When I was 27, I had been working at a big media company for three years, focusing on what was then called “online community” and is now known as “social media” because they figured out that “online community” didn’t make any money. I had my own office on a very high floor. I had a generous travel and entertainment budget (the mid-90s were awesome) [Ed. note: Truly unfair for those of us still toiling away at secondary education during such a time.] I hired some fantastic people. I had a great relationship with the head of the online division, who told me the company would pay for me to get my MBA.
The leadership of the company changed. We all got reorganized. I was dispatched to a new magazine for teens, supposedly working on its online content but really just sending mildly pornographic IMs back and forth with my fellow reorg victim while we waited for something to happen. The head of the online division wouldn’t return my calls and was never available to meet with me. I got a new boss, one who didn’t delegate anything and didn’t invite me to meetings and didn’t copy me on status reports: all things that sound trivial, but in a workplace, that kind of behavior can make someone invisible.
I spent two months doing nothing all day, then going home to cry to my roommate. I didn’t start looking for a new job because obviously I wasn’t the kind of person anyone would want to hire — if I were, then why would the company I’d worked so hard for be freezing me out? I ate a lot of cheese and drank a lot of beer.
And then one day in January, sitting at my desk in the mostly-empty bullpen, I IMed my fellow reorg victim: I need to get out of here.
Lunch? he sent back.
No, I mean I need to GET OUT.
I got up, walked over to my boss’s desk, waited for her to acknowledge that I was standing there, and said: I don’t think this is working out. Do you want me to work through my notice period?
Honestly, she looked at me as though she’d never seen me before. After a minute she said no, and I got my bag and walked out.
I spent a week sleeping till ten, pretty much paralyzed with fear. My roommate, who hated HIS job, told me to shut up and enjoy my freedom while it lasted; he had a point. The next week I borrowed a car and went on a solo road trip. The third week I started making some calls to industry acquaintances, some of whom believed I was actually employable. I was shocked. The fourth week I got a new job — one that was lucrative and ended up eating my soul, but was a hugely valuable experience anyway. I switched careers eventually, and then took a few years off to have babies. I’m not at all sure what I’ll do when I go back to work. But the benefit of having had a couple of agonizing work experiences is that I know now that nothing is permanent, no job or career should define me, and if I keep an open mind and can psych myself up enough to take some risks, there are a lot of opportunities out there. Also, I shouldn’t have eaten so much cheese.
Many thanks to the anonymous reader who submitted this real life tale! Want to share your experience? Drop us at email at postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dotcom]. Cheese references not required but encouraged.