Tag Archives: job

Suffocated by Adulthood: Failure to Thrive

I’m in trouble, yet again, for failing to plan appropriately for my projects and getting them done on time. I deserve to be let go, and I probably will be, and if I’m not I’m wondering if I have the capability to be organized and plan more effectively, gain consensus and get shit done so at least I can keep my job. Odds are not looking good.

I found out today, in a senior team meeting, that my new boss was hired this week. I wasn’t surprised, through some rudimentary sleuthing and typical paranoia I knew the hire was imminent. I’m not upset by the hire itself, nor being removed from the entire process of interviewing the candidate. What makes me saddest of all is what that means in terms of my own success in my role, or, let’s be real here, lack there of. I’m lucky to still have a job, and know I won’t be around for long–in a brief meeting with my boss today I was told my role would be shrinking further… Continue reading

The Candle Melting Down in the Middle of a Steak Dinner

Flames blur after I can’t recall how many glasses of Zin, our glasses always replenished in our conversation from unique sides of the world of business. The dinner I hosted which I feared would be a disaster ended up working quite well – with an academic, a mid-career professional, early career professional, consultant, a peer from my company and myself – it made for a really great mix of people and fascinating evening.

I didn’t sleep last night and I feel as if my heart is about to give out. It’s only 9:40pm but I soon will close my eyes and drift off to sleep. The wine helps. My thoughts are a mix of hope and sadness. I feel as if I’m the flame in the burning solo candle in the middle of the table towards the end of the dinner when the conversation around goes on and laughter is rampant yet the candle is burning low as its wax melts into nothingness, it’s bright flame unaware of its inevitable fate.

My voice is so annoying and I always feel out of place. I don’t feel like I said anything inappropriate but nonetheless I thought I talked too much and didn’t add any value. The only time I EVER feel like I did something decent is when I say something funny and someone laughs. This is my savior. Without it I am completely and utterly alone. Making others laugh doesn’t make me fit in, but it gives me a purpose. That is what I love.

I need sleep. Soon morning will come. I am so stressed out and sad about my job. I wish I could be more appreciated. It’s my own fault that I’m not. Bu there are things I do that I believe have a lot of value but who cares. It is too late now. I am on my way out. I have to accept that and move on. But I’m so sad because I really like this industry and the people I have the opportunity to get to know. Usually I just hate everything about a job before I leave. This time… I’m mixed. I wish it had turned out better. But I need to get out soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

And So Life Begins… Thoughts on Turning 33

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

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

Should I stay or should I go?

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

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

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The High Cost of Mental Illness

Mental Illness is a touchy subject –  unlike, say, cancer or diabetes, it isn’t something that can be diagnosed via blood tests or biopsies. And everyone suffers some amount of anxiety and depression at different times in their lives. I’ve struggled with my own mental illness for years, both being tortured by its overwhelming nature, and, often in the same day, telling myself that I’m overreacting and totally fine.

Mental health conditions cost employers more than $100 billion and 217 million lost workdays each year. When I’m lost in a web of anxiety, I know I’m not being a good employee. This reminder of my failure as an employee spins me into a deep cycle of depression and worthlessness which quickly spirals out of control. I get so mad at myself because I simultaneously feel like the greatest impostor of all time and know I can do a better job that what I do right now, but the sadness of being an obvious fraud gets in the way of productivity. Eventually, my boss catches on, and I move on. I put so much of my personal worth on my job, I really don’t have much else in my life outside of my job and my husband. My career is everything. Maybe that’s the problem. Continue reading

Why Do I / Do I / Even Want / This

A wise friend of mine the other day raised a very interesting point – why do I want to be in a senior leadership role? It first struck me as a strange questions – who wouldn’t want to be in a senior leadership role? Isn’t that the point of working – to be able to strategize and lead a team to achieve substantial goals? It doesn’t have to happen now but it is the eventual goal if you want to move up in your career.

He shocked some sense into me by noting that he doesn’t know many people – if any – that really WANT to be in such a senior role. No one wants this role because quite frankly it’s impossible to succeed in it… and I do feel it’s even harder as a woman (especially a socially awkward one) than it would be for a man.

