I have a funny relationship with external validation. I crave it more than anything else. It gives me the most delightful warm glow in my belly. But I also feel intensely…uncomfortable receiving it?
Sometimes you need others to believe in you before you can believe in yourself. You can borrow their convictions and try them on for size until you get comfortable in them.
I’m now 33 (what a cool number) and only now do I REALLY feel like I’m starting to come into my own. And I’ve been reflecting on the most important relationship in my life. It’s not with my son or his dad or any of my family. It’s not even with another living creature.
It’s with my work and career
I’ve gained so much through my work that I can’t possibly begin to quantify or articulate it all.
Through work, I have had people advocate for me. Observe my contribution when I couldn’t see it. “They’d have been screwed without you.” “You handled that really diplomatically.” (On one occasion, this led to me saying semi-jokingly, “Send all the angry men my way.”)
I’ve been told I have a really interesting way of thinking. That nobody else in their interviews said what I did. I’ve been told by a leader, “I always value/appreciate our chats.” I’ve been dubbed the “silent assassin”.
I’ve been a second choice for a job, but been told it turned out for the best 🙂 As a junior on a project, I’ve caught and raised major red flags early on that nobody else spotted.
Being pushed to create and deliver presentations for teams forced me to reflect on industry shifts, see trends, and synthesise my thoughts. To think critically and originally, drawing my own conclusions.
Through writing and the power of words I’ve been able to fund my dreams, connect with others, learn about countless industries and topics, heal, and grow. I’ve received an education in coaching and personal development by proxy, just through editing books.
I learned to trust my instincts and how to approach tough situations with tact. When I became the target of a toxic leader, who picked on me in meetings publicly, I didn’t take it personally.
Through work I learned how I should and shouldn’t let people in my personal life treat me. I’ve learned so much through the interpersonal aspects of professional life that I now bring into the rest of my life.
When all else fails, work was an escape and a break. There, I was competent and confident.
I will have this always. When my son is grown, I will have all the gifts my work has given me, on top of financially supporting my lifestyle, and I know that I will continue to find joy and satisfaction in for years to come.
My most recent job hunt took longer than I expected. It consumed my life – monitoring listings, reaching out to contacts, crafting cover letters and tweaking my resume, over and over again.
Then the phone interviews (a nightmare to wrangle when you work in an open plan office with virtually no private spaces, and you don’t drive to work) and of course, the in person interviews!
Here are a few highlights:
The interview that never was. I had phone confirmation (but no email confirmation) and when I turned up the interviewer wasn’t there. I’d left work early and gone all that way (it wasn’t a super handy location) and she was a no show – she was in another city that day!
The interview that started super late. I scheduled this one for my lunch break expecting to be back at work within an hour, give or take, even with travel time. Nope! I turned up on time, but they didn’t. The longer I waited the more nervous I got, being painfully aware of time ticking on. We didn’t begin until about 20 minutes after the scheduled start and their lateness really threw me off – I spent half of the interview worrying about making it back to work at a reasonable time, and the other struggling to keep up with their aggressive interviewing style. Did I mention that the interviewers were not the same people HR told me I I would meet with?! Just a disaster from start to finish.
The interview on my birthday. I took annual leave so that I could have a day at home to chill out, but you know what? The day before I got a frantic email from a recruiter who had been ‘trying to reach me for days’ (they most certainly had not). Cue a phone call in which they declared that my birthday was the only day on which they were holding interviews. I opted for an early slot to get it out of the way, and trekked into the city and back on my birthday just for it. (I didn’t get that job, but later that day I got a call about an interview – for another company I’d given up on ever hearing back from – for the next day, which wound up being The One.)
Now I can look back and laugh, but dammit, it was grueling and disheartening at the time.
And it all worked out perfectly in the end, as it always has in this regard. #praisebe
But I do regret not asking for a raise earlier. The job that I held the longest? Prime opportunity! And sadly, a missed one.
3 (bad) reasons I didn’t push for more
I justified not asking for a raise or higher salary to myself for years. But you don’t get what you don’t ask for, and who doesn’t want more money?
I didn’t feel underpaid
I feel fortunate to have earned market rates. I never felt lowballed. I’ve never been through the wringer of learning that a co-worker made tons more money than me for doing the same job. And so I’ve never felt that particular burning motivation.
