying to do this AND trying to figure out how to manage. It’s just too much at once. I’ve got plenty of time to be a manager in my career if I want to be, maybe in 20 years after my “kids” have grown up and moved out. So I’ll be 55 and then can be a manager. Or maybe it will happen sooner — or maybe it will never happen again. Freelancing can be quite lucrative as well… so that might be the right path.

No more shoving this square peg into perfectly round holes.

Day 2: Unfunemployment

I’m doing work, because that’s all I know how to do. I put together a transition plan for my boss that’s likely to get massively rejected, keeping me gainfully employed though mid June. I actually do have enough high-value work to stay employed until then, the question is whether she is willing to provide this long of a transition period. I’m getting the feeling that’s highly unlikely. I’m actually getting the feeling that she may say it’s best to conclude the relationship immediately. We’re oil and vinegar and she’s not in the mood to let me float.

I feel bad about not telling my husband yet, but he’s already worried about his job security and was just accepted into a teaching graduate program and I just don’t want to share the bad news when it isn’t necessary. He also is completing some work for the company and I don’t want him to feel awkward about finishing projects. As long as I get budget approved, then we can have a clean transition. He already knows I was planning to start looking for new roles in summer, so it’s not exactly a surprise.

I also, fortunately, have enough savings to get through a rough time without anyone knowing the better… though eventually I’ll have to tell him since we either have to go on COBRA or free market insurance (or I need a new job before this happens which is unlikely since I’m not in active interviews at this point.)

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Was Today Always the Day?

While the timing was a surprise, the act wasn’t. Here I am, yet again, told that “it’s just not working out.”

Usually I have a good idea that it’s going to happen. I knew my boss was not thrilled with my work overall, but I thought our meeting today was going to be an opportunity for her to detail out exactly why she’s disappointed with me and then I’d get a formal warning and I’d be on my way out with a last chance effort to show that I’m not so shitty of an employee. However, when I walked into my meeting and saw the head of HR sitting there, clearly not concluding another meeting, I heard a loud stunned voice in my head go “oh. shit.” Continue reading

Rationalizing Depression and Hopelessness

There are plenty of days when life feels so incredibly overwhelming in its abstract and concrete abilities to suffocate the soul. Life is shit and beautiful all in the same blob of time, this conveyor belt with tall walls surrounding that we’re trapped on from birth until we part.

My life has become my job, and I’m not even any good at it. Regardless of what or what wasn’t told to my new boss during her interview process, she’s very quickly seeing that I can’t keep up – at least not at the level I’d need to be at for my title and compensation. She swooped in and minimized my role either hoping I’d quit or be productive enough to be worth keeping on, at least for now, and I’m trying but it’s all a big cluster.

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What Does it Take To Be Successful in this Business?

Removing myself from the equation, I ponder what persona would be successful in a role like my own. I seem to care far too much personally about everything I do, which renders my work occasionally high quality but too often belated.  The quality, the “artistic merit” of the work is not valued – only its completion, it’s project management of other people playing their parts and getting their projects done faster and more effectively than anyone else, or at least making it seem that way while in reality surviving on little sleep to make sure everything gets done and no one has to ask twice regarding the whereabouts of a deliverable.

It’s the alienating daily experience of being an “NFP” in a strictly “NTJ” world… welcome to Silicon Valley, oh sensitive artistic one.

Everyone appears to be satisfied with this world, stressed, maybe, but focused, determined, and given those drawn to this industry are the types who always got A’s on their exams and submitted every last ounce of extra credit assignments possible, I feel like a complete outsider. I’ve never actually fit in anywhere, so the outsider role is at least my status quo. As I observe those in the world around me and age in the industry where I’m no longer the youngest in the room (now, far from it), I feel even further removed from the center of gravity here. I’m off kilter, wobbling about and hoping no one notices I’m slipping sideways, that is, until the inevitable face plant. Continue reading

Time to Move On… But Where To Go?

I thought maybe, just maybe, with a new boss and a more focused role I’d be able to keep my head down and get my shit done and I wouldn’t be a total train wreck. I knew that was highly unlikely, but the hope was there.