The best senior leaders don’t actually do any work. They successfully hire / fire right and motivate their team to be their best aligned to the company’s common goals and they promote the shit out of themselves and their teams without sounding like their boasting. That’s it. That’s why successful executives tend to be the people who have a BA in BS – it’s a very valuable skill/trait to have, and it’s something so alien to my being that I am now convinced I ought to give up.

It is very clear that my current company is seeking to replace me as soon thats feasibly possible. I found out, through various means, that they’re interviewing for someone more polished and been-there, done-that to take over without actually telling me as much. It appears one candidate was far along in the process and took another offer, so perhaps this buys me some time. But I don’t want to buy time. I want to be good at my job. And this is the type of job I’ll never be good at. Why? Because I do too much.

I hate playing the gender card but I do think it’s a lot harder for women to get away with just being leaders. In a small company no one can really just manage – yet the true leaders are the ones that bring value to the table in their public speaking abilities and relationships, and everyone else does the work, work. Except – when you’re a female executive, especially a young, unproven one, you have to be both a leader and individual contributor. What I’m learning is most men wouldn’t even take a job that requires them to do that. I just seem to be a professional masochist.

That said, I’ve been going back to why I wanted this or any job like this in the first place… and the moments when I truly love what I do. I don’t really care about being the head of anything… but I do like to be in charge of strategy and lesser so execution. I’ve never done well working for someone who tells me exactly what to do. I have ideas and quite frankly I believe many of my ideas are good ideas… though my execution is admittedly lacking which gets me back to, well, this damned place where I know I’m on my way out, whether I like it or not.

My very german therapist tells me I need to stop chasing money. So do my blog readers. But it isn’t the money that makes this a job I like. I enjoy the wins. I am fueled by the victories where I can clearly show my contributions helped the bottom line. Perhaps I’m delusional in how much influence I can actually have given my anxiety drives my mind in unproductive circles time and again around the moments when I actually get shit done and put a dent in the everlasting pile of work that isn’t clearly defined yet is sitting so glob-like on my already-cracked and seemingly soon-to-be shattered plate.

But… I guess it’s true… not many people want to be in charge of departments. Especially not many people in their early 30s. That’s something you do when you’re 50+ and have many years of experience under your belt and the lines in your face which organically garners respect. The only reason someone like me gets hired in a position like this is 1) at the time I’m hired, better people for the position aren’t interested yet in joining and 2) better people for the position would refuse to join unless they were set up for success which = larger team so they don’t end up having to do all/most of the work in order to claim success.

Now, don’t get me wrong here – I’m not complaining about having to do work. I’m just struggling with being a senior executive and junior-level individual contributor and mid-level manager and creative expert all at the same time. This is a requirement of this role not in my company specifically but any small company hiring for the position, with slight variations. You are tasked with being everything and yet when you fail to do that you’ve let the world down and clearly you were a bad hire. Then the company goes back to the drawing board to learn from it’s “mistakes” and perhaps hires someone more traditional who can go through the motions at the least in a way that’s much more convincing than I ever could. In the end, though, few succeed. The best execs I know have all left startups. They’ve figured out that their best chance of success is to use their charisma to manage large teams and be that rock which inspires the masses to get shit done and not let said shit hit the fan.

I’m not that person. I’ll never have consistent, readily available charisma.

I can’t fake it. I drain too easily. I need to hide in a corner for a day and recharge.

My friend noted that if you want to become a senior exec you don’t try to become one, it just happens when you’re good at something. He’s right. I never was able to get good enough at any one thing so this whole career progression has been forced and riddled with improbable success paths and far more roads to failure. That’s just where I’m at now. It’s a lot to think about… but at least I feel myself pulling closer to accepting that I’m not a senior exec, I shouldn’t be one and I shouldn’t want to be one. So what should I want to be?

