It’s OK to want better for myself even if it goes against workplace/career norms - right? **Disclaimer: Long Post!!**

The last 18 months of my resume, to many recruiters and employers, will look incredibly messy.

I have a career break of about 7 months, then a role at a start-up for 5 weeks, and now 6 months into my current role, I am actively looking for another position.

This chaos began when I quit my job, during the height of the pandemic, joining millions of Americans for what is now commonly called, the Great Resignation.

I worked at, arguably, the largest bank in the world, acting like a mini COO to a high profile business in the middle market. Assisting with everything from the day to day minutiae of running a business to go-forward business strategy and monitoring performance metrics of the business. It was incredibly stressful, and quite common to push 80-90 hour weeks, glued to your desk, managing the ever increasing workload that was uninhibited by our remote work environment.

To me, this was one of many brutal workplaces that I had worked in before, so did not think much of it at the time. However, when the pandemic made its grand entrance in March of 2020, so did my father’s diagnosis of terminal liver cancer. I, with my mother, was his co-caretaker, and along with my punishing work hours, I used every free moment of my time managing his care.

Once he received his diagnosis, his health declined rapidly and in 5 short months, my father was gone.

On paper, I looked successful.

I started my career as an EA and then managed to pivot into a critical business operations partner at a Fortune 500 company.

But I didn’t feel successful.

My time at this major bank, as much as I was thankful for all I learned and accomplished, by the end of 2020, I felt despair and incredible emptiness. I was mentally, emotionally and physically destroyed. I didn’t have anything left to give and I couldn’t keep working in an environment where we were constantly forced to run around like headless chickens at every silly fire drill and handle workload volumes that just didn’t make any sense.

So, I decided to quit, with no back-up plan, in March of 2021.

Cue in my 7 month break.

During my break, in addition to resting, processing intense grief and having a lot of mental kumbaya sessions with myself, I also wanted to be really intentional with my next steps. So I did a lot of thoughtwork and exploration. I worked (and am still working with) a leadership coach who is absolutely wonderful. I even looked into whether tech recruiting was a path for me because I love people! I received a tech recruiting certificate and helped out temporarily at a small tech recruiting business, helping them source and try to fill their pipelines with candidates.

Shortly after, I was contacted by a former manager of mine who I had a great relationship with. He wanted me to join his team at a fintech start-up he had recently joined.

Cue-in my 5 week start-up stint.

I had many conversations with him and asked lots of questions. In my quest to be intentional, I wanted to make sure that this job was a cultural fit as much as it was a good career fit. I knew the commitment it took to join a start-up and so ensuring there was a values match was key. One of my top 3 must haves was rock solid leadership. Leadership had to be good people and open to feedback. He promised me all of these things and that I would have an outsized impact on culture as their first People Ops hire to the firm.

Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. The leaders were incredibly tough to work with and I experienced toxic interactions, some of the worst in my professional career. 5 weeks in, I walked away, with my manager’s full support. I told him that this was not what we had discussed and this was not what I had asked for. To his credit, he was new too, so I’m sure he believed everything he told me at the time (we are also still great friends).

After all the self reflection and mental work I did during my break, I didn’t want to subject myself to another punishing environment so I stood up for myself and left.

Cue-in my current workplace.

Shortly after I left the start-up, a close friend of mine, referred me to a female leader she knew at her firm that really needed my operation chops. Although the firm was very corporate and I had my reservations with that culture, I also really wanted to work for and under a female leader. My former managers were all male at this point and to work for a strong female leader was a dream.

She immediately set up a call with me and we had great exploratory conversations. She essentially told me she needed a lot of help and believed that I could provide the help that she needed with her org. I was so excited. I felt that I was going to finally walk into a supportive environment where I could grow sustainably and be challenged.

