I was going back and forth for ages as to whether I should even talk about it. I figured I shouldn’t because I don’t want to come across as ungrateful or rude, but then I thought, why not. I haven’t let people’s opinions stop me from telling a story before…even if the story is old and outdated. This one isn’t though. I feel like this story is something so many people face today, and even though this is my own personal opinion, feelings and crazy thoughts, it’s not unique and I find some comfort in being able to talk about things that bother me. You should try it too, even if no one reads it, even if no one tells you they relate, you know deep down that there is at least one other person who’s saying ‘I feel you’ or ‘I know what that’s like’ and even if they don’t agree with you, you’ve got them thinking about it, and there’s something quite powerful about that.
But I digress.
I need to stop doing that.
I want to briefly go back to 2014 I graduated. I was freaking out. I realised my degree was useless, not because it would lead me no where or that my course was worth nothing, no, it was because I realised the path I wanted to take professionally had dramatically changed from when I was a fresh young student in 2011. I was scared because I was far from where I was at the beginning of my course, determined to make my mark in the media world, so convinced I’d find the time to complete the novel I had started 3 years before. See part of my problem is I’m a perfectionist and even though I was passionate about my book, I just couldn’t bear to complete it for fear of failing. Needless to say I never completed it. 2014 was the mark of all the changes that was coming, and my big move to London would give me what I believed to be many opportunities to chase a professional career that I was going to discover.
I never had a problem finding a job, in fact I recently wrote down my job history over the past 10 years and I kid you not it was 10 pages long. It’s not because I had a problem keeping a job, it’s just as a teenager I was obsessed with learning anything and everything and I was only able to do so by applying for jobs that were different from each other. Seriously, I had so many jobs that there was a running joke with my friends that anywhere they would go, I’d be there, working. They even said that if any of them had any questions about applying for jobs they would ask me for advice. I became a job collector and was never shy to get my hands dirty. I loved to learn and as far as I knew I was a dream employee because any overtime that needed covering, I’d jump at the chance, any new activity that needed doing, I wanted to given the challenge, I craved the changes made to roles and loved just feeling useful. So never in my wildest dreams did I think I would struggle to find a job, especially now that I had a degree under my belt.
So when I graduated and found myself unemployed for about 4 months I was miserable. I hated it, I could have used that time to go on holiday, and something I’ve never done before. I could have taken a new hobby, gone to see family, do a little travel, but I didn’t. I focused on job hunting and every minute not doing so was spent learning more, doing online courses, trying to figure out my 5 year plan and then when I completed that my 10 year plan. I hadn’t been unemployed for this long since I was 14 and just didn’t know what to do with myself.
I talk about what happened in those 4 months in more detail in another blog post, but this is more about what happened after.
Out of the blue, I was shortlisted for an internship. I interviewed, I got the job, I started the job and met my best friend. Who at the time was my manager. I know, crazy right? But she was my soul sister, my best friend in a scary city and I think we connected so quickly because we were so a like, we were strangers in this big place who wanted so badly to make it our home.
We made a dynamic team and she trained me to be an employee that she was proud of. She was tough on me (she’s probably rolling her eyes reading that. Admit it there were times when you treated me like a naughty little sister!) But she was a great role model and good leader.
Unfortunately no matter how much we loved working together, we both hated our job.
I want to go into a little more detail but I won’t. Why? Because it’s just so complicated, let me try and sum it up.
We loved our job, we loved what we did, but, we were frustrated with how the organisation was run. We hated the progress, or lack thereof, due to mismanagement and you know…politics.
We made do with what we could, but there was just not enough support and this made us both feel so lost. For me personally being a new graduate, I just didn’t know any different. I figured this is how it always was, with any job, any company.
You know that feeling where you work so hard and no one pays attention; you get good numbers, reach targets, produce amazing paperwork and work above and beyond your call of duty but there are absolutely no recognition? Then the moment something is slightly off, or you don’t do something quite as well as normal, it’s suddenly because you’re unprofessional, and useless?