When You Made It and You Haven’t Gotten Anywhere

This week, I’ve been reading a slew of posts about how women make less money than men, and why.  Mostly, the argument against this being an issue goes, that women tend to work less than men one they have kids, and they also and generally less competitive so of course they don’t make as much money. In every single job negotiation I feel the weight of this on my shoulder, and try my best to negotiate. I have no idea what a man would do in the same situation with my experience, but since my first couple of jobs when I took the starting salary with no negotiation at all, I’ve tried to ask for a little more, and I’ve gotten more ballsy over time. It helps now that I now have competition offers, and I seem to be fairly good at interviewing these days.

On paper, I sound qualified for a very particular type of role and particular type of company. I’m not sure at all how life has sculpted itself to this specific career path, but it has, and I’m locked and loaded into it, full speed ahead until retirement to gain more responsibility, earn more wages, and look back on a very successful professional career. It hit me this week that I’m nearly making $200k (which, even for one of the highest cost of living areas, is one of those numbers that I thought would never be possible — ten years ago I was making $20k.)

Yet as I look ahead to potentially having children / starting a family, I realize that if I have an opportunity to leave this profession and move into something that is more flexible and personally fulfilling, I would. As much as I like money, and as much as I’ve been driven by this random “$500k in networth before I have kids” goal for the entirety of my 20s and early 30s, I just can’t see myself, 10 years from now, in this same type of role. I don’t want to be a vice president or C-level executive. Even though the pay would be great, I have no desire to be that person. I could potentially figure out how to fake who I am enough to get there… given my success getting this far, I have to believe that someone out there would want to offer me such an opportunity one day.  And I feel very guilty, that as a woman — as a woman who has an actual chance of getting to the top – I don’t want it.

As I sprint full speed ahead towards my mid 30s and the next phase of my life, I wonder what to do about it. I’m so busy these days with just trying to do my job and do it well and planning my wedding that I don’t have a ton of time to ponder what’s next (which is probably a good thing.) But, as my rent has increased this year by $2040 for the year, and the cost of living in this area shows no signs of refraining its hockey-stick growth, I know that at some point soon, I either need to commit to this career or come up with an exit strategy. I’m leaning towards the exit.

I don’t want to “not work.” I LOVE working. I love collaborating with a team to create new products. I wish I could be a ux designer or product lead. I’ve said that now for 12 years. I’ve failed to make any progress in that direction. I tried to study for the GRE and even booked a test slot and then didn’t go because I hadn’t studied enough. I couldn’t focus. I gave up. I got a better job. I made more money. It became less fiscally responsible to go back to school anyway. I got older. I passed that age when people go to grad school into the age when some people do but they’re much older their classmates. I entered the age where you take online classes or executive programs but only in rare cases do you go back to school for an entirely new career. Sure, people do it, and I may eventually as well, but I’m really getting older now — not old, per se, but old in the sense of I have a career. I have a good career. I manage a department, small as it is, I’m still in a high-level role, and there is so much good in my life that I kick myself every time I want to start over.

At this point, I’m committed to another year or two in my current job. If I do get pregnant then that will certainly be an opportunity to think through what’s next. Of course, if I get pregnant, it will be even harder to change careers. If I opt to apply to grad school for 2017 I’ll be 33 when I start, and I may want to put having kids on hold, which means I likely won’t have kids, which is, at this point, out of the question unless nature says I can’t (also a possibility.) In any case, there has to be some major changes in the next 2-3 years of my life, which will likely include moving to another state, or at the least, finding another career path and opting for lower pay and a lower quality of life here. I know this isn’t something I can maintain. It will be hard to say goodbye to the near-$200k salary, but I know if I figure out how to do something I’m really passionate about, maybe I can get back there over time. Or maybe I can just make less money and live somewhere more affordable. Either way, there are options, and I’ll always feel guilty as a woman for throwing away a successful career, but I have to. I have to rethink my entire life, my goals, and the directed outcomes. I do finally feel ready for a change.

Waking Up from The American Dream

Today, we received notice for our annual lease renewal. Our rent will be increasing $170 a month to a total steal of $2465 for a one bedroom apartment, not including any utilities. If we lived in the city the same apartment would be at least $1000 more. That’s life in the most expensive area in the country — no matter how much you make, you’re still not making enough to afford the life you thought you’d have at this point. You just have to wake up from the American Dream and realize it’s just that – a dream.