Sure, I felt I was getting fairly paid … but would more money have hurt? Definitely not.
And I think, in hindsight, there’s a fair chance I could’ve gotten more if I’d only asked.
Not having HR, not having reviews or any sort of structure around performance … none of that is a good excuse. But also…
I was scared to ask
Asserting myself doesn’t come naturally, and unlike my parents who have no shame in bargaining for a deal, I can’t even bring myself to haggle at markets where it’s expected.
And my anchor points, deep down, I think skew low (baselining off things like the hourly rates at my first part-time jobs, the low-paying field I then went into, what my parents earned when I was growing up etc).
I just wanted to fly under the radar and do a good job, in a dying industry. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Ugh.
I thought it just seemed like a bad idea
Being employed in a industry struggling to make a profit, I felt lucky to have a job at all. I felt competent, but not outstanding.
I didn’t think that I had any concrete reasons to point to that proved why I deserved more; no ammo with which to back up a request for a raise.
The former may have been true, but what’s the worst that could have happened?
As for the latter, I’m pretty sure that was just imposter syndrome talking.
I can’t even tell you how searingly awkward it was to negotiate that first salary offer (err, and the next one…) and ask for that first raise. I wince when I recall them! But I was crazy proud of myself afterwards, not to mention a little bit richer.
Literally a couple of (painful, awkward) minutes could net you thousands more a year, and that compounds over time.
Their budgets are bigger than yours
A few grand might make a big difference in your life, but probably won’t affect their bottom line to the same degree. There’s usually some wiggle room, and you know what? Employers won’t be surprised if you negotiate – they expect you to advocate for yourself.
It sets a precedent for the future
Raises build on what’s come before. The more you earn now, the bigger those 2%, 3%, 5%, 10% bumps will be later on.
Raises aren’t a sure thing
You can’t count 100% on regular raises once you’re in. You’ve got the most leverage at the offer stage, so that’s the time to make the most of it.
It’s funny how certain things can shake your confidence to the core.
For example, in my professional career, I’ve never gotten interviewed for a job I didn’t get.
(I definitely DON’T count my history of part-time jobs while studying … it’s ridiculous how hard I tried to get a retail job and could never break out of hospo/customer service. But in the end I managed to crack the office admin market, and that suited me WAYYY better.)
So when a coworker at a previous job offhandedly mentioned that I wasn’t the first choice candidate to get that role, I had a bit of an internal meltdown. It all worked out, she assured me, for the best, because I was a great fit for the position. The preferred applicant had terrible references, while mine were glowing, which sealed the deal and led to an offer.
I put my streak down to the fact that although I’ve never had a 5-year plan or 10-year plan (or hell, any plan beyond about 6 months to a year, tops) when I HAVE set my sights on the next step, I’ve had a pretty good idea of what I wanted.
But I still suffer terribly from impostor syndrome. Clearly I know my shit to some degree, or I wouldn’t be where I am today. And yet most of the time I still feel like I don’t belong. Particularly as my personality is all kinds of wrong for the professional working world and its open plan offices: introverted, highly sensitive, a slow burner rather than an on-your-feet thinker, someone who needs a maker’s schedule rather than a manager’s schedule.
Although it’s a long, slow work in progress, I am finally shoring up my own confidence, independent of external factors. If that conversation were to happen today, I honestly think that would flow right past me. I mean that, for real.
Let’s take my reactions to a couple of recent situations.
One involved harsh criticism of something I worked on, voiced by someone much higher up the food chain than me. Once upon a time that would have devastated and humiliated me, and probably kept me up at nights in a furious tangle for days after. Instead, I was cool as a freaking cucumber throughout. I felt hardly any emotion at all. I had utter faith in the work and no doubts whatsoever. This was a view shared by and backed up by several other people – I promise it wasn’t a case of me having blinkers on or being precious about the whole thing.
Another had nothing to do with me but was one of those cases where it fell to me to straighten things out. This had me second guessing myself a few times, I admit. And I have never been the type of person to say “I am 100% sure that…” But I was, in fact, certain of this particular fact, and I stated this out loud. This was for a minor, tiny thing really … but mustering the courage to draw that line was a huge deal for me. And I was right.
