From the Fortune 500 company that paid for my MBA, to becoming a college instructor, to getting fed up with corporate America, to collecting unemployment, to being rejected from a job at the mall, to making minimum wage, and back to where I was at the start of my 12-year career.
Weird. I wrote this in June of 2011, and have almost no recollection of doing so. But I found it in the notes section when I was stalking my own Facebook. Yeah, I’m that much of an egomaniac. Anyway, I must have been sad this day. But it fits this blog’s theme, so I’m including it:
Today I saw a quote that depressed me. Five years ago, I would’ve said it was a lie. But it’s depressing me today because it’s true. Regarding whether or not to disagree with your manager at work:
“Obviously, this is a no-no, even if your point of view is correct. Those who would rather be right than promoted almost always get their wish.”
Frickin’ wow. For the past 12 years, if I saw a way to do something better, faster, or cheaper, I would’ve said so. If I saw a task as costly or wasteful, I would’ve said so. If a coworker wanted to raise a concern with management, I would’ve encouraged her to do so. But a few weeks ago, a coworker asked me just that, and I said “Don’t bother.” Yup, I advised someone to just shut up. Things will never change, and your manager will think you’re a pain in the ass. (For the record, she didn’t listen to me – and that’s a good thing – and her concern was disregarded.)
Another career killer listed by this article was the following:
“Assuming something other than your own hard work will take you where you want to Go: The only person who can get you noticed and promoted is you.”
I’m not sure, but I think that might be sarcasm. Sucking up and knowing the right people works. I’ve seen it. My former boss at my last big company got her job because she was best friends with a VP. Before I met her, the hiring manager asked me what I was looking for in a purchasing director. I told him “I prefer someone with a college degree, someone who has worked as a buyer, and someone who has managed people before.” He said “Well, she doesn’t meet any of those criteria.” And I responded with “Please keep in mind you’re hiring someone with less experience than me to be my boss.”
My personal favorite dysfunction in corporate America is rewarding the illusion of work. If you stay late and accomplish little-to-nothing, you are a hero. If you are efficient and leave on time, you are shamed. I’ve been at my new job for three months. There have been three times when I left at 5 pm, and someone looked at his watch and said, “Must be nice”. (Yes, three different people.) My canned response is, “If you’d like any advice on how to more efficiently manage your workload, I’d be happy to help.” For the record, I completed a day’s worth of work yesterday in two hours.
Let me clarify that this phenomenon is specific to the Fortune 500, so if you want to share a story about a small business you once worked for that was open to change, shut up. Also, if you want to tell me about a change you made in the Fortune 500 company you work for, I’ll tell you yours is the exception and not the rule. I’m on my 4th Fortune 500 company; I’m not speculating. I’m stating what I’ve seen and not seen. I realize some people enjoy disagreeing with what I post on FB, and I find that super weird. So for anyone ready to pounce with their disagreement, I have a canned response: I stand by what I write. And you might be an ass hole.
During my senior year of high school, I worked at Party City in Glendale.I even worked there over the summer and during Christmas break when I was in college.In 2008, I was at the Party City location at PV Mall.And wouldn’t ya know it, 13 years later, the manager I worked for in high school was still working there.He remembered me.“Didn’t you perform in the Super Bowl Half-Time Show?”Indeed I did (And that is pretty much the only fun-fact there is about me.)He said to call him if I ever needed a cashier job.I thought that was both funny and kind.Like I’d need a cashier job; I have two business degrees, and I’m smarter than most people I encounter in corporate America.
Smash-cut to the summer of 2009.I can’t get a job at the mall or a grocery store.I’m officially panicked.I’m considering cashing out my 401k in lieu of asking my parents for help.But I did take from them a free plane ticket to Rhode Island for two weeks. My mom rented a beach house to celebrate my dad’s retirement.I had decided that after this trip was over, I was going to drive myself to the Party City location at PV and ask for a job.
I don’t remember how Julie and I had started our correspondence, but we’d exchanged a few emails about my job situation while I was still in RI.She was working part-time at a tanning salon while going to grad school.She said, “Would you be interested in working here part time?I could let the owner know.”And that’s how I came to work at a tanning salon in August of 2009.It had been an entire year since my last job.
Taking a part-time, minimum wage job didn’t make me sad or depressed at the time.As it turns out, I was thrilled to start working.I really liked working there.All that was required was cleaning, selling, and putting customers into tanning beds.The only problem was that I only worked 13 hours a week.I made less than I collected on unemployment*, which isn’t as bad as it sounds because unemployment will supplement you.(Please tell that to anyone you know who uses that as an excuse not to work)Since I wasn’t a super-bronzed 19-yr-old, customers regularly asked if I was the owner or if I had recently bought the place.I had one girl call and say, “I was just in there an hour ago, and I spoke with the owner’s wife…”I thought she was lying since the owner’s wife hadn’t been in all day.Then I realized she meant me.Which is fine as long as no one was mistaking one of my teenage coworkers as my daughter.
Since the 13 hours a week wasn’t much helping to stop the bleeding, I feared I’d have to make that trek to Party City after all.It’s not that Party City was a bad place; it’s just that I hate customers.Many of them are rude and nasty.That might sound like no big deal to most, but I can’t respond politely to rude and nasty; it makes me feel dirty.
Now it’s October of 2009, and I’m hanging out and eating donuts with a group of AKPsi alumni at Maya’s.Why donuts?Because one of our alumni owns a donut shop.I remember telling him that he should hire me since I am a huge fan of junk food and baking.We laughed it off a few times, but later in the week, he sent me an IM on Facebook:
“So…are you serious?And how are you with getting up early?Like, really early?”
