3 Years Calls for Reflection
As my 3rd anniversary at work approaches, I decided pause and look back over my professional career, particularly since I’ve been back in Lincoln. God continually proves He’s got more planned than I could ever dream up, and my career is no exception.
Over the past 7 years, I’ve fought, bargained, threatened, and pleaded with Him. Each emotion and action got me to where I am today. And where am I is in a vanilla place: work is pleasing yet doesn’t define me. My thinking has shifted from what can the job do for me to what can I do for the people on my team and how can I best serve my clients. I look at this as growth and truly believe this was his plan all along. My job is to be kind and loving, and while I’ve gotten better at this, there is always more work to do!
Before I was in this role that I love, I was in a few positions that were less than pleasing for me. If we don’t experience the bad, we’ll never appreciate the good, right? I’m not saying my jobs prior to this were “bad”, that’s not it at all. I learned valuable lessons at each that have shaped me into the woman and project manager I am today. And I can look back on each role feeling grateful for that challenge, rather than being resentful. So in order for you to understand my gratitude, let’s review the journey.
Returning to Lincoln
After my brief residency in Southern California, where I was the Director of Marketing & Promotions for a collegiate summer league baseball team, I returned to Lincoln, jobless. For about a year I worked in the same cafe I did while in high school and college. After almost a year, I was ready to make a change. The search began for “my career”. After having a “plan” for so long (to travel from baseball club to club, working my way up to the Colorado Rockies), it felt odd to say the truth: I didn’t even know what I wanted from life anymore.
Before my I left the cafe completely, I tried a few part-time professional gigs. Soon, I realized design work was not for me, even though I loved it in college. I was also torn about desk work and being at a place with little flexibility, something I enjoyed about waiting tables. So the hunt continued a few more months until the right thing (for the time) came up.
“Big Girl Job”
My introduction back to the 8-5 world was for an agency. Technically, I worked for one of their clients, but was in-house. Weird I know, but my position was assisting the project coordinator and our program was a Youth Led Tobacco Prevention Movement. Because I was youth advocate in high school, I made a good candidate for the role. I had done similar things, attended similar events and tried to accomplish similar goals when I was their age.
As you could imagine from the title of the program, I worked with youth on a pretty regular basis. Not daily, but I got to see them quarterly at events and we’d chat via email, Facebook or text in between. The day-to-day work varied; there were plenty of administrative tasks, brainstorming, trainings, researching and event planning.
Travel was involved with this job which meant I toured the state! I still enjoy when I meet someone new and ask where they are from. “Oh it’s a small town, you’ve probably never heard of it.” Try me. I usually have been through or near it! Because of this job, I know my state much better.
Weekends with the youth at the events were my favorite part of the job. Planning those events was a close second; everything for agenda and activities to the logistics. Often I’d present my ideas to my boss and the thing I can still hear her saying is “I’m going to let you tell me what you think we should do…”
At the time, it drove me crazy! Just tell me what you’d like me to do!! But now, I see how big of a favor she was doing for me. She was challenging me to take the initiative to think outside of the box and grow in my role, and ultimately grooming me for what might come next. Though, at the time, I was still too immature to see that at the time.
During my time at the agency and with the program, I had some amazing experiences. I want to make it clear now; I disliked everything about the job. My highlight was taking 5 youth to NYC to speak at a tobacco company’s shareholders meeting. It was a first for all of us! We learned a ton, met lots of fellow advocates and saw the sites in 48 hours! The best part of it all was before we left, telling my mom about the trip, and her reaction. “Oh that sounds so wonderful! Will there be an adult joining you on the trip?” It still makes me laugh today… Mom, I’m the adult.
In addition to that trip, we had endless late nights — planning, laughing, bonding, making copies, packing, entertaining, and practicing presentations. Along with our in-state travel, my boss and I had opportunities to get out of the state too, attending helpful conferences, and networking with other program leaders around the country. Our struggles included the frustrations any leaders who works with teenagers experience — lack of follow through, broken commitments, disengagement and sometimes drama.
Appreciation For What it Was
But in the end, the positives outweighed the negatives when it came to time with those kids. I learned how to work with youth and how to be a positive role model. My boss challenged me to think creatively, gave me opportunities to try different things and helped me work through issues when I was unsuccessful. Like I said, I didn’t always like it, but definitely see the benefits now.
Working with this program gave me a better understanding of policy making, tobacco addictions and even gave me the support to help my dad quit smoking after over 40 years of tobacco use!
Not a “Fit”
While the job was fine, it wasn’t something that made me bounce out of bed in the morning, you know? I know most people don’t LOVE their jobs, but I just had this hope that I might be an exception and get lucky with my first job. Silly I know, especially in this day and age when people change jobs every 3 years.
Because I was technically the client working in-house, I didn’t work with the other people in the office all that often. That made the day-to-day difficult for me. There was one gal who I had things in common with and we’d chat and eat together. But as a whole, the women in the office were married with kids (or about to have them). It was a struggle to find anything in common.
I’ll definitely take blame for not trying harder — but I really had one foot out the door most of my time there. I made more than one pros and cons list and continually came to the same conclusion: I liked the program and working with youth, but on a daily basis, I wasn’t happy. This was no one’s fault and I have since learned there are jobs or companies that are not right for me, not because of qualifications, but because of culture. And this is what was happening for me on a daily basis. I wasn’t a culture fit for this place.
