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Standing up… to HR, to karma.

I’ve become a pro at writing appropriate work emails to higher-ups.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about some issues I was having at my day job. In particular, it seemed that my infamous “Catitude” had struck again, possibly ruining a work opportunity for me.

That opportunity was a promotion – the Director of Marketing position. My boss encouraged me to apply for it, so I did. And as far as I know, there were murmurings about my attitude, “How does she expect to be able to manage people?”

But, a few days passed, the whispers stopped, and I was scheduled for a 30-minute phone screening from human resources. Where I work, this call is simply to weed out candidates who are heavily unqualified.

My phone screen went well, and I even shared some ideas I had for future marketing, including areas where we are weak and how we could fix them.

Around this same time, my boss gave her 30-day notice after working at the company for seven years. As a small company, she worked on so many different aspects of what we do – and all of us felt the same – sad for us, but happy for her.

Her notice put things into complete panic, including the hiring process for this director position. It also flagged our CEO that our team needed a check up… which quickly led to each of us getting emails saying she was coming to town and wanted 1:1 meetings with each of us.

But my email was a little different, as it flippantly mentioned I wasn’t be considered for the Director of Marketing. Shortly after, I got the automatic rejection letter, and an email to staff introducing us to our new Director of Marketing.

I was crushed.

It wasn’t about not getting the promotion. It was about not being taken seriously, and not even considered. I didn’t even know how to (or if I should) respond. I didn’t even get out of bed the following day – a Friday.

I spent the weekend thinking things over, and trying to figure out how to reply to that email.

After days of thinking and hearing advice from my friends and family, I went back to work on Monday well-rested, and with a plan. I replied to the email simply saying, “I’ll see you when you get in town.” And my plan was to continue to do my work, and start looking for a new job.

Over the following few weeks – things were complete chaos. I felt emotionally drained; some days were okay, other days there were rumors we were all losing our jobs. I went home every night completely exhausted.

As my boss’ days at the office were numbered, she spoke on my behalf in a meeting with upper management, and explained to them that they handled my application for the Director of Marketing completely wrong.

As a result, I got an email from our HR department, apologizing, but for all of the wrong things. I took a few days to think it over, and decided to put my feelings out there. I was going to tell her everything I felt, with the assumption that she would show the CEO my email.

I won’t post the exact email I sent, but here are a few highlights:

It is my belief and experience that job interviews are a two-way street. They are an opportunity for a candidate to find out more about a company and/or the job they applied for, and it also serves as a way for the company to show who they are.

Being an internal candidate, I absolutely expected to have the opportunity to be interviewed face-to-face, even if only virtually, and even if only as a professional courtesy. Although I am not an HR professional, it has always been my understanding that if someone is applying for an internal promotion, they are seeking new challenges, a monetary raise, the opportunity to learn and grow, or perhaps even practice to brush up on interview skills.

I was encouraged to apply for this promotion, and I am also seeking all of the aforementioned. None of those were addressed during this process, which leaves me to wonder how the company considers me as an employee as I approach my two-year anniversary.

It’s honestly not about the promotion, nor is it about the reasons why I may not be qualified to fulfill the needs of the Director of Marketing position. Likely, I could tell you many reasons why I wasn’t given the opportunity, and I’m excited to work with the new hire, as I hear she has many years of fantastic experience.

It’s more about the fact that my needs and goals were not addressed in any fashion. In order to grow as a professional, I need opportunities – whether it be working as a team to see what growth for my position looks like, considering an intern for me to manage, or taking a class to grow my skills – none of that was taken seriously.

It really made me question all of the work I’ve put into the company. The work on weekends, showing up to work 24 hours after my dad passed away, creating weekly, monthly, and annual strategies for all of our social channels, attending the Hackathon weekend to create a free chat bot so our patients have a new way of speaking with our staff, and taking on many additional duties to assist our nonprofit at no additional pay, among other things.

I am honored to be working for a cause I care about, but I am also a professional approaching my 12th year of work as an Editor and Digital Strategist. Growth is extremely important to me, and I hope that I can do that with the support of a company who cares about their employees.

I felt good about my response, and she replied saying that my work is valued, that this situation was handled poorly, and that I was rightly frustrated.

The following day was my meeting with the CEO. And as soon as she stepped into my office, she gave me a very sincere apology. She also told me she needed that feedback. It was really, really unexpected and we had a really candid conversation about work, marketing, and goals for the future.

That same day, they flew in our new Director to meet with us and see our Austin offices. She met with our team individually over the course of a few days, and it was the weirdest dose of unprofessional behavior I think I’ve ever seen. Upon meeting me, she told me she:

  • Wasn’t going to complete her assigned training/orientation plan
  • Hated the company name and slogan
  • Hated meetings and wasn’t planning on continuing our weekly one
  • Didn’t believe in personality tests
  • Wasn’t sure how long she’d last at the company
  • Would go against company culture to make her ideas happen

…Um, what?