The historical self-sabotage rears its ugly devil head yet again, and I’m on the fast track out of this org, as soon as my superiors have enough documentation on the things I do wrong and enough new resources to manage the pieces I still run so nothing so much as briefly falls apart in my absence. The clock is ticking and soon my time will be up. Continue reading

What Do You Want / You Can’t Have it All

I was texting with my childhood friend. She lives across the country in a house that her now-husband bought. She is pregnant and due in a few months. She has a stable job in a public-service role that she loves, and she spends her free time with friends and traveling the world. I’m sure she’s not happy all the time– she had quite the traumatic childhood and has overcome a lot– but she seems content with life and stable enough to enjoy it.

Her and her husband are jointly making probably $60k-$70k a year, but they make it work. They can make it work because they live somewhere more affordable than here.  Explaining to her that my concern du jour was that I have a job offer that pays $70k less than my current role just didn’t compute. It probably doesn’t with most of my readers too… Continue reading

Needing to Escape But Nowhere to Go

Getting a job isn’t easy, but it appears based on my experience and half-way decent interview skills, I am able to get offers. This already makes me so much more fortunate that 99.999999999999~% of people in the world. Yet every day I work in corporate-esque America, I feel my soul being sucked out of me in its entirety. If only I could fake it like so many people around me probably do, then I’d be doing so well. I’m saving boatloads of money per month (given my relatively low cost of living in a high-cost-of-living area), and I have a job that provides substantial autonomy and seniority —

I could do a job for a short-term project — say, 1-3 months of figuring out a business problem — but staying in the same role for years has me driving home from work everyday thinking I’m going to look back on my life and this will be all I’ve done — whatever this is, it surely won’t matter in the grand scheme of things — I’m just a cog in the machine and a poorly functioning one at that (with all sorts of poorly fitting parts clunking away trying to make my little piece spin) and after now 12 years of trying to push forward I am just collapsing under the weight of adulthood. Continue reading

When You Come Home from Work Shaking With Anxiety…

There are plenty of signs that my current job is on its last legs, and soon it will be time to move on. Although I can potentially obtain another role with the same or even a higher salary, at this point there is the logical side of me that says “stay just another month” as each month is coming to an end, just to save up for my future, just to get to a point in life where I won’t need to be stressed so much about finances, where I can focus on living instead of worrying every day.

My objective in life is to be in my 50s and to be able to take my children and friends out to dinner and get the check, without worrying if I can pay my rent. I imagine I need $2M by my 50s in order to afford this lifestyle. That seems rather impossible, but with my current savings if I can earn 10% YoY for the next 17 years, I’d have over $2M. The 10% annual growth is unlikely, though, so bringing it down to a much more likely 5%, that only gets me to $1M at 50. This doesn’t include any additional contributions between now and then, so it’s still possible… I need to save about $40k annually for the next 17 years in order to hit my goal.

Today, with my current lifestyle and savings, I’m able to save ~$6k a month or more. To be conservative, I would easily save $72k a year at the moment. If I can sustain that for the next 17 years, I will clearly hit my goal (unless all hell breaks loose in the economy, of course.) However, I know I cannot maintain this career for 17 more years. I also don’t want to — I don’t want to get to 50 and look back on my life and see that I didn’t create anything significant or impact the world in a positive way. Yes, I can “start” my life at 50… assuming I have kids soon, they’ll be in high school then, and I can go back to school or change careers at that point with $2M in the bank as a safety net, but that seems sad to me… I cannot imagine spending my children’s entire childhoods and adolescence working a job that requires me to rarely be home… missing out on important life events and just being there for my kids. I really don’t want that.

Of course, if I can’t have kids, this is a moot point… if I end up not able to have children, then two things happen – I can stay employed in this type of role for longer, saving more money, and I don’t have kids, so clearly I would be not spending as much either. Regardless, I still want children, and I’m still going to try to have them.

If I do get pregnant and have kids, I know my life has to change, as does my expectations for the future. I don’t think I’ll be able to continuously save $40k+ a year – some years, I’ll be lucky if I can max out my 401k. If I want to change my career, I’ll likely need to go back to school and invest in that and start at a lower wage for many years. I’m not going to do that until I know for sure what I want to be when I grow up… which may never happen. But this career isn’t right. This career is going to cause me to have a heart attack before I even make it to 50.