Not Loving His Plan
While I understood that God had me where He needed me, I still asked Him regularly if He was sure. And if He was, help me to see why. Some days the prayers helped and I’d be ok with work. Events with youth kept me going even longer. Their passion, energy, laughter — I got to meet some of the best young people Nebraska has to offer. To top it off, I’m in contact with many of them still — thank you Snapchat! 🙂
About the time Seth and I got married, my boss, the project coordinator, took a new position. Luckily it was a role that allowed me to still work with her, but I did NOT see what was coming. The agency asked me to move into the coordinator role. This is not where I saw myself, and I wasn’t excited. However, I didn’t have another option, so I transitioned.
That year was a tough one. It was our first year of marriage, and my first year coordinating. There was always something to be done, and I always felt like there wasn’t enough time. A meeting here, an event across the state, emails to be answered, connections to reach out to across the country. On more than one occasion, I would look around and wonder, who left ME in charge??
Having rough days at work, and not loving where you are in life really can take a toll on a person. And it will definitely impact your home life. It did ours. And prayers for guidance, strength, and patience continued.
In the middle of this crazy year as the project coordinator, my good friend asked if I was still looking for something new. She knew my struggles and her team was looking for another project manager, a role she thought I’d do well. Hmmmm… It sounded nice, but I really didn’t have time to think about it!
I must pause and remind you, throughout all of this, I’m still praying for God to guide me to where He needed me to be. You are probably thinking, Hello, sounds like this offer is an answer to that prayer! Now, I agree with you, but at the time, I was so busy, my thinking had changed and I had accepted where I was.
Acceptance is Key
My friend kept it casual. “Well, I’ll refer you to the position and we can see what happens.” Perfect, we’ll just leave it up to fate 🙂 I was being so breezy about it, I didn’t notice when an email came through asking for my resume. A few weeks later my friend checked in… “Did you send in your resume?” Crap! Change isn’t going to just plop in my lap; I’m going to have to take some ACTION.
I dusted of my resume and sent it through. With events happening almost every day at work, I didn’t have much time to think past hitting the send button. Not that I didn’t want the new job, but I finally wasn’t dying to leave this one either. That’s HUGE! I was finally ok with whatever God had planned for me.
When It’s Meant to Be…
Later that same week I received the first call from my recruiter. We were trying to get out-of-town for a camping trip. After playing phone tag part of the afternoon, I resorted to talking with him on Monday and leaving it alone for the weekend.
On Monday morning, as I was packing to leave for a weeklong conference, we connected briefly to go through some questions. After the phone call, I wasn’t feeling optimistic at all. A few of the questions made me feel unqualified for the position. As I finished packing, I reminded myself I’ve been praying for guidance so if it’s not meant to be, I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing.
As soon as I was back from Montana, I heard from my recruiter. He needed me to come on-site for an interview! Say what?? I had yet another full week and no time for a 2-hour interview. He made it clear they had no time to wait, so in the middle of saying goodbye to another boss, goodbye to my intern, and marrying off a good friend, I met with what would be my new team! Six hours after my interview, my recruiter called me back to “soft offer” me the job! Accepted! Needless to say, it was an emotional week.
If there’s anything I’ve learned about this company is that getting job offers through can take a while, and I was no exception. I waited 2 and a half weeks… and it was painful. But I got the next call during yet another event. Later that day, I was able to return the call, get all the details and make some plans. A new journey would begin soon.
It’s rarely easy to leave a job. I’m grateful someone taught me early on that I am replaceable. It sounds harsh, but it is definitely true. This program will go on without me. They will find someone new to do the job I’ve done. That person might even be better than me (how dare they!) and that is a good thing. For me, having this attitude makes “the talk” much easier.
And, even though I had sought other opportunities, at the end of the day, I was sad to leave. I’d poured a lot of blood, sweat and tears into that program over my 3 years there. Made some good friends, learned a lot and grew a ton. This job truly prepared me to be the project manager I am today.
No surprise to anyone who knows me, I worked my butt off those last 2 weeks. I wanted my predecessor, to be as prepared as possible. On my last day, I hardly left my desk; I finally walked away at 7pm. Left my keycard on my boss’s desk and loaded up my car. Before I drove away, I sat in that parking lot for the last time and wrote a FB post. (I hadn’t told many people I was making a change)
Quite the change in attitude. Which is why the saying “Acceptance is the key to all my problems” rings to true for me. For years I looked for something new, fighting where He had me. When I finally stopped fighting and just did the job He had for me, life got better. All the while He was getting something else ready for me… He is so good to me!
Fast forward to the present… Today, I work with a team of like-minded individuals. Of course the last 3 years haven’t been all butterflies and rainbows here, but working at a place where you “fit” sure makes a difference. Oddly enough, the work we do is ultimately to help match candidates with jobs where they fit with the culture so they will love their job, perform well and stay for a while. I have a passion for the work we do because I understand the importance.
“What does good look like here?” That’s a question I often here during presentations to clients. Before I was a part of this team, reading the company’s Employee Value Proposition, helped me feel confident I’d “fit”. In the interview, I heard things like: we like to be the hero, we laugh our way through problems, we work hard and play hard. These things may not sound attractive to everyone, but the descriptions spoke to me. I will do well here because that is me too.
Appreciating the Journey
And I’ve found it to be true. We’ve had many changes, transitions, ups and downs, drama and dullness with this team, but I’ve only ever had TWO DAYS in my 3 years here where I considered throwing in the towel. I’m so incredibly grateful to truly understand the importance of doing work you love. And more importantly, I love that my end goal is to help others find that too.
Through this journey, God has shown me the importance of having patience and trusting in Him. I’ve learned it’s ok to be uncomfortable and to be angry with Him about where He has you at any given stage in life. These feelings were good because it ultimately led me to a deeper relationship with Him. It allowed me to work harder and to really see the purpose behind work. Today, my real job is to fit myself to be of maximum service to God and those about me. It looks different almost every day, but I love the challenge and enjoy the journey as I continue to get better at this.