I wondered if this was the universe’s weird way of showing me what it’s like to meet someone with a truly poor attitude. And while I’m not all-smiles, I do think there’s something to be said about professionalism and making a good first impression.

But walking into a job BEFORE your first day and telling your subordinates that you’re not even sure how long you’ll last? That’s messed up.

Not to mention – this was the person they chose over me, and over many, many other candidates.

I won’t go into details, but some of the things she told us were even worse – and included unethical marketing practices and blatant statements that go against our company values.

Today is my boss’ last day, and my teammates and I don’t even know if our new boss is going to show up to work on Monday.

Things sure do have a weird way of happening, don’t they? I’m sad to admit that I’ve spent so much of my energy on all of this that I didn’t make it to a single workout class this week (I do have one tonight, at least). I couldn’t even bring myself to write this blog last night – instead, I took a bath and was in bed around 9.

I’d love to know if you’ve ever had a similar experience, or an experience that really made you question your job. How did you handle it? What did you do?

At the very least, it’s Friday, and the Hallmark Channel has already started their Countdown to Christmas (meaning, 24 hours of Christmas movies)! Happy Friday, everyone!

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Do I have a ‘Catitude’ problem?

Miss Blanche!

“All you do is complain.”

My coworker was standing in my boss’ doorway, yelling at me, while I was staring at her, my eyes wide while sipping coffee.

Rewind this about two minutes and you’d have found us on the other side of our office suite. She’d asked me a question that I didn’t have an answer to, so I said, “I don’t know” and walked away.

Big mistake.

“You really should have a better attitude about this,” she said.

If there is one thing anyone can say to me that sets my brain on fire – it’s that.

“No, I don’t,” I said, with my back turned, walking to a meeting with my boss.

Even bigger mistake.

That brings us up to speed for the turrets’ style blowup in the doorway.

“So many people tell you that you have a bad attitude, but you don’t do anything about it,” she continued. “You don’t give a shit.”

She was right about one thing: many people have told me I have a bad attitude. I’ve heard it for most of my life.

Even as a child, my dad predicted that it would never be my actions that got me into trouble, but rather, my mouth.

I was well-behaved in school, but I have never been one to shy away from an opportunity to express myself, whether through makeup, clothes, dance, or by way of words – particularly through writing.

In high school, an opinion piece I wrote landed me in the principal’s office. It was about the lack of work the school was doing to increase handicap access to our buildings. I’d interviewed the vice principal, quoted him, and now he was denying it. Not on my watch (I had interview notes and teachers to back me up) – I didn’t get in trouble.

In college, I managed to piss off countless people via printed newspaper columns over the years. Some of them I knew personally, others wrote letters to the editor. One of them threatened me via email and the campus police got involved. The truth hurts.

During holidays, my family told me I reminded them of Daria – a cartoon character on MTV – known for her dry wit.

I have always taken this as a compliment. Daria is smart, funny, politically involved, and in the end, she always does what’s right (i.e. Saving Quinn from frat boys with bad intentions).

I’ve never set out to say something that will hurt someone – but I’m also not willing to sit idly by while someone else does something I feel is wrong. I’m quick to call it like I see it.

A few years into my first job after college, I got in trouble for something I published on Twitter. A coworker screenshot it and I got called into the big boss’ office. She was really, really angry.

I admitted to what I did, owned it, I didn’t apologize, and I also accepted the punishment (I was fired not too much later).

I said what I said and I stood by it. I have always believed that is my right, and if you don’t like it, then well, there’s the door.

Part of this attitude is in my blood. I come from a family of entrepreneurs; we’ve paved our own path and, most of the time, it’s been successful (albeit not easy).

The other half of this is that, I’m a really hard worker. I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, but I’ve worked my way from the bottom and I’ve done it old school. I’ve hustled – I can’t remember the last time I’ve only had one job.

I’ve slung fried pork loins at drive-ins, dipped frozen custard, had multiple retail gigs, written freelance (for 11 years) for dozens of publications – no job is too small.

I’m always juggling, always trying to think of new ways to do old jobs, and do it without being asked. I have always wished that my work ethic would speak for itself, instead of a fake smile in a meeting.

But, like my coworker said, my attitude always comes up during my annual reviews. Of course, that is something I shared with her in confidence; she was my friend at work, too. We shared lots of things over lunches in my office that we didn’t tell others.

Until she yelled it through my boss’ door loud enough for other coworkers to hear. As she yelled, I sat, stone-faced. But as soon as she left, I cried.

