I know that Fridays are usually for wellness over here but today I thought it would make sense to switch gears a little – I got to yoga 4x this week which I’m proud of, but with the snowstorm, family and then friends in town, + food poisoning on Sunday night, I am more in a place where I’m feeling like a total hot mess and certainly don’t feel like a pinnacle of wellness physical wellness!
So anyway, what brought this post on came from the community page. I posted a question asking what everyone does for a living. I was blown away by the responses – you guys have really, really cool jobs! Like I knew you had cool jobs but whoa. Doctors, lawyers, humanitarians… I was blown away. With that though, there was another side of things. I got a few DM’s from readers who felt embarrassed, and “stuck” in their work situations. They didn’t want to post what they did for a living because they felt inferior/not good enough/wondering what they were doing wrong. Messages like, “I hate my job,” “I feel stuck in a bad situation,” “I’m struggling to find my purpose,” or “I’m feeling really lost.” Or just feeling behind in life.
It might be surprising but I really related to these sort of messages. If you are feeling stuck, please just know I have been there. BIG TIME.
And as for feeling behind in life, well, LOLZ that’s my reality every day but I just go with it.
So I guess we’ll address the feeling behind in life bit first. I feel this way every. single. day. It’s really easy to downplay what I do for a living, laugh it off, or make light of things. I am the queen of self-deprecation and have been known to tell people that I post photos of myself to Instagram for a living. At the end of the day I am very proud of what I have here – the community of readers, the brands I’ve been fortunate enough to work with, and so on and so forth. But when half of my friends own their own businesses (Yes I know, a blog is a business too) and the other half have fancy VP titles at their more corporate jobs, it’s incredibly easy to compare myself to them and their paths. Add to that babies, marriage, and home ownership and it’s easy to feel like a total failure.
This emotion is easiest to shut down when I think about how much I love what I do, and ask myself if I’d want to trade places with anyone else. The answer is always a resolute NO. I like my life a lot and I’ve never been one for checking boxes. Still, there are days where I’d log into Facebook from my bed on a Sunday morning (I deleted Facebook from my phone for this very reason, actually) and on those days it would be really easy to fall into a spiral of self-doubt and comparison. Another thing I do there, and I know I talk about this book a lot is something I learned from reading 10% Happier – I ask myself if the negative feeling I’m experiencing is useful. It’s usually not, so I move along.
The more important part is what to do when you feel stuck in a job you hate. That’s more what I wanted to talk about today.
We’ll start off with a little story telling.
Eight years ago I was 28 years old and working for a big beauty company and I was LE MIZ. It was, to quote Devil Wears Prada, a job that a million girls would kill for. I was responsible for the marketing for the largest nail color brand in the country (I don’t know if it still is). I was in the office by 8am every day and usually didn’t leave til 7 or so and was doing all the things… working on packaging, writing brand claims, doing shade development, and even naming the polishes. I loved the work. But the atmosphere not so much. It was a giant company and I just felt like I did not fit in. Years later I realize that I was a creative person, trying to be a corporate person, but that’s another story for another day. I had finally gotten to a level where I had my own office but I had come from an open space environment where even the VPs were in cubes and I hated it. I felt trapped in this small box for 11 hours a day. And my boss was MEAN. Like, really mean. She got in every day at 7 so when I “rolled in” at 8 (still earlier than most of the company), I was already late. I had come from another big beauty company and she was determined to knock me down. She gave me tasks like arranging nail polishes by shade on a velcro board to help me better “understand color.” I remember it being 8pm and I was sorting through 200 bottles of nail polish to arrange them in shade order (they all looked alike as they all vaguely resembled Essie Ballet Slippers, a white-ish pale pink. Let me tell you, I never knew there were so many variations of pale pink til I had that job. It was at that job that I had my first panic attack (I haven’t had one again since leaving). I had nightmares. My skin freaked out and I would get rashes because the stress made me itchy and I’d fall asleep scratching my legs. I could go on and gross you out some more, but things were BAD. Everyone close to me begged me to quit but I had been laid off from my previous job, had quite a bit of credit card debt, and in the post-2008 economy just felt really lucky to even have a job.
I ended up suffering it out for a year (I wanted that brand on my resume desperately enough), and then going to HR and begging to be moved to another team. They understood (this person was a bit notorious) and got me out of there but more importantly, it was being in that job that forced me to start this blog.
I was so miserable at work, so stressed, so anxious that I wanted something just for me… a passion project that would let me share the things I actually loved. Even if my mom was the only person who read it, I didn’t care. I wanted a little space to share, so that’s what I made. It started as Perfectionist in Rehab (terrible name) and then a few months later became Stripes and Sequins in January 2010. I had no idea at the time but the blog grew and grew and led me to a day job that was a better fit (BaubleBar!) and ultimately to be able to work for myself.