Unfortunately, as soon as I started, she was not around. I felt incredibly disconnected and isolated. She became dismissive, brushing off my requests for projects and work, saying she was too busy and didn’t have time to think about it. I was chastised for trying to be proactive about finding work if it was not directly authorized by her or being too eager about projects that she didn’t think had legs. But then chastised again for not being proactive enough when I honestly told her I didn't have anything on my plate (and have the bandwidth to help).

I have felt so small and devalued in this role. I went from being an outsized high achieving contributor to being a note-taker at worst and powerpoint reviser at best.

Cue in my job search.

I struggle with feelings of shame and the “just try and stick it out” mentality every day. Embarrassed that I am at this crossroads again. Self examining myself to see if it’s me. That I am the one who is flawed and just the worst decision maker lol.

But I also do my best to lift myself up. Tell myself I deserve better. To not give up on myself. That wanting a baseline culture of being treated with kindness and respect is NOT SHAMEFUL.

I have agency to change the trajectory of my future and I want to believe that finding a workplace where people respect each other and seek to lift each other up is the norm, not the exception!

I shouldn’t have to feel ashamed for wanting a manager that is invested in your growth and fosters your ability to lead. I shouldn’t have to feel ashamed for wanting to work on challenging projects and feel valued! I shouldn’t have to feel ashamed for wanting to be treated with dignity in my workplace. I should not have to feel ashamed.

So chaotic resume or not, this is me. My story.

I challenged myself to write a post and I’m not sure what this is really. It’s part storytelling, part self-compassion, part vent, part seeking for support and validation for how I feel and maybe this story might align with others and provide some commiserations too!

I feel crazy most of the time for trying to find another job right now. Sometimes, I think with despair, that no self-respecting recruiter will take my applications seriously because they look at the last 18 months and think I'm non-committal.

BUT, I AM MORE THAN my resume.

And today I wanted to feel empowered and tell myself that it’s OK to fight for ME. To have hope.

I also recently found out I am pregnant, and I want to show this little bean that Mom is a fighter.