I cried because, well, I hate being yelled at, but also because since my review, I’ve gritted my teeth and smiled more times than I can count. I’ve taken a deep breath instead of jumping to assumptions. It may seem small, but to me, I’ve silenced myself for the sake of my job, and I still get yelled at.

It’s the same feeling I had when I was a cocktail waitress – complete with fish nets and heels – and the rude guy asked me to smile, for him.

You still get the same shitty tip whether you grit and grin or walk away.

A few years ago, I started embracing the term “Cat Lady”. Not because I have several cats, but because I’m not ashamed of who I am.

The term “cat lady” has always been used to shame single, usually older women, who have lots of cats. It also implies you’re unkept, crazy, and recluse.

I was – and still am – on a mission to flip the term into a compliment. Yeah, I’m a Cat Lady: I’m single, I have a cat, I love to read, and I am usually home on Saturday nights. So, what?

My cat Blanche is a calico tortoiseshell. During her first vet visit, she jumped onto the vet’s keyboard – pressing keys as she walked back and forth.

“You’ve got a sassy one,” the vet said. “Tortoiseshells always have that tortitude.”
Tortitude, or catitude, has become the way I describe Blanche’s mood. When she’s upset, she bites me; when she’s happy, she purrs and brings sparkly pipe cleaners. There are rarely miscommunications between us.

Perhaps she is the Jane to my Daria.

While Blanche will never have to cope with the real world, I imagine my “Catitude” will always be an issue for me. That’s not to say I don’t try, but I’ll never be willing to water down my personality for anyone.

As for my coworker, we did meet later to try and hash it out. She said she was mad because she’d worked at 8:30 the night before so that I would feel supported and she felt she deserved respect the next day.

Obviously, I’m not a donut parade, so that excuse wasn’t up to par for me. Her next idea was that I’m not emotionally reliable.

No shit. Next?

It’s been about 6 weeks since that day, and despite us sharing a wall at work, we’ve only exchanged a handful of hellos.

While I hate being really good at cutting people off, I just can’t skate over the words she said: “All you do is complain.”

It put all of my late nights, early mornings, low pay, and creative initiatives into the trash.
Over time, my pain will fade, my work ethic will stay the same, and as for my Catitude?

Well, Daria’s getting a reboot so there’s hope for even the most bitter blogger you know.

Yeah, Nike has it right.

New motto.

New motto.

Good morning! You’ve heard me talk about a big change that’s happening in my life these days – I’m starting a new job. And guess what? Today is my first day!

As with any change in my life, of course I’ve been thinking about the past. Many of you were reading when I announced my first day of my last job – the one I left on Friday.

When I got that job, I’d been freelancing and working retail for about nine months, and had applied to easily 200 jobs. I had so many interviews at different places, and when I finally got the job offer, it was as if the stars were aligned.

I’d nailed a job in a pretty cool city, it offered enough pay to cover my bills and there was paid time off and benefits. It was also a bit of shift in my career – I was going from content development and social media strategy to strictly search engine optimization. And it was an agency. All things would be new to me, not to mention a new city, new apartment, the works.

When I started the job, I was living out of an extended stay hotel for two weeks because my apartment wasn’t ready. I had no money, lived off frozen meals, and would you believe the shower didn’t even have a curtain? I was roughing it a little, but I wanted to kick ass at this job. I didn’t want them to regret taking a chance on me.

In order to learn SEO properly, I went through a 90-day bootcamp at the agency, which was polished off by me giving a presentation to the CEO that basically decided if I could stay or go.

I got to stay, and was actually told I would go far – I’d worked my ass off. And in all honesty, things were looking great. My coworkers were so cool! We worked near downtown! Our agency valued learning! There was free beer in the fridge!

But as the months rolled by, things became a little clearer. This #AgencyLife that colleagues had warned me about for years was coming true – it was a culture of late nights, early mornings, and lots of spreadsheets.

And the benefits? Well they’re not really beneficial if you don’t use them. It’s like a car salesman selling you on the optional third seat when you have no kids. Turns out, I don’t give two shits about free beer if the free beer means you have to skip happy hour and work late to drink it.

I came to see that many tech startups have these same perks – offering free food and drinks instead of a bigger paycheck; housing pool tables and bean bags so you’ll stay later. It’s appealing if you’re interested in working in a frat house long after it’s socially acceptable.

It wasn’t long before people started quitting; one-by-one. When coworkers left, the clients stayed – meaning more work spread between less employees. With every employee that left, agency management was 100% sure it was not any fault of the company’s. Put that in your spreadsheet.

Over these months, I grew tired and stressed. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. There were many conversations between me and management – they wanted to know if I was job hunting.