There is other $ variables at play, that I don’t consider when planning my future, as they’re all “extras” and “nice to haves” but cannot be counted on. My husband makes a living as well, and although his salary is much lower than mine, he still is able to save something each year, and eventually he can earn more as well. Then we have our parents who may pass down something to us one day, but planning for a life with a potential inheritance seems both futile and deeply morbid. Neither of our parents are well off, but there’s a chance we’ll get a few hundred thousand dollars or more one day down the line. That alone could pay for our retirements. So, the reality is I’m in a good place… the $500k mark in my networth will be a sigh of a relief, a moment to celebrate maybe a glimmer of financial freedom… the opportunity to take a few more risks… to start to find out what really matters to me in this very short life, versus just working for works sake.

I have a new boss. New boss is great in the sense that new boss is really good at her job. New boss is everything someone in a senior leadership role in this career should be. New boss is, in many ways, the opposite of me. New Boss (I’ll call boss “B” for the sake of simplicity) is a tiger. B doesn’t take shit from anyone and knows what she wants and she gets it done. B knows what to do and how to navigate the political waters of the workplace with ease. B is on the ball, all the time, and doesn’t let emotions get in the way of decisions.  B is not someone I can aspire to be like — my entire being cannot be that person. I can’t fake it. I can’t just wake up every morning and put my “B” cap on and suddenly be this great senior executive. B will never be me.

In the meantime, if I want to stay, I have to impress B. I am already starting from far behind as B was clearly told things about me in the interview process that were far from flattering, and B has visibility into my salary and knows that it’s high for my current role (it was high but fair for my prior role where I was running the department, not so much for my smaller and smaller role, which is shrinking by the day.) At some point the numbers just won’t work. At some point either they would give me a pay cut or let me go.

B is very strategic. B knows there is a large amount of change required and will make those changes in an organized manner, getting the most value out of me as possible before I am removed from the organization. If I continue to provide value, I don’t think I’ll be fired immediately. I could be wrong, but the organization seems to have a policy around being fair, and if I’m doing the job requested of me and fulfilling the role, I do not see being tossed out as long as the company is doing well and isn’t going through any formal layoffs. In the case of formal layoff it is clear I’d be one of the first to go. But as long as we’re doing well and I’m doing my job and getting things done on time and at a quality expected of me, I should get to stay.

Yet I’m not sure I’m capable of getting the things done that are required of me on time and at the level of quality expected. I’m determine to try – focusing on doing my very best and giving it my all for ~3 months is not a bad objective, even if my future tenure is limited. That’s 90 days, $18k+ in savings, and ideally a good reference to walk with based on the fact that I really did try my best and, as the song goes, I guess my best wasn’t good enough.

According to my latest networthIQ entry, my networth today is $468k. With that $18k additional, that gets me to about $486k, within an arm’s reach from my $500k goal.

Or, I get another job that pays less, and is more sustainable, and I get to $500k sometime later this year — which is the goal anyway and theoretically I could work through the end of May, get to $486k, take my PTO dollars and some of my savings, take 3 months off and travel the world, come back with $475k in the bank, get a job that pays less than my current one (say $7k take home per month after tax vs $10k), save $4k a month, save $16k for the rest of the year, get to around $491k by the end of the year (and that’s WITH taking 3 months off and taking a job that pays much less when I get back.) So even if I take a ~$3k paycut and take 3 months off, I should still be within striking distance of my goals.

OR, I just suck it up, work in this role through the rest of the year by giving it my all and somehow being “not firable” … save $70k more, get to around $538k, get pregnant sometime this summer, stay at work for the 9 months of my pregnancy, say 5 more months in 2018, save another $35k, get to ~$575k then freelance for a few years earning a lot less, but living off the money I was able to save fighting through this job for … 15 more months. That seems like a very long time and between now and then we could easily have a mass layoff which I’d be caught up in anyway, but logically staying 15 more months gives me +2 years in my current job (good for the resume), and the amount I’d save is almost worth it. With interest, I could have $600k saved up when I leave work for a more flexible lifestyle for a few years when my kids are young. My objective, then, would be to not tap that $600k… to make enough money to pay rent/mortgage/taxes, for food and any vacations/entertainment travel with whatever I earn (and what my husband earns.)

In that reality, with $600k untouched for 10 years growing at 5-6% YoY I get to $900k-$1M by 44. That’s not the $2M by 50, but it’s still rather exciting that this seems possible — better if I stay in my current role for 15 months (or obtain another role that pays the same or more that I can successfully stay in for 15 months!) … or I just say fuck it, stick this out for 3 more months, take a few months off, then come back and get a lower paying job that I can sustain throughout being pregnant and the early years of parenting.

At least, thanks to savings a substantial amount in my 20s, I have options.