I want to share a bit of my story. I don’t have any great advice or insight, but maybe the idea that we are not alone can, you know, help people feel not alone.
A few (or many) years ago, I had a role that I loved. I held a lot of responsibility, I was successful, I felt like I was growing on my career path. I was contributing to groups, meeting people for coffee to give advice, all in all, I left like I had earned my place through hard work, diligence, and continuous learning.
Fast forward. Things beyond my control happened. I made a career change. l leapt into a situation I wasn’t sure of to get out of a situation that was slowly souring me. My pro/con comparison list didn’t have a clear outcome, but I went with the new opportunity, because who knows, maybe it would be great. Maybe that was just something that I was telling myself, maybe I was fooling myself, maybe I just needed to make myself think I believed it.
It wasn’t great. I tried. I struggled. I couldn’t find my place. I didn’t feel like I was adding value. I was barely treading water. I started to doubt myself. I started to doubt my abilities. My instincts. My skills. My intelligence. Every instinct I had, steeped in years of experience, was contrary to what they needed/wanted. Even as I spiraled, I knew that I was not totally to blame. It was a bad hire, my skills were a mismatch with what they needed, my personality and theory of operations were in direct opposition to theirs. We were never able to get on the same page.
Yet, I couldn’t shake my deep feelings of failure. I started to say things like “Who the hell do I think I am?” to myself when thinking about my title or what I thought that I deserved. I started to think, “Maybe I got too big for my britches” and this was a dose of reality. I mean, who was I thinking that I had a career anyway? I don’t come from people with careers, I come from people with jobs.
I started to think, “maybe I shouldn’t have left ▤▤▤.” I started to look back at the time at ▤▤▤with rose colored glasses. l forgot how unhappy I was. I forgot the subtle disrespect, the arrogance, the personal level that that job was affecting me at. I couldn’t shake the feeling that though I wasn’t happy, at least there, I felt that I had some value.
So, as one who is unhappy does, I started to look for new opportunities. I applied, I attended webinars, I listened to advice, I networked. Months and months and months passed. I felt like a rollercoaster. Hopeful to defeated, confident to doubtful. All the while trying to keep a real sense of my worth and skill and not succumb to letting my self worth be determined by a role I knew was a bad fit or boards of strangers evaluating resumes.
Though I did have days where I was hopeful for a new opportunity, I was constantly doubting myself. When I interviewed I wasn’t confident, I wasn’t selling myself, I didn’t feel like I could add much to another company. I 100% believed that I would have to take huge steps backwards in my career. There I go again. Thinking again in terms of careers. Maybe I should be settling for a job I don’t hate, that pays me enough to pay my bills. That can’t be asking too much. Can it?
And honestly, there were days that it really did.
I forgot my value, I believed that I didn’t deserve the past success that I had achieved. I believed that it was some sort of fluke.
It took time. It took a lot of learning and self reflection. It took a support group of former co-workers who were nothing but honest. But, I came out on the other side. I left the toxic situation. I took time to learn about myself, to re-find my skills, to re-see my value, to articulate it to someone who has never worked with me before. I remembered that I deserve to be happy. I deserve to grow. I deserve to be able to think of myself as an asset to the company that I work for. I deserve a career.