*Unemployment in Arizona is $240 a week.While I was unemployed, the federal government was kicking in an extra $25 per week. Once I started working part time, my wages + unemployment brought me up to $290 per week.Wow.Writing all that makes me want to sob.
People have a hard time wrapping their brains around shitty things happening to decent people. Humans like to rationalize that perhaps the person deserved to have said shitty thing happen to them. It’s easier for us to process this than to just feel bad.
Maybe one day I’ll draft something about why I quit my job in 2008 working for a Fortune 500 company that we’ll call Safety Product, Inc. We made a safety product that was subject to FAA regulations. If this product malfunctioned, people could die. Yes, really. It was the most unorganized, corrupt, wasteful company I’ve ever worked for. The bag of crap that I used to work for is still with the company. But I’m not bitter! Oh no. What’s a word that means bitter times three mixed with a bucket of pissed off? Because that’s what I am.
I wasted no time looking for a new job. The economy was in the shitter, but I was optimistic. I landed an interview with a company close to home. They had me sit with two of their current buyers who proceeded to tell me how much they hated the job and that their boss sucked. Since I am ever the constructive critic of managers, interviewers, and fellow employees, I didn’t blame these buyers: I blamed the human resources department for sending two people to interview me who were not properly trained to do so.
I knew immediately that I would hate this job. It would be exactly like Shit Box Corp…oh, wait, we’re calling them Safety Product, Inc. They made me an offer for more money than my last job. I didn’t want to take it. I figured I’d have another opportunity in the next couple of months. They reneged the offer, and I never learned why. My one regret as an unemployed MBA is that I didn’t push back on them to see why they no longer wanted to hire me. I didn’t do that because I didn’t want to work there.
I kept hunting, searching, applying. I’d have the occasional interview, and nothing would come of it. I was under-qualified, and I was over-qualified. I heard everything, and I heard nothing. I had too much experience to be a buyer. I was told “Why would you want this job? You used to be a purchasing manager.” I didn’t have enough management experience to get another management position. ”You really weren’t a purchasing manager long enough.”
As is human nature, my friends and family kindly provided possible reasons why my inability to get a job was my fault. Some of my friends genuinely believed that I was rejecting jobs and holding out for the dream job. Others assumed my resume sucked. Others just thought I was being selective as to where I was applying. My dad will say it’s because I don’t write thank you notes after interviews. Because there had to be a reason this was my fault, right? I will say this: It was the worst of job markets, and I’m overqualified to be a buyer. Most employers felt I’d leave when I got a better offer. Also, the longer I was unemployed, the more unemployable I became. Catch-fucking-22.
I was rejected by Universal Laser, iGo, GoDaddy, General Dynamics, PetsMart, USAA, Mesa Air, ReBath and the State of Arizona (three times!) to name a few.
A lot of my friends tried to keep me up in spirits, and I really stayed up as best I could considering the circumstances. They’d ask “Hey! Have you considered working for a solar company?” or “You should do consulting for one of the big four firms!” Or my favorite, “Start your own business!” Um, ok. I’ll get right on that.
Did they really believe that the reason I wasn’t doing any of this was because I didn’t think of it? The reason I wasn’t doing any of this is because no one wanted me. Just tell me who exactly I need to blow at PWC to get an interview, and I’ll get right on it. Oh, and I’m quite close to starting my own business. I just need a concept and a fuckton of capital.
Six months in to this rejection fest, I knew I just needed to make ends meet and stop draining my savings. So instead of looking to corporate America, I looked to any company that was hiring. After all, I am not too proud to take an hourly, low-paying job. I’m too proud to not pay my electric bill. I always said I’d never go months without a job because if I had too, I’d pour coffee, wash cars, or flip burgers.
Let’s add to that recjection list Fry’s Food & Drug, Ann Taylor Loft, Fresh & Easy Grocery Store, and the Starbucks down the street from my house.
I recently took to that wonderful Facebook to post a question I heard on the Adam Carolla Show podcast: Your porn star name is no longer “pet’s name/street you grew up on.” It’s now “favorite drink/biggest insecurity.” So what’s yours?
Nice to meet you; I’m Cherry Coke Total Lack of Career Success.
I was bombarded with some hilarious answers that all followed the same trend: My friends think they’re fat.
I’ve got a college buddy in LA who is one of the best money managers I know, and he believes he has man boobs. My friend in Salt Lake who just landed a job as a marketing director for a radio station was concerned that she’s a fat girl. And my former boss who climbed to be the general manager of a quintessential boy’s club thought she was a “chubby bitch”.
I got a ton of laughs out of everyone’s responses, but I also felt the urge to strangle most of them while screaming “So what if you don’t like your body! I am a size six, and I was on unemployment for over a year! I worked in a donut shop!”
Unlike most Americans, I wasn’t laid off; I quit. The fucked up thing is that I don’t regret it. In fact, if I had it to do again, I’d quit in spectacular fashion. Perhaps I’d tell my boss what a worthless, under-qualified piece of shit she was. Ah, a girl can dream. I had eight months worth of savings when I quit, and I collected unemployement since I was able to prove to the state’s satisfaction that I came from a hostile work environment, brought that to management’s attention, and both management and HR chose to do nothing. (I still have the letter from the state. It makes me smile.) I have a bachelor’s degree in Supply Chain Management and an MBA from Arizona State. I have 12 years of experience in my field, and I taught business at Scottsdale Community College for three years.
I didn’t find full-time work for 18 months.
It only recently hit me that I have a lot of anger over what has happened in my life over the past three years. A few things pushed me to realize this. For starters, my friends who have had career success are insecure about their looks. I want to shake them until they can all appreciate what they’ve acheived. (Side note: I happen to think they all look great!) Second, I started a new job this year doing exactly what I was doing in 2003. The gal who trained me on SAP had just graduated from ASU two months prior. And lastly, this link;