For ages that’s what I was being told and it made me start to believe this. It was like a bad relationship; each time I was knocked down I got back up because I knew I could do better, because it was my fault, because I was so dedicated to my job.
I was lucky I had my best friend, she helped me through this difficult time.
Things got even more complicated when I finally passed my internship and I was offered a rolling contract, despite being told for many months that I would be hired as a coordinator, and our numbers increasing, the programme growing strong. Despite the fact that a lot of the things myself and my BF were doing were free to save money for the organisation, despite the fact that large funding had just been granted and despite the fact that every business plan stated there was facility to include a new team member of a good status, I was only offered an assistant role. Now I’m not saying I thought I was too good for this role, I wasn’t but… I did think I had earned the higher title. I did feel like my unpaid overtime, working on weekends, travelling for hours and hours at my own cost, my unclaimed expense forms and volunteering for things that really challenged me had warranted me a role that matched what my responsibilities were, not to mention that the salary offered to me was way below the average salary for that role in London, like think maybe £10k less. But because I was still so excited about the programme, because I believed in what we did, because I had the opportunity to work with my BF, I said yes. Agreements were made, granted they were not written down, but I was lead to believe that after 6 months I would have my salary evaluated and my title looked at.
6 months comes and goes, and no one mentions anything. My best friend feels let down, she feels like she’s let me down too, we both just feel completely exhausted, like the bubble of happiness we had regarding our work just popped and we no longer understood why we were still there.
When I did mention the discussion about salaries before, I was told by someone higher up, that I was making it all about the money and that I was being unprofessional. More things were said, some nasty things that I took personally, but still I smiled and continued on.
As my contract was coming to an end, I told my best friend that I no longer wanted to continue working there.
Without going into too much detail, I told this to my boss, who accepted my resignation though there were some discussions back and forth and no resolution could be made so we confirmed that my leaving date would be when my contract expired.
It’s not my story to tell, but I will say that after this point, my best friend also decided that it was her time to dedicate to something she was really passionate about and she also handed in her notice to leave.
That left them with no one. So I was offered a promotion. Can we fast-forward because I really don’t want to discuss this right now, not that part anyway.
Fast forward to me running the programme.
Big changes were happening and there was an empty place where my best friend used to be.
At the time, everyone in the programme were pretty new and I had to train them, they were a lot slower at picking things up than we were but it was all part of the challenge.
I was once again pulling in overtime, trying to build our programme up without the expertise my best friend had. It was now my expertise, my knowledge and I tried so hard to make the programme the way I envisioned it.
Once again I faced the challenges we did before, no money or budget to do anything good, anything great, anything that would get the results they wanted. Despite this, the team and I worked hard, with no recognition except from our peers.
For so long, I was stressed and overworked but I loved it. I loved it because my clients and my team kept me going. Some ladies from the office who were in another team kept me going with their funny stories, their determination and words of wisdom.
But the support we needed from the people higher up just didn’t exist and this made things difficult.
I was falling down a spiral of sadness. I felt like no matter how much I tried to grow the business, the more my HU’s (higher up’s) tried to bring me down, tried to make it difficult for me to improve our programme. It’s like they didn’t want it to succeed, at least not with the same mission that they had originally founded the organisation with.
I was working in an environment where the only person to blame for any failure was me, and I would rather that than for the team to be blamed. But that’s when they brought along a co-manager.
They said this co-manager would help train me to become a stronger more experienced manager. For months they talked about how important it was that I be trained by her, how I would learn from her, how the program would suddenly be better because of her.
The reality of it was, I spent so long training her that I never really had the chance to see what she could actually do for herself. She spent so much time dobbing me in for any slight misbehaviors, if I had any complaints or annoyance, I would for sure be called in to the office to discuss ‘my problem’. It would be dangerous to have a discussion ‘over the water cooler’ because this co-manager was like a hawk, like a spy who tried to catch me out for even the pettiest thing…oh did I mention that this co-manager was the best friend of my manager? Ha…I wonder how she got the job.