Confidence – it hurts when it gets chipped away in big chunks, but it builds back up again over time without you even noticing.
It’s a sensitive topic – who wants to think that they’re not living up to their potential? ‘Underearner’ is not a particularly flattering label. But the key is about desire – many of us have the potential to earn more in different types of work but choose not to.
What is underearning?
Underearning, as I’ve seen it defined, is about earning less than you want to. Bringing in less than you need or than would be beneficial, despite attempting otherwise.
It’s not about raw numbers. Or the hours you work. Or ‘underachieving’.
It’s about the ability (could earn more) combined with the desire (want to earn more) but for whatever reason, it isn’t happening.
Especially in creative fields, I think there’s often a bit of reverse snobbery at play. Prejudices against money and toward the wealthy. We sort of believe and play into the idea of the nobility of poverty – of struggling for art. Making money is selling out. As Tessler points out, creative and self employed types often set fees too low – and don’t raise them often enough.
But as Stanny writes in her book, ironically, few people work harder or obsess more about lack of money than underearners do.
As the artist Willem de Kooning once aptly remarked, ‘The trouble with being poor is that it takes up all your time’.
Not having enough money is exhausting. Dealing with the realities of hardship is a constant grind.
I suspect as women, there may be an added dimension at play. We are, after all, relatively new to the workplace as we know it compared to men. Home is still considered the female domain, and we’re still considered the nurturers and caretakers. A point raised in an episode of The Broad Experience (a great podcast on women and success that I’ve recently discovered) was that often we perceive ‘doing well’ as being materialistic, or greedy. I’ve definitely encountered that in reaction to things I’ve written on the blog here and there! But more on that a bit later on.
How to overcome underearning
There are many external factors that affect how much we currently earn. Also, life happens and sometimes your income takes a hit.
Not to mention, there are factors that affect how much we CAN earn. Different fields are structured differently. Some will never pay much – choosing to stay in one of those will limit your options.
But as with anything else in life, it boils down to focusing on what you can control. That might mean steeling yourself to:
Ask for a raise
Start your own business and work for yourself
Staying in a job too long is a common trap – a job that’s comfortable like old jeans, doing things the way you’ve always done them. In most cases, changing companies is the fastest way to advance pay-wise.
But most importantly: learn to ask for what you’re worth. Even if that feels uncomfortable. Even if it seems outrageous. Negotiate salary offers, and ask for raises. That’s what it all seems to boil down to.
There’s a huge mental component to underearning. Most of us can’t just flick a switch and suddenly become a totally different person. Here’s where I’ve gleaned another tip from The Broad Experience: You need your own WWJD mantra. Think of somebody that you know – someone who’s direct and isn’t afraid to ask for what they want. What would they do? Channel them!
Enjoying what you’ve earned
Despite knowing the market, I feel ridiculously overpaid sometimes – like, how can my work be worth this much? And then I realise people around me are certainly earning 6 figures, and that reboots my perspective – and spurs me on. It would have been totally unfathomable before this; it almost feels like I’ve discovered a secret, tapped into a new level in the game of life, busted through a ceiling.
None of the six figure women interviewed by Stanny had any qualms about openly declaring their desire to profit. They took pleasure in reaping the rewards of their work. They knew that the more money they made, the more choices they had. Financial freedom is the ultimate flexibility.
Success goes beyond building up a bank account too; it also includes building up career capital, networks, etc along the way. And with more of these resources at your disposal, you can enjoy more freedom, security, and do more for others.
Have you struggled with underearning in your career?
Since graduating with my degree, I’ve managed to double my pay. Most of that growth has happened in the past couple of years, thanks to two strategic job moves. Here’s the process I went through.
I realised it was time for a change
It’s a long running truism that you don’t go into journalism for the pay. Young, energetic and idealistic, we rushed into the trenches with shining eyes and grand notions.
It’s thankless in those trenches. The work never ends. You’re constantly being forced to do more with less. Media organisations keep cutting back; the whole industry is struggling to find a sustainable model.
I loved my job, but it was tough. When I took a six-month sabbatical, the person covering for me quit after just a few weeks. For what it’s worth, I’d always worked at that pace and this was a bit of an awakening. It really did get me wondering what a normal workload outside of publishing might feel like.
