Upon My Shoulder Sat an Angel With My Mom’s Face

22 Jul

People often say that finding a job is easier when you have a job. I suspect that’s true. Yet when the marketing agency closed its doors in April 2011, I panicked little. Maybe it was the fact that everyone else was in the same boat. After all, misery loves company.

Perhaps it was because I had gained some much-needed confidence in my last position, that someone would surely need my services. Or was it simply that I needed a mini vacation after what had just happened?

Whatever the rationale behind my unfamiliar confidence, the fact remains (OK, maybe it’s an opinion) that I make for a great interview. I rarely boast, but it’s true. I don’t know what it is, especially since I make a horrible salesman. Trust me, I’ve tried. It’s either because I’m too nice or too mean to be good at sales. Not sure which. I also hate eye contact and fake conversations. I despise selling something to make a buck when I know what I’m offering won’t be of any value to the customer. I could go on and on and on and…

Needless to say, I tend to carry myself pretty well in interview conversations, probably because I’ve had way too much practice in recent years. So when I was offered a job in May — the month after the agency had closed — my suspicions were proven correct. And with a new job under my belt, I could also enjoy that mini vacation I so desperately needed (or was it “wanted”?).

From day one of my new job as email-marketing manager at a major travel brand, I never felt comfortable. You might say that I hated it. But like everyone’s mother has told them at some point or another, “You’re not quitting. Give it a chance.” With those sentiments swirling in my head, I decided to grin and bear it. Buckle up. Enjoy the ride. Try, try again. Or whatever cliché you find most appropriate.

The biggest problem with the new role was that it lacked creativity, despite being told during the interview process that I’d be tasked with creative solutions — something with which I had success at my last job. (It still amazes me that I have a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in history, but I work in marketing. Life is strange.) In fact, they hired me for that very reason and not for the technical skills that email marketing demands. They had hoped I would own and develop the strategy aspect of the travel brands we managed. I respected their honesty and their openness to my skills.

Still, there was no creativity. It was really putting canned content into already designed templates. Don’t get me wrong, the team that I managed was skillfully talented (way beyond my abilities), and I loved the crew. But I think that they, too, were ready to try something new, something different, something fresh and exciting. Rather, they were stuck in a business process that seemed to be around since the invention of the wheel.

I was so thankful to be in a new position at a stable company, yet I couldn’t look past the unhappy state I had just entered. Could I afford to be picky at a time like this, when the economy was still tanking and my last employer went bankrupt? It’s probably not a good sign when you check out mentally after just a few weeks. And it certainly isn’t a good omen for your current job when you begin entertaining other interviews and job offers before you can even memorize your log-in passwords. As that happened, I began to feel a flood of guilt overtake me.

Oh, the guilt. I pride myself on being mentally tough, on following through, because I have a strong work ethic (I’ve always avoided that sentence because everyone says it; besides, who in his or her right mind is going to admit a horrible work ethic?). On one should sat an angel, a devil on the other. And I swear that the angel’s face resembled my mother’s. She looked at me sheepishly, as if to say, “Don’t quit. Fight through it. Find the courage.”

In a later post, I’ll explain my appreciation for my family’s employment sacrifices, but, in short, my parent’s generation does not — and may never — understand the modern-day workforce and our priorities, like how “kids” can quit jobs so easily with little regard. I have a blue-collar pedigree. My grandfather was a butcher. I remember visiting him during summer vacations; I’d run to the back to hug him, only to find him covered in a blood-stained apron with skinned cow carcasses lining the ceiling. That was his only job — ever.

My mom worked in a cheese factory (it is Wisconsin after all), followed by a paper mill (it is Wisconsin after all). My father, God rest his soul, labored at an iron foundry, where farm equipment was manufactured, where temperatures easily exceeded 100 degrees on a daily basis and where injuries were as common as lunch breaks (my dad got injured on several occasions).

So when people like my grandfather work tirelessly for more than half their lives, when they sacrifice happiness and life’s ambitions to put food on the table, they don’t understand how or why I can’t tolerate eight or nine hours on the job, even if it makes me completely incomplete. It’s a different time now. Today’s generation puts career fulfillment on the same level or even ahead of salary. We don’t work one job for a lifetime. We search and search and search for happiness. We seek what we actually want to do. We’d like to apply our college degrees to something that justifies the $18,000-a-year tuition. We work in an environment of shrinking budgets, no pensions and non-beneficial employee benefits, understanding that companies have little loyalty to those who put in the long hours. We’re let go just as easily as we’re hired. We’re extinguishable commodities.

So despite the angel with my mom’s face, I turned my attention to the devil. His sales speech was more convincing and (seemingly) much easier to act out. I quit my job after one month.

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Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Career


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