For those who paid some attention, it's been a long time since I was regularly writing blogs. To catch everyone up, that long and unintentional hiatus was down to me beginning in what I though was my dream role and then, in actuality, having arguably the worst experience to date in my working life. To clarify, I've worked consistently since I was 16 years old in a variety of places from retail to recruitment, to doing the Cha-Cha slide dressed as Peppa Pig for what I'm pretty sure was less than minimum wage. This experience was far harder than all of these roles, not because the work was harder, and not because I actually enjoyed being dressed as a beloved children's character in a building with no air conditioning. I don't intend on tarnishing the reputation of my ex employer and I don't care for tattling or shit-throwing so I'll leave out the specifics of what I experienced but, below, I've decided to note some realisations I had that may someday be useful to someone else.
Never meet your idols
So we've all heard this phrase and understand vaguely what it is about and I can agree that meeting the people you idolise can be extremely sobering and has the capacity to crush your soul just a tiny bit, but I'm going to take it one step further. Never work for a brand that you idolise. That's not to say you should only work at places that you hate, but simply, never let your dream of working for a brand cloud your judgement and make you ignore very obvious red flags. The brand I worked for was one I had dreamed about all through university, I had worked my ass off to make the connections I needed to get the role and I earned my spot on their payroll, but this meant that when things didn't seem right, when I was taken for a little bit of a mug, I told myself I was just so lucky to have got what I wanted. You know how in a cycle of abuse the abuser wears you down and makes you think you should just be grateful to have them because they're too good for you? Yeah, that was the relationship I had with my job. Not a great start.
Do not make excuses for a company
Now, in my role, I had a very direct relationship with the CEO. I LOVED her. I mean really, I thought she was amazing and as a result, any issue with the running of the brand, I tried to excuse because I didn't want to admit that, despite her being someone I liked, her management style wasn't particularly desirable. It is important to remember that a business isn't a person, it isn't your manager or your boss or the owner, it's a legal entity and it has standards that it has to follow. If a company is being run badly or you're being treated like shit? That's an issue and you can't not bring it up because you don't want to offend someone. We've all worked with managers that are unfair or people in the workplace who overstep boundaries or are just awful and we've all at some point just swallowed it because we didn't want to rock the boat. But sometimes you have to rock the boat because you spend 40 hours a week with these people and, just like you wouldn't (or at least definitely shouldn't) sit in a relationship and never communicate about issues in your personal life, you shouldn't be spending 40 hours per week until retirement burying your head in the sand because your manager is shit at her job but also like a really nice person.
You know yourself better than they know you
I have always been extremely confident in my work ethic- I'm not particularly lazy, I'm driven by anxiety that makes me efficient and often obsessive about my work. I'm happy to work beyond my contracted hours, I'm happy to do additional tasks, my last year of uni I didn't need to pull a single all nighter before a deadline (huge flex). The brand I worked for told me that I had a poor work ethic and would struggle in any role because I stood up for myself. When people don't like you having boundaries they will throw insults at you. Sometimes this will be you telling them you're not taking on additional work that isn't in your contract because you're overwhelmed which they will attribute to poor work ethic or you not being a team player, sometimes you'll send an email without exclamation marks, smiley faces, or kisses (yes, really) and they'll say you're disrespectful and rude. My point is- sometimes when people don't have a legal leg to stand on, they'll just try to bully you into submission by insulting your character and you need to separate what they're saying to you because they're not getting what they want and what they're saying because it's true.
Success isn't always where you think it is
The hardest thing for me in this role was that, in theory, I had achieved everything I wanted and yet, when I really thought about it, I felt empty. There wasn't the feeling of satisfaction that I thought there would be and it was hard to understand. I'm a big planner- I love a 5 year plan and manifesting what I want in life, I like working towards a goal. But what do you do when you get what you wanted and it doesn't make you happy? Find something else. I was staying in a role where I was clearly unhappy just because four years ago I would have begged for this to be my reality. What I should have seen was that I loved the work I was doing but that I don't have to have loyalty to one brand that I chose when I was 18 years old, that I can learn and there can be life after the dream job in another job whose reality was actually far better. It can be hard to process disappointment in something that you really believed you wanted but it's worse to just ignore that feeling until you resent the situation altogether. You send back the dress you bought online that you hate, you don't wear it out just because you thought you'd like it before you saw it.
A step backwards is still a step
Now, I don't really believe there is a step backwards in life but sometimes it can feel that way. I left my dream role in favour of literally anything else. I'm not thinking about work right now in terms of career but more, for the time being, a necessity. And, some would argue that going from a job that I worked hard for to something far less exciting would be a step down. I get that, because I often think that way myself. But at some point we need to stop seeing work as a measure of our worth. I know people who work in supermarkets and love their jobs and enjoy working and feel relaxed and content in their lives, I know people with amazing, influential jobs who hate it and feel like work drains them. I enjoy working and I aspire to have a career that I love, I'd love for it to be in a similar role to the one I just left but, you know, where I'm not treated poorly, but honestly I'd take any role that I can feel happy in over a role that I only stick with because of the image it gives me. I'd rather have a job I enjoy that has nothing to do with my degree than one that I hate that "makes the most" of my education. It's easy to get caught up in the expectations we have for ourselves and the expectations that others have for us but, the more I experience, the more I realise that happiness and personal satisfaction are truer measures of success than anything else.
So I leave you with the words my lovely mum has been saying to me and my brothers our whole lives that I definitely should have listened to more- "I don't care what you do with your life as long as you're happy". Work life balance isn't negotiable, being paid a fair wage isn't negotiable, and not being taken for an idiot isn't negotiable- don't let any job convince you otherwise.