When I started thinking about my next move, I looked around and saw no opportunities in journalism that excited me. Forget advertised positions; even just considering what roles existed and were currently filled, there was nothing that spiked my interest. Nothing I wanted to aspire towards.
And just as importantly, I saw little opportunity to increase my income. I was getting by fine, but in order to get ahead, or to afford a family or a halfway decent place to call home, I had to make a change.
I assessed my transferable skills
I took the skills I had and started applying to jobs outside of publishing. The decline of journalism has led to lots of new opportunities in all kinds of companies – as content marketing grows, editorial talent is in demand on the brand side. (The typical trajectory for ex-journalists is to head into PR or communications, but you could not pay me enough to do media relations.) They need people who can write, understand their audience, and manage digital channels.
I researched salaries as best as I could
I talked to people. I looked at salary surveys. I spent time on TradeMe and Seek just playing around with the filters and seeing how the results changed when I altered the salary band in my search parameters. (This works for real estate listings, too. In both cases you typically won’t see a number listed outright but you can use the filters to see when listings disappear from the results and make an assumption about the range based on that.)
I sucked it up and negotiated
Full disclosure: it took me until my fourth job to actually negotiate for the first time.
In Job 1 I was on union pay rates. My hourly rate wasn’t very high. But a few months into the job I accepted a change in duties that had me working weekend shifts. As a result, I actually took home something like 40% more than that every pay day unless I had a weekend off.
In Job 2 I was willing to effectively take a small pay cut for better hours, (though technically my actual base rate was higher).
In Job 3 – my first outside of journalism – I had every intention of negotiating. But the application form asked for a salary range and I was afraid to leave it blank. They offered me more than the figure I wrote down, and more than I would have even dared to expect, to the tune of a 25% effective increase. And so, I didn’t negotiate further. But this was a real eye opener. There was money to be made! My skills were valuable in the marketing world!
In Job 4 I negotiated and received the exact salary I wanted – a 25% increase again. Boom.
Life after journalism is sweet. I’ve been picky about the organisations I apply to and the kind of work I want to do – and as as a result I find even more meaning in my job now. Plus I’m better resourced to do it (though of course, as is the way, there’s usually still too many ideas and too much to do compared to actual capacity). I’ve been able to save more and start to build wealth. And that is incredibly important to me.
Here’s a post that’s been percolating for a while, based on observations I’ve made. I’ll broadly differentiate as white vs blue collar, though I’m counting, say, non-office-based sales work here under the blue collar umbrella.
Getting the job
The interview-to-offer ratio
In my experience in the white collar world, employers work hard to shortlist very few candidates and only interview a couple in person. On the other hand, blue collar employers seem to bring people in willy nilly. I am deadly serious when I say T has been to more job interviews in a single week of job hunting than I have in my entire career. So many interviews, so few offers. So much time wasted bringing someone in just for a chat. Ever heard of phone screening?
The sheer difficulty of interviewing
Interviewing when you’re unemployed isn’t too hard, logistically. But if you’re still employed?
Well, for me it’s never been a biggie. I can take my lunch whenever I want and have the flexibility to duck out to appointments during the day if needed, and make time up. For him? Breaks are strictly timed, usually at set times. That makes it pretty hard to get away for an interview during the day, unless it happens to be on the same street. And again, refer to the first point above about the sheer number of interviews required to get anywhere.
On the job
Speaking of that inflexibility, that often necessitates having a reliable vehicle so you can be sure of getting to work on time every day. And if you work anything outside of 9-5, you can definitely write off public transport as an option. Yet it’s probably a struggle – at the very least, when you’re starting out – to afford a decent car. So much irony: low-level job, strict hours, struggling to afford transport in order to keep said job.
Blue collar jobs are much more spread out over the whole city, whereas white collar employment is more concentrated in town. This further complicates the whole transport issue (‘just move closer to work’ isn’t that simple).
Tools of the trade
Even with discounts, we have spent hundreds, if not thousands, on gear and tools and training for him at various jobs. All that on not particularly high wages, really. True, you can take some of these with you to new jobs … but that’s if the stuff doesn’t wear out or break or expire first.