When she first started, I tried hard to be welcoming, creating training and welcoming pack for her. One that hadn’t existed until I created it. Baring in mind I was told constantly in not so many words how she was a more experienced and better manager than me…this woman had no idea how to turn a computer on. She didn’t know how to type in a password, she didn’t know how to log on to an email, she didn’t even know how to save a document on word!
How inexperienced can you be to not know how to save a file on word… and I don’t mean to sound judgey but this lady was meant to be an experienced project and office manager and the girl didn’t even know how to turn her computer or monitor on!
I don’t have to go into too much detail besides, the fact that this lady, would work from home two days a week, but wouldn’t be available so it meant I couldn’t contact her for help on those two days, god knows what work she did when she would constantly complain that she didn’t feel confident enough to do anything without my help, including writing up reports or attending meetings. Then on the 3 days she was in the office, she would decide not to take a lunch break and then go home early… now for office workers, if you decide to miss your 1 hour lunch break and usually finish at 5…you can go home 1 hour early, so 4pm right? Well she would go home after 1pm sometimes 2pm… and despite expressing my concerns to the HU’s I was told to give her time to adjust…
After 2 months of her being there, and me being patient, and almost paralysed with stress, this girl still hadn’t done anything for herself, and yet for some strange reason, she would be praised for our increasing numbers. Funny right?
It got so bad for me at work that I dreaded going in to work, I dreaded every Monday morning and I very rarely slept soundly.
I was still pulling in extra hours for no pay, I had built up almost 2 weeks worth of holidays that were owed to me that I was promised but still hadn’t been able to use.
My relationship was suffering because despite my constant request to be supported, I was never granted any additional staffing, or any money from the funding we were given to produce the work they requested.
I found myself just sitting in meetings envying everyone else, just wondering how bad other organisations were to work for.
Friends were so excited to talk about the work do they went to, or the bonus they were given, whilst I sat silently thinking about the £900+ expense form that work still owed me.
I cried a lot too, between you and me, it was a tough time and I felt like no-one understood what I was going through except my best friend.
She would always tell me that the environment I was in was not healthy and that I was better off finding a different job and leaving as soon as possible.
So when a new HU was employed and straight off the bat, told me that I needed to get rid of the clients who were not paying full price and those who had been granted discount would either need to be told to pay full price or be withdrawn from our client list. I snapped. Here was a new employee, yes he was higher up than I was but he didn’t even know what our programme was called. He didn’t know what we did and I would constantly have to correct him when we were at meetings and he was giving out false information about our organisation.
I was upset that the mission of our programme, the one that everyone knew we stood by and strived for, was no longer that, but we weren’t going to tell the public. We were meant to be helping people but the new employee wanted to forget that belief and instead make it all about just money, just profit and none of the disadvantaged clients we had mattered. It was pay full price or be withdrawn.
Now I can be a ruthless businesswoman. In fact I can be quite heartless at times, steely, like Margaret Thatcher (that’s probably a massive lie that I like to tell myself) but I do know how to act when appropriate and have no problems being a strong leader and business woman. HOWEVER, and that’s a huge emphasis on the however, if I am going to be the face of an organisation, I want to be told that what I stand for is not actually what we’re going to publicise and not be blind sided. He made so many changes in his short time there that the organisation I was once so proud to be a part of no longer existed, and I lost complete faith in the future and direction of the organisation.
I worried about my clients and felt sorry for my peers, even my useless, lazy co-manager.
The whole thing got me so down. Because I knew that in order to make the business grow we had to go in another direction, not his way, and this just made him mad. I found it difficult to see my own future with the organisation and I felt like all my hard work was for nothing.
I was in such a bad way, in such a bad place and I basically had to be figuratively talked off of the ledge.
After a lot of discussions with my family, who I was scared to disappoint, and my partner who I was scared to anger, I decided it was for my best interest to leave the programme I had loved and worked hard for.