The truth is, I wasn’t. I didn’t know what I wanted and I didn’t want to quit. I am a fixer and I wanted it to work. I’d done too damn much to just leave.

But one Thursday night in early December, I made the decision to skip the company Christmas party. I’d worked until 1am nearly every night that week and was dead tired. I wanted to work a few hours and then crash.

Choose your destiny!

Choose your destiny!

Giant mistake. The next morning, my boss and the CEO laid it out for me, that since I didn’t attend the party, it must mean I didn’t like my coworkers, and if I wanted to leave, that was okay.

“Everything that happens to you here is because you let it,” they said. “You choose your destiny.”

To them, I’d chosen to work and sleep over going to the party, and apparently, that was a giant mistake.

But they were right – I do choose my destiny. And I knew my destiny was going to have to change.

Just a few days later, I saw a job posting for a digital marketing position with a woman’s healthcare provider that specialized in abortion aftercare, and also served as an advocate for woman’s reproductive rights.

I applied, and had two interviews. The conversations I got to have with the employees were eye-opening. These were women helping others who needed it, while fighting for the healthcare rights of all of us.

As some of you may know, I had an abortion when I was 23. It was not a pleasant experience, and I spent years being ashamed of the choice I made. I am still working through some of these issues, but to be able to share my story in an interview and be able to think that I can help women that may find themselves in a situation similar to what I was in, was refreshing.

I was offered the job about two weeks from when I applied for it. Honestly, I only had the two quick interviews, didn’t really do much research on it, but I took a night to think it over, and took it.

It was the perfect storm. All of these bad things kept happening at work, and nothing was being done to fix them. I probably wasn’t as passionate about the work itself as the agency needed me to be – and that’s something I can’t change. And to top it off, some of upper management had accused me of lying over a task I’d been stressed about.

You can call me lazy, weak, and disconnected, but one thing I am not, is a liar. And just an FYI, I graduated from high school almost 15 years ago. I’m so done with the Mean Girls’ schtick.

In 2017, I vowed to just “go for it”, and that’s what I’m doing today. It’s a job that utilizes my writing and digital strategy skills to help women across the country. It’s also a small way I can make a stand in my political views, and try to help make a change in the world around us.

In all honesty, I thought I was going to stay at my old job forever. I don’t want to be a job-hopper; I want to stay and grow with a company and climb the ladder appropriately.

But I also don’t want to be the person that hits snooze a million times because I dread the day ahead; I don’t want to just wish for Friday on a Monday. After the 15 months I’ve had, I know that I can get through just about anything. And at the end of the day, no matter what happens, I’m working for a cause that is very personal to me.

About two days after I’d put in my two weeks’ notice, I was listening to “SandyLand” with host Sandra Bernhart and she was talking to her guest (of course I don’t remember who), but she said something along the lines of, “No paycheck is worth having to stifle who you are.”

PREACH! I feel like that’s all I’ve done for the last nine years, and finally, just finally, I may have found a job that is willing to utilize my snap-back wit, my passion for equal rights, and my brain full of digital goodies.

And yes, I was very sad to leave my coworkers – some of them were so sweet in their goodbyes it nearly brought me to tears. But good people want the best for other good people, and I appreciate their support. I wish the best for any of them, and I hope they stay in touch.

I’m not going to be that person to sit here, and tell you to run out and quit your job. I know it’s not an easy task. Hell, I was so nervous to turn in my two weeks, and almost thought about not doing it just so I wouldn’t shake the waters.

But I am going to say that my old job had something right: you choose your destiny. You’re going to hear this a lot from me this year (my friends and family are probably already sick of hearing it), but it stops you from playing the victim in any situation.

Hate your drive to work? Find an alternative route, clean out your car, invest in Sirius radio or find some great podcasts to listen to. Change what you can.

Sick of always cleaning your house? Get rid of unnecessary things. Find a spot for all the good stuff. Implement daily habits that will make weekend cleaning easier.

I’m saying all of this to say one thing: take control of your life. Decide what’s important and make it happen. It’s like President Obama said in his farewell address, “If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing.  If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.  Show up.  Dive in.  Persevere.  Sometimes you’ll win.  Sometimes you’ll lose.  Presuming a reservoir of goodness in others can be a risk, and there will be times when the process disappoints you.  But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire.”

So, here’s to just going for it!

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What’s burnout & do I have it?

Burn out or just straight drop dead?

Burnout or just straight drop dead?

Despite my recent attempts to make Mondays better, I still find that I’ve become that person. You know, the one that is constantly counting down the hours until the end of the day, and absolutely counting down the days and hours until Friday.

I hate being that person.

So, how did this happen? I’ve been at my job for 10 months now; is it possible I’m already reached the breaking point? That can’t be… can it?