I’ve never been expected to pay for things that I need to carry out my duties at work. There was one time I paid for a design/photo-editing app out of my own Apple account and didn’t submit for reimbursement. DON’T do that by the way! It was certainly not expected, and I kick myself now for that. What was I thinking? (I was thinking that I felt grateful for the salary at my new job and I could easily absorb the cost. NOT the point.)
The TLDR version: It’s hard to not feel a bit hypocritical whenever I write about this, since I’ve always known basically what I wanted to do, followed it where it led and had it work out. BUT! I am married to a textbook Scanner who still doesn’t know what he wants to do for the rest of his life. At last, thankfully, I think we’ve weaned him off the ‘find your passion’ Kool-Aid (it’s so ridiculously pervasive). At some point I think you need to choose: spend a lifetime chasing that elusive and possibly nonexistent thing, or stick with something and be able to fund the other things in life you enjoy or aspire to, such as having a family, playing sports, travel.
We all know money matters
It may not always buy happiness, but a lack of it is a surefire path to unhappiness. Money, (or lack thereof) more than job dissatisfaction, sex, housework or any other issue you can name, has always been the toughest issue for us. It’s no coincidence the two times that nearly broke us were during times of unemployment.
T has always worked to live, rather than lived to work. Certain material things and being able to spend somewhat freely are important. Dog, kids, motorbike, project car – these things all cost money. And here, they boil down to needing to buy a house (not to mention all the other things that make renting here a genuine nightmare). Oh, and that in turn ties back into needing even more money. We cannot afford to wait around for years for my husband to figure out a dream job (which I doubt exists for him), and he knows it.
In short, we have dreams, and none of those dreams come for free.
Find a job that lights your fire? Fantastic, but if not, well, you’re not getting any younger and at some point you need to stick with something. The recession and layoffs aside, you can’t afford to bounce around from low level job to low level job forever, never increasing your income, or your earning potential.
What if you don’t have a passion?
When you know how you like to spend your money, but not what you want to do to earn that money, to me it only makes sense to search out a job that fits your lifestyle.
I rather like the plan laid out by Marty Nemko in Kiplinger:
My advice? Unless you’re a driven superstar, pick a non-glam career that you’d be good at… Pick the one offering as many of these characteristics as possible:
A kind, competent boss
Reasonable work hours
A short commute
At one point in his job hunt last year, I came across an advice letter penned by Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame, which seemed like it could have been written just for him. Here’s Mike’s response to a guy seeking excitement and flexibility but with steady pay; a hands-on type of person who hates offices and gets bored easily but wants to have a family at some point. No big ask, huh?
Stop looking for the “right” career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today. But don’t waste another year looking for a career that doesn’t exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs.
Harsh? Yes. But there’s truth in it. Job satisfaction is complex and happiness is not going to come from trying to figure out some inchoate passion. Every single job where he’s enjoyed the actual work has had major, potentially unsustainable inherent downsides. Lack of money/potential advancement. Physical exhaustion/danger. Less than ideal hours/schedule. And that’s before even getting to peripheral things like bad managers/colleagues.
As Penelope Trunk once wrote of his personality type, or very close to it: “The key to being a successful ENTP is followthrough. Because lack of followthrough is such a huge risk factor for an ENTP, it’s almost more important to followthrough on anything than to followthrough on the right thing.”
Finding happiness at work
Work is about so much more than your actual duties. There’s the environmental factors – commute, your physical surroundings, dress code, etc. The people factors – are you treated like an adult, does your boss micromanage, do you get along with colleagues? All these intangible elements that can make or break working conditions, and that’s before we even get to whether the job offers variety, autonomy, challenge.
What we’ve come to realise is that in a way, this is a bit of a crapshoot. As my career hero Ask A Manager lays out:
I’d even go so far as to say that there’s no such thing as a dream job that you can truly recognize from the outside. Because as much as you think you might love doing that work for that company, it might turn out that the boss is a nightmare, or your coworkers are horrible, or the company makes you sign out for bathroom breaks and bring in a doctor’s note every time you have a cold, or you’re abused daily by clients, or your workload is so unreasonably high that you end up having panic attacks every morning.