I’m incredibly fortunate to be one of the few who is making a high salary — more than I could ever had imagined making and more than I believe I deserve. At the same time, I acknowledge that in order to afford a house here you pretty much need to be taking home $400k (as a couple) which isn’t in the cards for our future, despite my relatively very high income – even if I manage to find success and stability in my job. I realize that many others will never even make as much as I do, and I feel I make too much, but it’s a loop of relativity when I try to comprehend how much I’d really need to make in order to purchase a 3 bedroom house with a tiny backyard.

Do I need a 3 bedroom house with a tiny backyard? Even if I don’t, soon our rent, for a one bedroom apartment, will creep up to $3000 a month, even in the suburbs. We won’t exactly be priced out but we’ll be able to save less and less each year. At some point, I think we’ll have to accept that it’s time to leave. And with a total income of about $250k, we’re doing much better off than a lot of people who live here. It’s just not enough and it will only get worse as we attempt to start our lives together.

If kids end up not in the cards, maybe it’s doable. We can stay in a one bedroom apartment, no need to pay for extra space when it’s just us. We can live in a one bedroom for the rest of our lives. This isn’t at all the life I had imagined, but we can survive easily without that much space. If we do have children that changes the story quite a bit. I don’t see how we can have children and remain here, especially if I need to take time off for any reason. The pressure of being the breadwinner, especially suffering from severe anxiety, is too much. If I am responsible for me, myself and I — that’s no big deal, I can roll with the punches, live cheaply when needed, and just weather any storm that comes my way. With children, we need a much bigger security net. We’ll have to move. We will have no choice.

I write this at a time when many entry-level workers here are seriously struggling, unable to feed themselves or pay rent on minimum wage. I feel embarrassed to look at my quite high income and still feel so hopeless, because if I feel hopeless, how on earth is the rest of everyone supposed to feel?

I’ve come to accept that if I’m going to have children we can’t stay here. I don’t have a solution yet or an answer to “where to do we go,” but sooner than later we have to get out. I’ll very much miss the beautiful scenery and sunshine. I’ll look back on my 20s and be glad I had the opportunity to live in such a glorious part of the world. But it’s time to grow up and move out. Or, at least it will be soon.

People say to not worry about the future and to just live in the moment. I find it very hard to do that. We now face the choice of staying in our current apartment and paying an extra $2000 to do so next year (and continuing my 3 hour a day commute) or finding a place closer to work that will either be more expensive or less livable or both. We’ll probably just stay here for another year – neither of us wants to deal with moving, and $2000 doesn’t seem like that much compared with the inconvenience of finding a new apartment and lugging our stuff to it… moving isn’t free either. So we’ll probably give it on more year here and hopefully by the end of the next lease I’ll be pregnant and we can then figure out where on earth we’re going to live in the future (aka not California.)

I had hoped that I’d be at a point in my career where I’d feel so distraught over losing my job / career in order to have a family… but while I appreciate my job for what it is now, and really admire my colleagues and am so grateful for this opportunity… I have no personal investment in this career. I feel no sense of pride in my progress or role. In five years, to continue on this path, I end up in a leadership role were I will never fit. I acknowledge it’s soon time to leave. Right now, the best I can do is hold on for dear life, do the best I can, and try to save money by living relatively frugally and bringing in a good income where most of it goes straight into the stock market / my savings accounts. This may be my last significant savings opportunity in my life, given I plan to move to an area with a lower cost of living and obtain a job which pays significantly less in my next career move. My goal is still to get to $500k in savings before I make this move, and the goal is becoming much more dire given that I’m rounding the corner of my mid 30s and I know I can’t handle this life for much longer. If I can just hold out until $500k — I can completely shift my lifestyle to one of lower income and greater flexibility in another part of the country. We can live off of, say, $100k total across both of our incomes and still live a decent life. If we make more than that, great, but we don’t have to (or, in the case of staying here, I’d likely have to earn over $300k in order for us to hit the $400k mark and afford a small home.)