I’ve been hearing a lot about burnout lately – as in, “Don’t get burnout”, “Churn and burn”, in reference to typical agency life, which makes me feel like this is how it’s supposed to be.

I can say the past few months have been crazy at the office – we’re short on people and high on clients. It’s a tough balance to juggle, especially during the summer months when we all want a vacation.

My friends have asked me if I’m going to start looking for a new job. No, I say, what’s the point? I’ll end up at another office, doing the same thing, and still barely able to drag my ass to the coffee pot each morning. Is this something everyone goes through or am I just someone who really just hates work? Am I Peter Gibbons right now?

Regardless, I could totally go for some shrimp poppers right now, and there’s definitely no “Chotchkie’s” or other TGIFriday’s equivalent nearby.

So, what the hell is burnout – and is that what I’m feeling? I did some Googling to find out how to spot burnout and possibly…how to fix it.

The Mayo Clinic defines burnout as, “a special type of job stress — a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work.” They also offer a survey to determine if you’re suffering from burnout:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?

The Mayo Clinic says if you answered “yes” to one of those, there’s a chance you’re suffering from burnout. I answered yes to seven. Whoops.

Okay, so I may be suffering from burnout… How do I get over it? Forbes magazine offers some advice:

  • Take Relaxation Seriously  Whether you take up meditation, listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk or visiting with friends and family, truly think about what you’ll do to relax, and designate time for it.
  • Cultivate a Rich Non-Work Life Find something outside of work that you are passionate about that’s challenging, engaging and really gets you going—whether a hobby, sports or fitness activities or volunteering in the community.
  • Unplug  While communication technology can promote productivity, it can also allow work stressors seep into family time, vacation and social activities. Set boundaries by turning off cell phones at dinner and delegating certain times to check email.
  • Get Enough Sleep  Research suggests that having fewer than six hours of sleep per night is a major risk factor for burnout, not least because poor sleep can have negative effects on your job performance and productivity. It can lead to fatigue, decrease your motivation, make you more sensitive to stressful events, impair your mental function, leave you more susceptible to errors and make it harder to juggle competing demands.
  • Get Organized  Often, when people are burnt out, they spend a lot of time worrying that they’ll forget to do something or that something important is going to slip through the cracks. Get organized, clear your head, put together a to-do list (or an electronic task list) then prioritize. That way, you don’t have to keep thinking about those things because you’ll have systems in place to remind you.
  • Stay Attuned  It’s important to tune into the precursors of those conditions, physical signs that you might be under too much stress: more headaches, tight shoulders, a stiff neck or more frequent stomach upset. In terms of mental health, burnout affects depression, and if you’re depressed, that can also affect your level of burnout—it goes both ways. So, if the issues you’re struggling with are really serious and getting worse, you may need to seek professional help.
  • Know When It’s You, and When It’s Them  Burnout is sometimes motivated by internal factors and sometimes it really is a symptom of external ones. In the first case, you’ll need to ask yourself, “Where is this coming from?” so you can figure out what’s stressing you out, and how to maintain your internal resources to keep yourself motivated, doing your best work and functioning well. Some burnout really is the fault of work. To find out whether it’s time to move on, figure out whether your position is a “mismatch between your needs and what you’re getting working for that particular organization.”

I really like the first suggestion on this list about taking relaxation seriously. About two months ago, I vowed to not take work home, whether after hours during the week or on the weekends (provided I was not on any type of deadline with a client).

It was time I take weekends seriously, and get back to doing the things I love, like reading while laying out at the pool, cooking, sleeping in, and binging on tacky TV. And, pestering Blanche, of course.

And since then, I’ve kept true to my word. Honestly, it makes the weekends way better. I still get really sad on Sunday nights, but at least I feel like I’ve got a few days of freedom to do what I want and not worry about things at the office.

The second suggestion, I’ve always been pretty good about getting involved in things that are non-work related. But, recently my motivation has been drained on that front. I still go to dance classes after work, but I never have that stay-up-late drive like I once had.

And I don’t mean stay up to work; I mean stay up to read a great book or to paint my nails, or write fiction stories that no one will ever see… and that’s the thing that’s worrying me the most. Did I lose my hunger?

I’m starting to wonder if any “day job” out there is the one for me, or if I’m just not cut out for it. I’ve tried the freelance thing, and the stress of the constant hustle, sans-insurance, is not my thing either. But is it possible I could get the job I dreamed of – one where I do have steady work, but it’s at home, or in an office that has way less bullshit?