Dream jobs do exist — when it’s work you love, at a company that treats employees well, working for a great manager, alongside coworkers who are competent and kind, or at least unobjectionable — but it’s dangerous to think something is your dream job before you’re really in a position to know.
It doesn’t have to be a choice between extremes – a $150k job you hate and a $40k job you love – there’s usually options in between. It’s hard to place any hard and fast rules on this kind of thing, but for example, I’d personally trade a ‘dreamy’ $50k job up to an ‘okay’ $80k job any day. (Adjust the numbers accordingly for your area’s cost of living…)
‘Do what you love’ is a nice philosophy and it works for some of us, but I absolutely detest it as blanket advice. At the risk of aiming too low, perhaps – just don’t do something you hate.
We rarely hear the advice of the person who did what they loved and stayed poor or was horribly injured for it. Professional gamblers, stuntmen, washed up cartoonists like myself: we don’t give speeches at corporate events. We aren’t paid to go to the World Domination Summit and make people feel bad. We don’t land book deals or speak on Good Morning America.
lthough my friends sometimes accuse me of being unromantic, I don’t believe in the concept of soulmates. I just don’t think that there is one person out there with whom we are destined to spend our lives. Rather, I feel that there are a number of people out there who could make us happy – See more at: http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2013/09/23/how-to-love-what-you-do/?priorityCode=3969702399&cid=aff_cj_6150161#sthash.Sfp4gCaa.dpufAt the risk of aiming too low, perhaps – just don’t do something you hate.
Or how about letting your passion follow you? There is so much goodness to unpack in this Billfold piece on discovering job satisfaction, written by someone who was toying with taking up fulltime work in a field she volunteered in but came to realise that mission and purpose are not everything:
While I had always believed generally in the cause I was working for, it didn’t speak to a deep part of my identity. The day to day tasks, however, did excite me. I liked the variety, the creativity, the people I worked with, and the latitude I had in my role. I recognized that I had a lot more control and flexibility around my responsibilities than I had previously thought. I also loved my work environment, which included wonderful colleagues, a predictable schedule, and natural light. Ultimately, I realized that these elements were far more influential to my overall satisfaction and emotional health than working for a cause I’d believed in since I was a kid, but whose day-to-day responsibilities were a poor fit for my personality.
Life’s too short to starve for passion’s sake. It can be fun when you’re young but it gets old fast. Trading glamour/ego for more money/a normal workload is something I do not regret one iota. It’s also nice being on the side of a growing niche, rather than a struggling one – feeling positive and hopeful about lifetime career prospects rather than depressed.
At some point in my 20s, I came to the conclusion that I don’t believe in soulmates. I believe there are a lot of people out there we could be happy with. If we waited for total perfection, nobody would ever get married. And likewise I suspect there are a lot of jobs out there that many of us could be perfectly happy with. I was pretty excited about all the possibilities when I started job hunting a year ago, and I hope I get to explore all those paths over the coming years (unless of course I lose interest in some of them, which is always a possibility).
Because don’t get me wrong: I need a lot of variety. Honestly, even if traditional publishing wasn’t in the state it is in now, I’m not sure I would’ve stuck around forever. I was ready for a change.
Having grown up in this era, I started out with rose-tinted visions of some unicorn of a dream job. Now I’m older and wiser and perhaps a tad more cynical and mercenary.
“The work world has become a battleground for the struggle between the boring and the stimulating. The emphasis on intensity has seeped into our value system. We still cling to the idea that work should not only be challenging and meaningful — but also invigorating and entertaining. But really, work should be like life: sometimes fun, sometimes moving, often frustrating, and defined by meaningful events.” – Po Bronson
Did you always know what you wanted to be/do?
Although my friends sometimes accuse me of being unromantic, I don’t believe in the concept of soulmates. I just don’t think that there is one person out there with whom we are destined to spend our lives. Rather, I feel that there are a number of people out there who could make us happy. – See more at: http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2013/09/23/how-to-love-what-you-do/?priorityCode=3969702399&cid=aff_cj_6150161#sthash.Sfp4gCaa.dpuf
Life’s biggest transitions, I’ve found, are usually conducted with an air of secrecy.
