Changing a career is hard. There’s no doubt about it. It’s never stopped me chasing my ideal version of work, though and it shouldn’t stop you. There is another layer that I hadn’t previously experienced until recently.
I have been blogging for five years and it is something I love to do very much in my spare time. It’s never had a negative effect on my career — if anything, it has been positive and helped me in my career.
Recently I was looking at an opportunity in something I’ve always wanted to do. It was the sort of career that would allow me to take the skills of sales, relationship management, leadership and business to a new level. The company I wanted to work for had a solid brand and I knew a few people there who were kind enough to provide references.
The first step was an interview with the HR team, which went well. Then, shortly after, I got one of those phone calls that leaves you glowing from ear-to-ear. The call was to tell me that I was going to be going straight to the interview with the hiring manager. I was exhilarated and ecstatic.
The day came and I put on my favorite trousers, brightly colored Happy Socks, brown leather shoes (fresh out of the box) and an understated navy blazer — all the components needed to show I was professional, yet not full of ego and arrogance.
I got to the meeting place one hour early and rehearsed what I was going to say. Hours and hours of time went into the preparation the week before to ensure I wasn’t wasting an opportunity to work with what, to me, was a highly sought after employer.
The interview with the hiring manager went ahead without a hitch. We got on really well together and I was optimistic about getting an offer. After the one week mark, I got a call from someone who had provided a reference for me.
It was at this point that my heart sunk.
“The hiring manager really liked you and sent your details to their boss for approval to recruit you.
There was a small problem.
They read a post you published online about toxic work cultures and how to improve them and didn’t like it. On that basis, they won’t hire you.”
It was one of those moments where time seemed to slow down. As my fate was delivered to me, I couldn’t believe the words I was hearing in the tiny speaker of my phone. Maybe I was dreaming. Maybe social media really is bad for your career and you should never say anything publicly again.
Maybe having the courage and vulnerability to share your most difficult struggles in the hope of inspiring a few people to learn from your pain is a stupid dream and a poorly thought out pursuit.
So many thoughts went through my head. I did my best to end the phone call with my reference, without bursting into tears and feeling like a complete failure. Social media, in that moment, made me feel sick.
It took a few hours to recover and get some perspective. This conversation and rejection forced me to make a decision:
“Will I hide who I am for the benefit of my career or keep doing what I’m doing despite the cost?”
The only answer that made sense was to keep going. Writing means far too much to me to ever stop doing it. I’ve been doing it for more than five years and the notes I have received over the years, have, for the most part, been positive and suggested that my work does help people.
It is rare that I would ever get a message to say that my writing sucked or was unhelpful. Sure there are a few trolls every now and then, but there are only a few isolated incidents.
Writing has helped me in the following ways:
- Earn an income when I had no work
- Find my voice
- Learn how to be vulnerable
- Use my experience to help others learn from them
- Find like-minded people to spend time with
- Hone the craft of telling stories
- Become the person I am today
This is my public declaration to say something that feels so right, for this point in time: I will never give up writing for anybody — not for a dream job, not for a career, not for a company, not for the sake of a personal brand and definitely not for anyone who sees it as a waste of time, energy and space.
I will continue to be myself because that’s all I know how to be and I’ve worked too hard for it. It took a near-miss with cancer, a failed business, an epic struggle with mental illness and multiple breakups to arrive where I am today. It would be wrong of me not to try and help others who may have (or who might in the future) struggle with similar life experiences.
No employer is bigger than your life’s work.
No company is bigger than your legacy.
No person is so almighty that they get to tell you how to be creative.
Creativity is a sacred and beautiful thing that cannot be messed with, controlled, or tamed.
What I am saying might seem a little crazy, but if you’re ever faced with the same decision, I compel you to think long and hard about what you’re being asked to give up when signing up to your dream career.
A few rules to consider
When publishing online, it’s safe to do so and shouldn’t affect the vast majority of career opportunities if you follow this rough guide:
- Leave people with a lesson or solution at the end of your article
- Avoid complaining too much
- Never name and shame
- Think carefully about the use of swear words
- When telling stories from career events, hide names, companies, and customers names from your article
If you consider these rules, you shouldn’t have any problem
The reason I was rejected from this job is that I managed to offend someone.
When you offend someone, it often has very little to do with you. The person may be conservative, resistant to social media (if they are much later in their career), insecure, scared or even jealous.
There are so many reasons people can be offended by your work even when the intent is like mine and designed to do nothing more than help another human being or practice a bit of good old fashion vulnerability.
Up until twelve months ago, my writing really had no impact on my career and was very separate. It’s only in the last year since I managed to have a few articles accidentally reach mass audiences that I have managed to offend a few people in my career.
When you succeed, unfortunately, some people want to chop you down. Not everyone wants to see you win — although the numbers are small.
You have three choices when you offend someone or face a rejection like I did:
- Allow it to affect your mindset
- Give up altogether
- Keep doing what you’re doing and try to dispel any learnings you can from the experience
I’ve chosen option three and am fully aware that not everything I say is right — and sometimes I get it horribly wrong, too.
Every single one of us is a human being trying to do our best and dealing with the struggles of what it means to exist on this planet and ultimately survive.
I don’t have all the answers but wanted to share this story with you. If you currently do or are considering publishing anything on social media, think carefully about the points in this article.
There is a trade-off with everything you do in life.
You could get rejected for a dream career if you decide to write online and my advice to you is not to let that stop you. Your ideas, experience and thoughts are too important to be silenced by the business world.