There’s a few projects I’ve been wanting to start regarding this blog, and just writing in general, and I sit in front of the TV every night and thing, “Damn, wish I had the energy to get THAT done…” Well, it’s time to stop thinking and start actually doing – because right now, the only way I’m going to find a lick of happiness in my life is to make small moves, outside the hours of 9-5, like this guy:

It’s a tough juggle, I know. But I don’t know how else I’ll find my way – and get to do what I have always dreamed of doing. So, if you see a bunch of new stuff around these parts, I hope you’ll participate – all we’ve got is each other, and one life to get everything we’ve dreamed of, done.

So, can we have it all?

Is it possible to have it all?

Is it possible to have it all?

I feel like I’m constantly going through, what John Mayer would call a “Quarter-life crisis”, when it comes to the state of my life. A few weeks ago, I talked to you guys about settling when it comes to our careers – what’s realistic and what’s… just the sad truth.

“Having it all” is not something I’ve ever thought of as an option; truthfully, it’s not something I think about often. But, remember that season of the “Real Housewives of New York” before Bethenny met Jason, and she was questioning whether or not having it all was actually possible.

Her argument was that, perhaps since she had such a successful career, she would never be able to fulfill the other parts of her dream: a husband and a child. Aaaaand then she met Jason and got pregnant, and they got married, and had this amazing (baller) New York apartment…

All of this had me convinced that YES, we can have it all!

…Until their marriage went down the shitter in flames; and is probably recorded as the longest, worst divorce in history. I was truly devastated when they broke up.

Of course, I’m not basing my life off the one situation I speak of; I don’t even know if there was a time that I’ve wanted it all. Sure, there’s been times I really wanted to get married. But, those were times I was not focusing on my career.

Yes, I have thought about having children; but only when I have a man in my life; and none of those men have ever been eligible fathers. I don’t know if I would have a child on my own; simply because of how difficult it would be. I am, however, contemplating freezing my eggs.

I’d say for most of my life, I’ve thought about my career the most. In my mind, I’ve wanted to be many different things or go down different paths, but I’ve always wanted to be successful.

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but I just don’t think it’s possible to have it ALL. And please don’t give me the Beyonce example – yes, she’s got the career, but I am 100% sure that her marriage is a sham. So, there.

Instead of trying to have it all in all categories though; what about having it all in ONE category.

It’s pretty obvious that I haven’t figured out how to have it all in a relationship. Is it possible to have it all…in dating? I’ve never really met someone that could offer it all – it’s either one thing or the other; the personality or the looks; the success or the kindness, etc.

So, can I have it all in a career? This is currently what I’m struggling with, MAJOR. I can cope with the fact that I may never meet someone; may never get married, and probably will not have children.

Whew, let’s mourn on that for a moment.

Okay, so, the career thing. Over the years, my career has taken an interesting turn. I started as a web editor at a pretty big university, and worked there for about 7 years. My interest in digital marketing and strategy grew, and after being let go from the university, I was job hunting and doing freelance for most of 2015.

While doing full-time freelance was cool in that I could work from my bed; it was unstable. I was constantly worried whether or not the bills would be paid; and I was always working – often taking low-paying gigs just to get SOMEthing in the bank. It was a wreck.

For the last 7 months, I’ve worked as an SEO Analyst full-time at a search engine marketing agency.

Let me tell you this: the work we do is legit. I never expected to do this much data pulling and research surrounding a general online marketing campaign. I have learned a CRAZY amount of information this year. And, in general, the people that run the company are really smart and awesome, and there’s lots of perks you’ll generally see with start-ups: unlimited PTO, free food and beer, flex scheduling, and yoga pants.

But with all that said; I still struggle to wake up every day feeling happy. And I don’t really know why that is. Part of it is that my job is a real challenge; like so challenging each day that it’s beyond being excited; it’s terrifying and stressful.

I worry that maybe I’m not the person I thought I was. I resented my last salaried job for being too safe; too boring. I jumped with excitement when I heard my current job was challenging; fast-paced; never-stagnant. But there are days I feel I don’t have time to breathe; let alone relax after work. Work, for many, is 24-hours. Am I the lazy one?

“There has to be a balance,” one of my girlfriends told me over the phone last week. She’s right; balance is good; but where do we find it, outside of that happy medium between the air conditioner and the ceiling fan on a spring night in Texas?

I feel like I’m good at a lot of things that don’t make money: I’m good at blogging about my thoughts and TV shows; cooking delicious meals on a budget; live-Tweeting; wine-tasting; and pretty much making an adventure out of anything.

But where does that leave me? Will I ever be able to have a job/career that makes me excited to wake up everyday; excited to check my email; to have that feeling that I’m actually not “working”, I just get paid to do this fun stuff; whatever that may be.

In truth, I feel pretty guilty for having these emotions. I know I should be thankful for my job and I am – I’d be homeless without it. But my main struggle is this: is it my field, my job, the people, or… is it me? Something about it isn’t jiving.

