I am at a crossroad in my career right now, and I am quite honestly not sure, if I am built to continue my career in this industry. So, before I get into what I want to say… I’d like to present some context.
Below is a short recap of moments I’ve experienced, in the last 5 years, that triggered my reconsideration of working in Advertising. They are in no particular order or level of significance.
I was let go from an agency. My supervisor’s response when I asked for a reason:
We’re trying to build a team around [redacted] (another male Project Manager).
I told my manager I felt like I was struggling on my new account, and I needed a more in-depth on-boarding:
Well I’m just not sure if it’s your lack of skill in the agile process or a lack of understanding of nuance in the account’s process…
I asked my manager to trust me to do my work, instead of constantly asking another colleague to review my work:
Sometimes, micromanagement is on-boarding
I told my co-worker it’s NOT OK to ask me to “meet him” in the small recording booth:
I’m a White, I’m German and I work in Advertising… What the fuck do you expect?
I called attention to a pitch idea that could be (AND ABSOLUTELY SHOULD BE) interpreted as racist:
I just don’t think anyone would be that smart to draw the same conclusions as you.
I accepted a request for a resource, and followed up with the potential risks associated the request. The response the next day:
When I send you an email, I just want you to say yes
After clarifying my intention was to manage risks and not to be combative:
…I don’t have time for risks…
After asking for PR support to help build my profile as a thought leader…
I just don’t think YOU have a story…
After inquiring about my request for a promotion…
I know you’ve done everything I’ve asked… I just want to see you do it more...
I declined to attend a last minute meeting at the Agency founder’s apartment on a Sunday afternoon… while I had family visiting in town. It was also my birthday:
You have not been flexible when everyone else has. If you can't support this project in the way we need then I think we hand it off.
My co-worker accused me of dropping the ball on a project, and called a meeting with myself and HR. I presented “receipts” to prove I did everything within my capacity. The co-worker’s response:
You know what, It’s really not even about the work. I just feel like our work relationship isn’t where it needs to be.
Yes. I’ve experienced each of these moments. Some more traumatic than others. Each contributing to the decision I’ve made for myself, this month.
After weeks of spiraling into a version of the sunken place where I was completely forgetting myself, my capabilities, and my talents, I decided to quit my job. I have no alternative opportunity lined up. I literally just decided I have had enough. If you know me, you know this is beyond drastic. One person called out “they must have been terrorizing you”. I don’t necessarily believe this was ever anyone’s intention, but it is definitely an accurate interpretation of how I felt.
Everyone knows I like next steps, plan B’s through Zs, and most importantly, security. However, the way my sanity is set up these days, I decided my last resort for survival was to end my very short, 6 month tenure, at that organization. I have no plan, and I left with nothing more than an exit strategy and what’s left of my confidence.
The positive side to this experience is that I’ve gained a little bit of clarity, to a question I’ve posed for the last few seasons on my podcast. I used to wonder, why people of color leave the advertising industry, never return. It was hard to understand, how someone could leave the set of skills they’ve worked so hard to refine, and the knowledge that’s taken so long to gain, only to never look back. Today, I can say from experience, that when it comes to mental health and peace, drastic times will always call for drastic measures.
When people say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result each time, I felt that on a Drake level… Very deeply and very emotionally. Each moment I tolerated the craziness of work, it manifested into one physical step closer to the demise, of my peace.
How crazy is it, that I know in my heart, that it is unreasonable to dedicate my entire life to an agency that has no interest or intention on investing in me? Yet, I continue to try to prove my value and overall worth?
How crazy is it, that despite the lack of empowerment to speak freely in many work spaces, I still cross my fingers and hope I’ll be trusted to do the job, I was hired to do?
Think about how heartbreaking it is to leave work one day and realize that no matter how hard you bust your ass, or how much experience you have, or how high your salary is, most of your co-workers will always believe that there MUST be somebody else who knows your job better than you do? You’re never the thought leader. Just the hard worker, that needs to work harder.
There’s nothing like hearing let’s ask (insert co-worker’s name here) in (insert non-related discipline) what they think about a project you’re working on, even though you’ve done this countless times and they’ve done this… never.
Consider what it’s like, when you DO get invited to have a seat at the table and you have to be the one to call attention to bias and discrimination in the work being created only to be side-eyed and ignored.
I genuinely love this business. Embarrassingly, I would even say I may have been a glutton for the constant punishment. However, while I sit in this professional “sunken place”, I can’t reconcile who I know I am, with who I am being told I am, by people who do not see the big picture. There is nothing more depressing than sitting at my desk every morning and asking myself why am I here? And then not even being able to find an answer… so by the time I get through the thought process, I’m left thinking, why do I even bother?
At the end of the day I know my capabilities, and there is a good amount of people who also know, from their personal experience, what these capabilities are. However, I’m at the point where I know It’s going to take a minute to get my swagger back… In the meantime, I’m going to take my time off to think long and hard about whether it’s worth re-entering the agency world. At the moment, I don’t have an answer, yet.