This morning I’ve applied to four jobs. Four jobs that I’m confident I won’t get. I’m in this very odd place in my career, one that consistently shoots me in the foot. My experience doesn’t exactly match my the title gracing my resume. What am I actually good at? Well, the answer is little bits and pieces of job descriptions, but never the meat of the job description. I am starting to feel, if not hopeless, then convinced I need an MBA or a professional master’s degree in order to go anywhere in my career, up, down or sideways.
This is not to say that I’ve been awful at all of my past jobs. In fact, my LinkedIn profile is filled with recommendations from former colleagues and managers who liked my work. The problem is that the majority of reason they liked my work was due to factors that I largely didn’t control. For example – securing press articles for a business is much easier when the business is in an area the press want to write about. It’s also easier when you work for a company that supports and encourages stretching the truth a bit to make the news a bit sexier. Sure, I used my creative abilities to come up with different ways to tell the story that resonated with different news audiences, but put me in another role in another industry where the area is just not exciting to journalists and I promise you I won’t be able to produce the same result. Oh, and hire me?
Perhaps I shouldn’t going into such detail of my professional experience here, but at this point I just need to write to keep my spirits up. I also know I need to take some online classes and see how much I can learn around some basic marketing areas so I can at least hold my own in an interview. None of it is rocket science, but marketing is largely a mathematical field. If you understand data and can use it to drive serious results then your career is set. While I can understand a graph, I’ve never had the opportunity to be a junior level employee and do the day-to-day work on all of these topics more senior-level marketers are supposed to already be experts at. Thus, there is no way for me to really successfully manage someone more junior than I am.
I’d be ok with obtaining a more junior level role for a while to learn these skills, but no one hires a former senior-level marketer for an associate position. Applying for such a role raises too many flags. Most hiring managers will not even forward your resume on as they assume your salary requirements will be too high. So one finds herself stuck between a rock and a hard place.
In larger companies there are often opportunities to continue your education, but in startups this time never comes. I was fortunate enough to participate in one off-site management training, but as far as improving my marketing skills I was on my own. Yes, the web has a ton of information for free on these areas, to some extent, and now I have time to do my research and self training — all the time in the world — but in an interview I can say I know how to do something but I don’t necessarily have any examples to point to. I’m brought back to an awkward interview I had a few months ago via Skype with a woman who quizzed me on how I’d determine where to put advertising spend and had me to math in real-time which was just a complete embarrassment.
I won’t go so far to say I’m dumb because clearly not everyone thinks so, yet I don’t feel prepared for the types for roles I can apply for with my experience. An MBA could be the answer to this — two years slaving over spreadsheets and business data would surely advance my quant skills and processing time — but they say only top MBA programs really support their price in value, and to get into an MBA program one must already be very good at math, so that’s a catch 22 in a way. And MBA programs don’t necessarily prepare you for the on-the-job tasks, they only teach you how to think about the larger picture of a business’s operations.
Ultimately the value of an MBA they say is the network you build. Well with my social anxiety and awkwardness the value will already be halved. Meanwhile most business roles require one to be able to manage multiple relationships and network both externally and within your organization to move up the ladder. If I was able to somehow get very good at the day-to-day tasks of a role in marketing, whether that be demand generation or product marketing, I’d still have to advance my social abilities in order to actually secure advanced roles. My social retardation will get the best of me in the end. I’m just trying to be real with myself here.
If there is any position I would theoretically be qualified for it would be a PR role. Yet most companies bring PR in-house which means that the PR leader must also be great at maintaining ongoing, 24/7 relationships with reporters. This means the PR person must be brilliant at her social skills! What I enjoy about PR is coming up with stories to tell, creating press releases, helping really create the product messaging that is taken to market… not the actual pitching process. That said, I’d much rather be in product marketing, but no one is going to hire me for a product marketing role. I say that because I’ve applied to many of them and have gotten absolutely 0 bites.
Jobs that don’t require such amazing social skills tend to be either in engineering — whether detail-oriented math excellence is required — or in random creative positions such as fiction authors where one is allowed to be a bit of a recluse as long as their stories offer engaging social situations. And after all that I do enjoy spending time seeing the same people on a regular basis, building that community, but I have my good days and my bad days. I feel a bit all over the place. For the long term it’s probably better to focus on obtaining a career that I can succeed in despite my mood swings, depression, anxieties, what have you. But what on earth is that career?
In the meantime I am applying for heaps of jobs that I know I will never get. At this point in my career I can land some interviews but then when it comes down to it I’m lacking substance. I wouldn’t hire me. And I can’t make this shit up. Well I could… if I really had to… but I don’t want to pretend to have done something that I haven’t. It’s quite crazy that in my last role my boss never even asked me about my skillset. He just assumed that I could do the role. He spent all of his time recruiting me — which was nice — but didn’t invest the time into understanding if I could really fill the position from a task level alone. Maybe I could have if I wasn’t caught up in this phase of depression. But instead I just fell apart. And I honestly don’t want to convince anyone to hire me unless I feel like I can really do a good job for the company.
Eventually — soon — though, I need a job. Something. Ideally something that pays well. Or I need to get my act together in applying for an MBA program. I’m not sure what to do. Time is vaporizing before my eyes. Even though I have a heck of a lot of it. I’m starting to freak out but trying really, really hard to remain optimistic.