I also know we’re not supposed to compare; but how can I not notice that I’ve been working for almost 8 years now, and I’m essentially entry-level? I feel like I’m always going to be in the slow reading group.

You know in “Office Space”, when Peter and Michael are talking about the “Million Dollar Question” – if you had a million dollars, what would you do? And whatever you say, that’s what job you should have. The guys determine that it’s total bullshit, because no one would clean up shit for a million dollars, and there’d be no janitors.

If I had a million dollars, then I’d just do this blog. And sure, perhaps I could monetize it to make money, but there’s a chance it would change the dynamic of the content, and I could lose readers because of it; or attract the wrong ones.

I’m not saying I’m giving up on the idea, but you know what I mean. And I know this is a battle I’m probably going to be dealing with for a minute (or for a year); so this won’t be the last you’ll hear about it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on it – do you have it all or know someone who does? Does your job offer it all? Your relationship? I’m dying to know!

Land a job from LinkedIn.

Yes, you can get a job on LinkedIn!

Yes, you can get a job on LinkedIn!

It’s a new year, a new you… could a new job be in store? Or, perhaps you’re considering an entire career change. If you’re new to The Bitter Lemon (Welcome!), let me fill you in: I unexpectedly lost my job at the end of 2014, spent most of 2015 hunting down my dream job, before finding it, moving 7 hours west, and am now living the LIFE.

First day on the job. Password: FINALLY

First day on the job. Password: FINALLY

And yes, they keep beer in the fridge for employees at my job (no, I’m dead serious) and there’s unlimited vacation.

Someone pinch me.

How did this happen to me? I got my job from LinkedIn. Again, I’m dead serious.

The better question here is, how can YOU do this?

Because here, at TBL, I’m all about spreading joy and happiness, and most importantly, figuring out ways to make every situation yours for the taking.

So, I’ve got 6 tips for improving your LinkedIn profile and landing that job you’ve been fantasizing about:

Let people know you’re looking

  • Whether you post on LinkedIn that you’re currently exploring career opportunities or you cleverly update your resume to reflect your job status, put it out there that you’re serious about a job search. Many hiring officers won’t take you seriously if you aren’t either – they think it’s a waste of time.

Actually fill out your profile

  • One of the BEST things about using LinkedIn to find a job is that many companies will let you apply for the job using your profile, which takes about two clicks. Trust me, it’s waaayyy better than having to upload and parse your resume, and then rewrite the whole thing again via answering a million questions. So, put everything on your profile you’d want a potential employer to know.
  • Recently, LinkedIn added a ton of new sections you can fill out and add to your profile. I’m not saying you’ve got to go nuts on these, but if you’ve got things to add, do it – if they’re going to make you look better, anyway.
  • When you fill out your profile, don’t be shy. You don’t have to worry about fitting all the information on one page, so go ape shit. Fill out all of the things you’ve accomplished in your previous jobs, highlight special courses or trainings you’ve attended, and don’t forget about areas you’ve excelled in. Sure, it’ll take time, but you only have to do it once.

Use a professional (looking) profile picture

  • I know not everyone has a professional headshot, but at least try to use a decent-looking photo. Do not use a selfie or any photo that features you, intoxicated, or looking sloppy. Come on! If you don’t have a photo, rig your iPhone to a steady area, sit in front of a plain wall with some natural lighting, set the timer, and smile like you mean it!
  • No matter what, don’t leave the photo empty. That just looks sad.

Network!

  • I’m not a big fan of networking, but networking on LinkedIn is pretty easy since you can do it while laying on your couch wearing sweats. So, find people you know, and connect with them – I’ve heard hiring officers only look at profiles with at least 100 connections. Find me (Holly A. Phillips) and let’s link up; 99 more to go!
  • Follow thought leaders in your field, or in the field you’re hoping to get into. Also, look for groups that talk about your passions, and join them.

Search for the right job

  • One thing is certain: LinkedIn is a GIANT search engine. But, in order for that to work in your favor, you’ve got to use the right words to find the jobs you’re looking for. This may take some brain storming. Think about the job you want, or the career field you’re interested in. Make a list of words and/or phrases that could describe it, and use these to narrow (or widen) your search.
  • For example, I knew I wanted a job that had something to do with Web/Internet and also writing and/or editing. I searched for all of those things, but also, web marketing, search engine marketing, social media strategy, online marketing, etc. I was able to find hundreds of jobs to apply to!

Don’t forget (or abandon) traditional job hunting skills

  • Yes, I work in the tech industry and I applied through LinkedIn, but societal norms still apply when it comes to job hunting. You still need to craft a well-written email/message/cover letter, and reply within a timely manner if you get a message or a call. The interview is still just like any other interview, and after every interview I had, even phone interviews, I mailed hand-written thank you cards.