What was once kind of this running silent joke in my head about how one day I couldn’t afford to live here and that I’d move away is proving true. I guess what has changed is that I’m more ok with that than I was before. I used to think that I didn’t want to trade my career for a simpler life. I didn’t want to be one of those women who had kids and no longer had her own identity, especially a professional identity. But now, I don’t know, my professional identity is not who I am. Despite not making it to Hollywood or Broadway I’m an actress nonetheless, everyday portraying someone who I’ll never be. I’m over this obsession with what I thought was success. I have nothing to prove, no one to impress, no game to win. I have maybe 60 good years left on this earth if I’m lucky, and many fewer with all of my loved ones in good health. I hope to make the most of them, and it doesn’t matter if that occurs within a tiny apartment or a giant house. It feels good to finally accept that… to embrace the loss of this embedded classism my parents have taught me, to stop feeling like if I can’t maintain the level of comfort and luxury from my childhood that I am a failure. The only true way to fail is to lock myself into a life where I no longer have any reasonable options for escape.

Mozart in the Management Jungle

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After a weekend of binge watching Amazon’s Golden Globe-winning Mozart in the Jungle, I felt equal parts saddened and inspired. Saddened, because the show follows the lives of artists — musicians — who dedicate their lives to creating. Their madness is enhanced for comedic purposes, yet the madness of a musician is something I mentally relate to far more than that of a CEO. However, I also found the show offering lessons in leadership, and a reminder that the conductor, while expected to be versed in numerous instruments and able to step in to play if needed, is considered successful as a leader, a director, an – orchestrator – not a musician, i.e., an individual contributor.

I’ve always wondered why conductors were considered so important — all they do, it seems, is wave a stick and keep everyone playing at the same pace. Perhaps they would make a bigger motion to increase volume, but it seems to be largely for dramatic effect. What does the conductor actually do? Why do orchestras — filled with musicians who can read music as well as most of us can read the English language — need a conductor to begin with?

My challenge as a manager is stepping away from my nature to be an individual contributor. Although in a small company, I cannot walk away from the individual contributor role entirely, my value is in being the conductor. With this in mind, I return to examining the value of a conductor – not as someone just waving a stick in the air in a marvelous rhythmic dance, but someone who is leading a team, interpreting the “best practices” of the music and adjusting with their vision, keeping everyone together, guiding them through to the final product. The conductor’s work and value, I’ve been reminded, largely is contributed before the product release (aka the performance.)

I think I’m actually a very good manager as a conductor, but when I’m trying to play the proverbial violin and trumpet and oboe at the same time, it makes it nearly impossible to conduct successfully. Although the conductor may step in to fill missing seats, it’s her responsibility to hire the right musicians and then inspire them to follow their greater vision. A manager must do the same thing. She must hire the right team members and determine what role they should play, how loud they should play it, and otherwise orchestrate the score of any given quarter’s objectives.

While business isn’t art, it’s still an orchestra of creation, and still needs to be conducted. Without a conductor in an orchestra, perhaps experienced musicians could play music – but they wouldn’t know which music to play, or how fast to play it, or what to do should one of their violinists get sick for an extended period of time. In romanticizing the life of an artist – which I do frequently – I find myself feeling most alive when I approach my own work as practical art. I can still bring the passion which a conductor brings to the stage in front of a large concert hall during a sold-out performance. I can inspire people to be excited to play their instruments from start to finish, even if they’ve played this score a million times. I can inspire them to think differently about the music, to hear subtle shifts in rhythm and composition, to try new things, take risks, and ultimately learn and grow and make the great music of increasing ARR.

In orchestrating a team, there is a musicality to the work, a rhythm which must be established, an ecosystem of players who must all come together to accomplish a common set of goals. So, while I likely lost the chance to live the life of the broke artist, I’ve gained the opportunity to make a new kind of music – one that 10 years ago I didn’t know existed. When I feel overwhelmed or frustrated or scared, I now close my eyes and imagine myself with a baton in front of an orchestra, and I examine by players as well as the notes written on the page, and with a deep breath, I lift the baton, and my team begins to play.