Take moving house, for example. You’ve got to find your next place to live, wait to go through the approval process, then give notice and line up the dates. Last time was relatively easy as we were crashing at my parents’ and could move immediately; the time before that we had to give notice, and balance this with getting a reference from the current landlord, who obviously didn’t know we were looking to leave. (I’m always paranoid that things can fall through at the last minute, and being homeless is my biggest fear. Like this, but without the happy ending.)
It’s a similarly delicate dance with changing jobs. Again, you never know how long it will take to find a job, and for all the processing to be done at the hiring end. Plus, that balancing of references is even more crucial here.
I’ve always had great bosses – but I have never had that kind of open relationship with them. Perhaps general chat in broad terms about career paths, ambitions, next steps … but I would never come right out and say I was actively looking elsewhere.
And yet, people do. I was recently chatting to someone who’s been in the same company for nearly 7 years. There were a few times, she said, when she was proactively interviewing elsewhere. Feeling stuck with nowhere to go, she’d voiced her frustrations to her boss – only nothing was happening. He was willing to act as a reference for external jobs, even. (In the end, she had leverage enough to get what she wanted, and accepted a counter offer to stay.)
Would you ever tell your boss you were job hunting outside your workplace?
I’ve been at my job for six months, and as tends to happen, it feels like I’ve either been here all my life, or just a short time.
First and foremost, it’s really challenged me in new areas – particularly my soft skills – and encouraged me to consider what I want out of work.
I’ve also had a jolt of hope that maybe having kids isn’t going to be as bad as I fear. At my first job there were hardly any women, and none with kids – only the men had families. (After I left there was a spate of pregnancies – as far as I know at least one of the women went part time; I’m not sure about the others. News is a tough biz when it comes to work-life balance.) In my second job there were lots of women but they were mainly childless or with older, more self-sufficient kids. My new workplace is overwhelmingly female and mostly young. Initially I assumed most were childless but over the months I’ve come to realise a lot have babies/toddlers and are still really put together and awesome at work.
On top of that, I’ve really had to get used to a different industry and different ways of working.
I’m used to jobs that are largely self-contained, where communication with other people is fairly straightforward and transactional. Now I find myself working on more collaborative projects and interacting with people in ongoing liaisons.
Even in a flat organisation, projects can get complicated when there’s lots of players. Collaboration gets more difficult with every extra stakeholder.I have never spent so much time re-reading emails trying to decipher them and tease out meaning. (I don’t count the countless inane PR pitches I used to get in a former life – that’s a different ball game!)
I’ve also come to see what a tough job it must be to run internal comms – keeping everyone in the loop and engaged within a company. This was the one aspect of PR that most interested me at uni, and should I ever move into PR that’s probably the way I’d go.
Working with people in overseas offices has its challenges. Time zones, for one. Language barriers, for another. Cultural differences. For once, those communication theory classes I sat through at uni have come in handy. (We also had a handy workshop on cross-cultural communication recently that was nothing short of fascinating.)
It’s also made me realise how valuable face-to-face contact is. In so many cases, it’s just so much easier to have people in the same room. Email, phone, VoIP or video conferencing just isn’t the same. I’ve gotten a lot better at talking slowly, that is for sure. Even collaborating with people at our agency, who are less than a 10-minute walk away … sometimes it saves so much back forth when everyone sits down in a room together to hash things out. I’m all for remote working, but it’s certainly more suited to some types of work than others.
One thing I noticed when I came in for my initial interviews was that the super open plan layout had people even closer together than in any of my previous open plan offices – but that people were constantly breaking out and going off to tables and corners for chats and meetings. Having spaces to better facilitate these kinds of collaborations and watercooler chat is so important.
I’m been used to having the same basic framework for my work days. It’s true that no two days are the same in news, but you generally know what you’ll be doing from day to day, even if the content is different. You’ve got a newsletter/broadcast deadline to work to, or you’ve simply got to keep a rolling homepage fresh over a shift.
In many ways my work is now more reactive. I often don’t know what the day might hold. And rather than essentially wiping the slate clean at the end of every day (except for when I was working on bigger feature stories), there’s no hitting the reset button now. Ongoing projects stretch out over weeks or months, with multiple timelines in play. I’m not a naturally organised person, but I’ve had to get a lot better at it.
Have you ever had to get used to a totally new field or style of workplace?