So, there you have it! Got any other tips that have worked for you? Feel free to share them in the comments. Best of luck in your job search, and I hope to see you on LinkedIn!

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Fiction Friday: Oil & Ink, part III.

Get inked.

Get inked.

This is the final installment of Holly’s original short story, “Oil & Ink.” Read part one here and part two here, as you wish. 

  *     *     *

“I need to talk to someone about financing a building.”

The clerk looked Charlie up and down; from his miniature blond mohawk to his worn Chuck Taylors. It was the look Charlie always got; because he was just a kid in South Dakota.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Charlie Hoffe.”

“Hoffe?” she asked, eyebrows raised. “Any relation to the painter?”

“Yeah,” Charlie sighed. “He’s my father.”

“Must be proud,” she said. “He’s nearly painted this whole town.”

Charlie nodded.

She pointed to the waiting area outside the glass offices.

“Wait there,” she said.

Charlie sat down and hoped there was no one at the shop who wanted a tattoo. When his name was called, he walked into the office and sat next to the candy dish. He told the woman what he was hoping to do and she scowled at his left arm; the one covered in psychedelic designs.

She gave him a few building options, but listed even more problems. All of the buildings had to be brand new or completely renovated to agree with local tattooing laws. “New” meant money and “makeovers” meant even more money. She suggested he stay put for a few more months to save money. Charlie asked if she wanted a tattoo.

She refused.

Three months later, Charlie walked briskly into Tucker’s with a grin on his face. Sara was there; she didn’t look up from filing her nails.

“Today’s my last day,” he said.

“What? Why?”

“I got my own place. No more Tucker’s; no more sharing a sign.”

“Why leave now — you’ve done pretty well here,” she asked.

“I know, but I’ve always wanted my shop, my address, my sign.”

Sara shrugged and got back to her nails. Charlie waited in his corner and spent free time packing his things. He tattooed a semi driver who wanted a nude Elvira figure on his shoulder.

“Good work, kid,” the man told him.

Charlie loaded the Corolla with boxes and supplies and drove home. He opened the door to the other half of his house and setup his tools. It wasn’t a shop on The Strip or near South Beach, but it was his. He opened a box of neon tubing and hung the square in his front window. He plugged in its cord and rolled the switch. “TATTOO” lit up the entire room; a blue and orange glow.

He hadn’t talked to his dad in a good week. His heart was beginning to cool from even trying. But he couldn’t think about that now, his work was cut out for him. The new location brought a new batch of tattoo virgins. He hoped they’d get addicted like he was and return over and over again. He’d done a wolf for the lady next door and a cross for her boyfriend. He’d started a “Starry Night” rendition on the arm of the garage band singer on the corner. He was still eating noodles, but he thought less about it.

He called his dad mid-week.

“Dad, you know I don’t work at Tucker’s anymore.”

“Oh, so you called for money?”

“Nope. Actually, I was calling to tell you to stop by my shop soon.”

“Your shop? Since When?”

“Since…well, since awhile. I’ve been building clients and doin’ okay.”

“That isn’t really what I meant when I said you should look beyond Tucker’s.”

“But this is what I wanted… you should think about stopping by.”

Charlie knew his dad was disgruntled, but he tried not to think much about it. Only Charlie knew what was best for him and he was just glad he really didn’t need the money from his dad. He knew his shop wasn’t up to his father’s standards; it probably never would be.

Later, Charlie was in the middle of a sketch — a thorny rose for the woman bartender in the city — when a truck pulled up. Charlie kept working. It was Charlie’s father. He approached the screen door and stood.

“You okay?” Charlie asked.

“Sure, son. Why wouldn’t I be?”

Charlie opened the door to the shop. His father stepped inside with caution as if the floor would fall in. He slowly gazed at the posters on the walls and looked the bartender up and down.

“Well, this is it,” Charlie said, gesturing around the room.

“Okay, well do you have time to give me a tattoo?”

Charlie’s eyes grew wide.

“Sure,” he said. “You got somethin’ in mind?”

The Column: Love & Unemployment.

Little boxes, all the same.

Little boxes, all the same.

A few weeks after I’d met a guy named Justin, we’d already been on several dates, and I was really starting to like him. But one day at work, I was called into a meeting and told that my services were “no longer needed.”

It was the job I’d had for almost seven years; the only job (outside of freelance work) I’d had since graduating from college.

Because it was an at-will termination, they refused to give me answers as to why this was happening. I’d just received a raise, so why were they giving me the boot?

It was very similar to a breakup I’d had years before — one that left me blind-sighted and heartbroken. Read more…