I realize that my last post here was in 2017 and we have a lot to catch up on. Whilst being emotionally bombarded daily in a Trump administration, things on the career path have been as equally unpredictable.
Last time I checked in I was working at CareerBuilder which soon thereafter was purchased by a private equity firm. For anyone who has ever lived through an experience like that, you realize that ‘lived’ is not the word to describe the experience. It was a death march of co-workers leaving, being dismissed, erased culture, et al. An unpleasant experience is to put it mildly. Despite having a fantastic time working there and meeting best friends and wonderful people over several years, it was time to go. And since everyone else was slowly finding new opportunities as well, the fun we once had at work was gone.
So it was time for a change. In early 2018 I took a position with a very small startup where I was only the second marketing hire. Despite passion for the company’s mission and products, I felt I was underwater from day one. It was a situation where I never felt caught up, I felt out of my wheelhouse.
Two weeks in, I decided this was the wrong move and I had to go. And instead of just jumping to another job that I could probably do, I decided to take a break. If that’s too vague, it means I proactively quit with no other job lined up. For the indefinite future.
This came at a time where I was professionally and personally lost. Who was I? What did I stand for? What was my purpose or function in the working world? Having been a jack of all trades, I inevitably was a master of none but smart enough to spin multiple plates and keep people happy. But I realized that I was giving in to what most job descriptions are looking for: a unicorn.
Looking through many, many, MANY roles in different types of industries and companies of various size (although I made the vow that startups are not where I shine at this stage of life), each job rec was looking for the most elusive unicorn employee, a person who somehow had the intelligence, skills and wherewithal to do the three-jobs-in-one position that they were trying to get away with.
And while that’s fine to ask for a unicorn, it’s unrealistic that you’re going to find one person who has the skills to do everything you need. I realized it’s also unfair for me to pretend to be a unicorn when I’m not.
I have specific skills and I have a specific mindset that has always allowed me to extend beyond my swim lanes to fix larger operational, organizational problems. I’m always looking for ways to improve efficiency or output or to streamline organizational processes. This typically isn’t a role that is carved out in organizations. But it’s also what has made me successful to date – I always took on more. Or I should say I always took on more problems but then coached and prescribed how the rest of my team or colleagues needed to adapt to find and adopt a solution.
So in my respite from 9-to-5 duties, I read a lot. I went to therapy. I exercised. I spent time rebuilding a broken self-esteem and spirit. I wasn’t going to be successful or of use to anyone (or any company) in the state I was in.
By early spring of 2018, I was getting antsy and the money I was fortunate enough to have stockpiled away for this break was slowly disappearing and my reality was that I needed to get a job, hopefully without compromising all the work I’d just done for myself.
[Note: I was very fortunate to be in a position where I could do this. I recognize that not everyone has the space/freedom to make a choice like this, or may just be uncomfortable with this path. I’m just saying this: do what you need to do for yourself so you don’t wake up with dread every day. That’s not a situation that will improve without you taking some big steps toward change.]
And something happened. A former colleague had just taken a new position as the VP of Marketing at Coyote Logistics and reached out to me about a position to come in and be ‘the fixer.’
As she and I met and discussed the role and the opportunity, I got so excited. Not only because I got to work again for/with someone I respected and got along with so well, but because she recognized all my strengths and skills and how they’re best utilized within a team and an organization.
What’s funny is that she actually hired me because I am a unicorn, in that because of my experiences and knowledge, nobody else has my skill sets (or aptitude to learn quickly and move fast).
I was listening to a podcast where the chat turned to understanding yourself and playing to your strengths and honoring those instead of trying to be something you are not. Their example was that people are like crayons and we’re all different colors. Organizations and leaders see the picture they want to color and they have to determine what colors they need to complete that picture.
So I thought about it and just decided that I’m probably a magenta. Not a color for everyone and maybe one you don’t use frequently. But when you need a bold stroke of color that invokes passion and strength, might be used to highlight or outline other subtler colors, magenta it is. And once I owned that concept of being a magenta, I realized how many jobs I’d applied to that were asking for a midnight blue. That’s not me, it’s never going to be. But I also think that once I figured out who I was, what I’m good at and where I’m strong, that’s when someone thought of me and said, “I have a role just for you.”
There were many times where I’d lost hope and thought I’d be job hopping from one experience to another where I never felt like a fit or that I wasn’t actually what they wanted.
But a little faith and a lot of self-awareness opened a door for me and I’m happier than I’ve been, personally and professionally, in long time.
I started at Coyote Logistics last June and the team I’m on is maybe the best I’ve ever experienced and that’s a testament to my boss, who built this team. She clearly saw the picture she wanted to color in her mind and knew precisely what crayons she needed to create a complementary, complex, beautiful picture. As for what I’m doing currently in this role…well, that’s a post for another day.