For my health, my sanity, for my career I needed to leave before the programme crumbled at the hands of masochistic boss who made enemies quicker than he made false friends.
Once I handed in my notice, my bosses took away the acquired overtime and holidays and told me that they were only given at the discretion of the manager and they did not feel I was able to use them. My 1-month notice that would have been taken down to 1 week with my unused holiday and overtime was extended to 4 weeks, and I spent most of that 4 weeks with the HU telling me that I was useless and that there would be no point in me being there. He would arrange team meetings and purposefully leave me out of the agenda. He would take the team away from me and discuss plans of actions as if I was now the enemy, and give me impossibly difficult tasks to complete whilst the other employees sat around discussing nonsense whilst watching me desperately complete my never-ending list tasks.
For 4 excruciating weeks, I endured back chat, secret meetings, the managers did what they could to make me feel uncomfortable and I went home feeling deflated and sad most days. I think what bothered me the most was the fact that they outright refused to sign my leaving card as one final spit in my face.
They would call in me for final meetings and during these meetings would highlight how I needed to improve and that I didn’t quite succeed in a lot during my time there, when I recall how I had increased our numbers dramatically and was always praised by our programme supporters, users, partners, stakeholders and peers.
The nightmare finally ended when my notice period came. The final insult was that they paid me incorrectly and then took almost 2 months to reimburse me for the outstanding amount, no apologies were made and once again I was made to feel like I was money hungry and had no respect, despite my friendly emails and apologetic manner.
No thanks were made for my time there, and I couldn’t help think about how being promoted was the worst experience of my life, why? Because if I hadn’t been promoted, I would have left that organisation and probably found a great career elsewhere, even if I had to start from the beginning again.
I was disillusioned and have been left questioning the morality of other organisations.
Since then I’ve struggled to find a job, like I’ve just got the worst luck.
Nevertheless I tried to maintain my optimism. But how long can that last when I’ve once again made my unemployment an opportunity to learn and find more jobs, but have had way more rejections than interviews.
Maybe my London dream has ended before it could really begin?
Maybe I’m just not made for this big bad, but every so exciting city?
I recently suffered a panic apply moment where I applied for 100 jobs in one day because I was convinced I would not get anywhere.
I have had a nightmare with recruiters who have messed me around and left me expecting more than I was ever really going to get.
Going from a nightmare job, to a nightmare time being unemployed has been really tough but I’m so lucky to have supportive friends, family and partner. The thing is I know I’m going to be good at something, and I just want that opportunity to show that to an employer. I’m so dedicated and motivated and will work harder than anyone because I’ve always felt like I want things more and have more to prove, is that fair to say? I just don’t know.
But how can you showcase your talent or even how hard you work if you’re not given the opportunity to?
Have you ever been stuck in this period of a lull in your life, where you’re just stuck on a crossroad with no idea what to do, where to go? Am I having a nervous breakdown? I need answers. Seriously. Because I mean, how is it that I’ve literally not attracted anything since my career ending decision?
I go back and forth over whether I made the right decision, could I have continued to be unhappy but then at least I could be earning money? I mean, yes I probably would have, but at what cost?
Despite my constant panic about money and unemployment, I do feel internally happier within myself. I lost a lot of confidence but now, I am starting to get that back…I’m starting to see good in things again, and I don’t panic every time my phone rings anymore. I feel sad for my old clients, and for my old work friends, but I needed to leave that toxic environment, every application I complete, I make sure I note in the application how important it is for me that I find a good company who look at staff progression, who support their employees and care about them. Because if truth be told, I am looking for a long term commitment with a company I can be with for years and years, maybe even forever, I’m not looking to job hop and I’m hoping my next job is the one…you know like a relationship?
Maybe if you’ve made it this far…if you’re not bored of me yet, you could do me a solid and maybe read my CV…you know, just tell me what I’m doing wrong? If I’m coming across bad, I just need to know why potential employers don’t love me as much as my Mum does.
That would be great, thanks.