The Uninspired Writer Finds a New Trade: Discovering Company Culture and Creating The Vibe
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to write for a living. As a kid and pre-teen, though, that meant something different than it did when I became an adult. In my childhood, jobs were there for writers; salaries and health benefits existed; print was king. Magazines were my favorite form of media and it seemed like all of my favorite publications set up shop in New York City. Obviously, I told myself that I needed to be in the city to make it as a thriving writer. Eventually, the Internet took over and the writing community changed tremendously because of it. Still, I wanted to write in New York because it was the only thing that made sense for me to do. Thanks to a few different variables, that lane never fully opened up for me so I had to play to my other strengths.
I’m a helper, always have been. I helped my mom at home as I was the eldest daughter; I helped my teachers in school since I was quiet and had very few friends. I never wanted to be class president — too much spotlight. In high school, I ran for Student Council. What position, you ask? Secretary, duh. I lived for writing meeting minutes neatly in my notebook and observing as members exchanged ideas. I had a special binder specifically for writing and rewriting my notes until they were perfect. I wanted to hand out papers and be the teacher’s assistant so I could use the good stapler. I wasn’t being a kiss-up; I was honing my administrative skill set that would serve me right when I became an adult. I’ve always loved offices and paperwork and supplies and desks. Half of me wanting to write as a profession was me wanting to write in a cubicle with my color-coordinated office supplies. It was always a great marriage to me.
When I took my first job as a receptionist, I was in heaven. I had the perfect computer. I had access to all kinds of office supplies. I had the responsibility of taking care of an entire space. Plus, I had my own file cabinet. I cannot tell you how ecstatic I was to have this position. Even more, I was excited to have the first hand experience of seeing how an office worked. Who got along with who, what helped people remain productive and what distracted them, what processes were helpful and what was deterimental. Office politics have always interested me and through that position, I learned that ambiance was a huge part of how successful an office could be run. I learned that I can’t work in a drab environment; I need color and modern design surrounding me. I just need to be in a space that is cared for by the powers that be; after dealing with supervisors who didn’t seem to care about their employees or were hesitant to make strides in improving work conditions to boost company morale, I wanted to be a part of the team that would be more proactive in that regard.
Company culture, I learned, is the culmination of a company’s internal mission statement, policies and its overall environment. In real people’s terms, company culture is about setting the appropriate vibes in accordance to what your business is about. I read about all the perks tech start-ups and other creative companies offered and became envious; I ogled photos of elaborate workspaces and how they were designed, their color palettes and the furniture they featured. Being that my attention span has grown shorter over the years, I became a huge champion for seeking a company culture that balanced productivity and fun. After I left my receptionist job due to lack of support from the major players in the company, I targeted the companies that I had researched on my downtime when I was employed. I wanted to work somewhere that I could contribute to the evolution of their company culture or take it to a new level. No one reciprocated, but that was alright because everyone can’t start at the top.
In the midst of this, I continued to keep track of the writers and creative beings who inspired me during my own stint as a writer in New York, and I felt bad about myself. I felt like I wasn’t living up to the potential people would tell me I had. Did I really move to New York to become an office grunt? I hyped myself up to move to this crazy beautiful city to be an amazing, flourishing literary being when I’m just pushing paper and organic snacks for people who are actually pursuing their passion. There was a time where I felt extremely down on myself for not doing what I said I would do. I had met all of these wonderful people along the way who were encouraging and inspirational; I wanted to do what they were doing but at the end of the day I didn’t have the passion that they had for our craft. I tried to force it but nothing came; I couldn’t write anything for my personal site, so how would I be able to make this a lucrative profession? I had to face facts and admit to myself that maybe this wasn’t meant for me.
I had operations, though; I loved operations, I was passionate about operations. I just needed a second chance to flourish in that department. I got it when I was hired as an administrative assistant for a marketing company. In the beginning, I had an extreme number of restrictions on my position because our operations manager held tasks very close to her chest. The company hardly had a culture, they hardly had fun. Hell, they hardly made noise. I was beginning to think that I had misjudged this company; kids, never assume that because a company is in a certain industry that it’s run as an adult funhouse. There definitely should be an even balance between adult funhouse and functioning business but jeez, you are allowed to smile every so often. After an exit and an arrival, things have been improving and I’ve been able to flex my knowledge of operations more often, which is a huge relief. I hadn’t realized how much I was suffocating under the old management until the change was made.
I want to have a larger presence in our operations at my office. I’m happy about potentially having the opportunity to get deeper into operations. I want to dress our workspace up in color, get branded supplies to gift visiting clients and vendors, get a bigger budget for snacks and parties and liquor because we’re adults, dammit! I want to organize team outings and holiday parties; I want each employee to be excited to come into work every day not just because they love what they do but because they love where they get to do it at.
I don’t feel guilty about not becoming a writer during my time here in New York. Being a New York resident is about thriving regardless of your circumstances and being yourself. I’m a helper who happens to be pretty damn good with words and has an affinity for color-coordinated office supplies. This current version of myself will only get better as I learn more about everything that office operations entails. This may seem like grunt work to others, but it’s important to me and someone has to do it. It would be wise to have someone on your operational team who actually enjoys doing the dirty work. I’m out here, strapped with my notepad and ballpoint, ready for battle.