MichelleFuentes's profile thumbnail
Wow, first and foremost, everything you've felt and are feeling is completely valid ✨ Second, congrats!! You're right that the little bean is lucky on their trooper of a mom! Third, I am so so sorry for you loss 💛 I am in awe by your strength and how you were able to keep putting one foot in front of the other, AND continue to better yourself despite going thru a difficult loss. Which goes back to my previous point, little bean lucking out 😊I think it's more than okay that you want better for yourself even if it goes against workplace/career norms! While *some* recruiters will look at the short career stints and think that, I think that's a blessing in disguise because it's probably not a good workplace fit anyway! A majority of recruiters understand that - especially these past 2 years - short work stints don't mean that the candidate wasn't committing, but rather there are so many other external factors at play. If anything, it can be spun as an impressive thing, how you're able to take time to yourself and reflect on what's most important to you, because you're looking for a long term fit in your next career move, and ultimately that's what a company wants, a candidate that wants stay with them for a while and build up from there. On a similar note, your former manager reaching out to you, wanting you to join his team at the new startup PLUS another friend referring you to a leader she knew just goes to show how valuable your work, character, and overall vibe are! While it might not have worked out those times, they were learning experiences. For what it's worth, assuming I had your courage and strength, I would have made the same decisions. ✨
annalee0807's profile thumbnail
Omgoodness, these words were just what I needed to hear today. Thank you so much for your encouraging and supportive words!!! AND for taking the time to read this super long post!! Thank you thank you!!!
MichelleFuentes's profile thumbnail
Of course!!! My pleasure :) And if you ever need to vent or talk, feel free to reach out whenever! 💛
Wow, @annalee0807. First of all, I am so sorry for your loss and congratulations on your pregnancy! What exciting news. We have a lot of similarities in terms of walking into jobs that were sold to us one way and then turning out to be COMPLETELY different environments (just wrote a post about it myself in the Vents channel, you should read it if you need to feel better about your own experiences because it's a mess). It's happened to me so many times. I've left jobs after short stints because of horrific cultural issues. Sometimes potential employers have judged me for this, but that's how I know they're not the right places for me. You have to do what's right for you, always. Period. What's the point of being a job if you're not learning, growing, or happy to show up to work? You have proven skills and experiences, and if anything, potential employers should take note and commend you for not tolerating disrespect and valuing being valued. If you ever want to chat, let me know!
annalee0807's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much @lynda122. These comments make me feel more confident in my decision to move! And yes!! I need a job where I am constantly learning and growing but also feel psychologically safe!!! Sometimes I feel like its a unicorn, that it doesn't exist but I want to believe that is not the case and keep trying.Also, I just found your post!! That sounds so stressful and chaotic. I cannot believe you were hung up on. That is SO UNPROFESSIONAL. It sounds like being laid off is a blessing in disguise. I would love to connect with you! Maybe there are ways we can help each other with our job search :-).
jwolcott's profile thumbnail
Sorry for your loss and congratulations on your pregnancy! Yes, it’s okay to want more/better for yourself, this is how we change workplace norms for the better. You should never feel you need to stay at a toxic job for the sake of your resume. Good luck with your search, I hope you find a company that deserves you.
annalee0807's profile thumbnail
@jwolcott, thank you so much! I keep telling myself that very thing on loop inside my head lol. Thank you thank you.
cassiexiong's profile thumbnail
Hey @annalee0807, just wanted to thank you for sharing your story. A lot of the feelings you've captured have been on my mind lately and throughout my career. I've so often put my own mental health and wellbeing aside in pursuit of 'the perfect resume' and hit many breaking points when I realized that I deserved more and needed to walk away from a toxic environment.I too have the same fears about how my resume reads to a recruiter but I also have a lot of faith in my own abilities and know that anyone who has worked with me in the past can vouch for that. I hope that over time recruiters become more and more open-minded to the fact that a talented hard-working person leaving a job should reflect less on the employee and more on the employer. And as for the more close-minded recruiters? Well, they're missing out on an awesome candidate.Congrats on becoming a mom and even though I don't know you personally just wanted to say I'm so incredibly proud of you for putting yourself first!
annalee0807's profile thumbnail
@cassiexiong, thank you so much!! I appreciate and am so grateful for your words and for being proud of me!! Yes, it's so crazy how much we put our own mental and physical health on the backburner for companies that don't treat us like human beings. I'm so lucky to have found this platform to voice my feelings and receive wonderful support from community members like you!If you ever need to hear words of encouragement too please let me know. I would be all over it :D!!!
jessicazeng's profile thumbnail
Thank you for sharing your story! That's really unfortunate about your most recent work experiences, and I think it's totally valid that you're seeking another job in your situation. Recently, I interviewed with an employment gap, and I found that most potential employers actually didn't put too much weight on it (at least not as much as I thought they might) - after a bit of discussion, they were more interested in evaluating my experience and skills. As long as you're able to clearly outline what you're looking for and openly address any questions about your resume, you'll find that there *are* recruiters and interviewers out there who'll give you the benefit of the doubt and consider you a strong candidate. I also submitted some cover letters describing my situation (not sure if they actually helped, but after I created one template, I was able to tweak it to each company I applied for). I was really intentional with the kinds of companies I interviewed with - companies that emphasized diversity & inclusion, mental health and well-being, and other values that resonated with me (basically a healthy working environment). I think those sorts of companies are willing to be accommodating with resumes that might look less conventional.I hope you're able to convey what you're looking for to potential interviewers as well. Remember your worth - you already have a lot of experience, and it's totally okay to want a role where you feel valued and respected! I think the job search journey can help solidify what you're really looking for in a new role, what's really important. That's really amazing you're taking the initiative to look for a new job, and I wish the best for you! 💖
annalee0807's profile thumbnail
@jessicazeng Thank you so much! I have been definitely going down that route - being very intentional with this next job search and I seem to be getting more interest (although haven't nabbed an offer yet). Thank you again for your support and words of encouragement!