So anyway, today I wanted to share a few tips and tricks for getting un-stuck in your career.
Think about what you are good at, and what excites you. For as long as I can remember, I have been that girl that my friends would come to for recommendations. Be it shoes, beauty products, restaurants, and so on and so forth. I’ve always loved hunting down cool stuff and I’ve always loved sharing. I remember sitting down with a co-worker (this was before the time of blogging, back in like 2008) and she told me I should do something like this, but I didn’t even know where to start. I thought maybe I should start over and try to get a job at a magazine but went on informational interviews and realized it would be truly starting over and that I’d need to take a pay cut that I wouldn’t be able to live off of.
Think about what you loved doing as a kid. For me, that was arts and crafts, playing dress-up, and writing.
Don’t be afraid to realize that maybe you aren’t the sort of person you always thought you were. This sounds like a negative but it’s not meant to be… I just couldn’t figure out the way I wanted to phrase it! For whatever reason, when I was younger, I wanted nothing more than to climb the ranks for a big CPG (consumer package goods) company. I’d be a brand manager, and then a VP, and then an SVP, and then who knows! I was always very, very ambitious but also really wanted a job that had a lot of security. In hindsight I think maybe it’s because my parents were entrepreneurs. I saw the struggles that came with running their own business and I wanted something with more benefits. I wanted health insurance and weekends off and a 401k and stable vacation time. The thing was, I tried and tried and tried to be that person (and did so for the first 8 years of my career with a fair amount of success) but at the end of the day I am not a big company person. So many great things come from working for a big company (especially the perks I listed before), but big corporations are not for me. I wanted it to be me so badly but it just wasn’t. At the end of the day I thrive in a smaller environment where I can really make a difference.
Start a passion project. My first passion project was my blog which turned into a career. Nowadays it could be a blog, it could be an Etsy shop… maybe a podcast (my friend and I are starting one!), or maybe something entirely different. Those are just things that come to mind easily for me because of what I do but think about what you are good at and what you loved doing and just start doing it. Maybe it’s writing a novel, taking a painting class, or getting your yoga teacher certification. The point is to do something that makes you happy even if you don’t think it will ever earn any money. If your job is not fulfilling; you need to find something else that is, even if it’s just for the short-term while you figure yourself out professionally. Even if you just wake up half an hour earlier every day to do that thing you’re excited about, that will help you feel less stuck. And this may sound a little woo woo but I really believe that when you are doing things you are excited about, you change your energy – opening you up to bigger and better possibilities that you might not have even known existed.
Make a game plan and cut back spending as much as humanly possible. The first time this happened, it’s when I went to BaubleBar. I was making a LOT of money (well, a lot of money for a 28 year old) at the time and BaubleBar was a start-up. I took a 35% pay cut to go and work there. As the company grew I eventually got back up to my old salary but that was brutal at first. My boyfriend at the time and I went over my finances and I realized I’d be earning basically just enough to cover all of my living expenses. I had to buckle down and be responsible and then we would move in together six months later when my lease was up. I wouldn’t have been able to take that job without making some life changes (luckily at the time it meant moving into his much nicer than my apartment and paying him rent – sorry, I see the privilege there BIG TIME but am just being honest) but if I didn’t have him I would have needed to move to a smaller apartment or get a roommate. Either one of those things would have been WAY worth it to be happier in my work situation. Money is not everything.
The second big change I had was leaving BaubleBar and doing my site full time. Prior to doing that, I saved up 6 months of living expenses. Again, money is not everything but it can buy you a bit of freedom. When you have a good chunk of savings in place you are more free. You can look for a job that might pay less but will be more fulfilling, you can take a break and consult, there is a lot that you can do.
When I was younger I would shop when I was unhappy. Or treat myself to little luxuries that added up financially because I was miserable and thought that I deserved them. Don’t do that. Even just socking aside that $5 you were going to spend on that fancy latte at 3pm because you had to get out of the office and away from your crazy boss will help. What you deserve (more than a new pair of shoes or a fancy drink) is freedom, and freedom comes when you have savings. I realize that as a fashion blogger***, who earns money when you click on my blog and buy things, I might not seem the person who should be giving this advice, but please just trust me here. I made a lot of spending mistakes when I was younger and would have felt a lot less trapped in that bad job had I been more responsible with my money.
Load up on self care. Not the expensive kind of self care but cheap ways. A good book. Or an inexpensive bath (as much as I love my fancy soaks; epsom salts + a few drops of lavender or eucalyptus oil are pretty nice too). And just treat yourself with a bit of grace and kindness. Whenever I am going through something hard I try to just be a little nicer to myself – silence the inner critic and be nicer to myself like I would be to a friend who was going through something hard.
Remember that you are most definitely not alone. I don’t know why this helps but it does. It happens to everyone at some point in their life – maybe once, maybe multiple times. One of my most together, brilliant badass friends is dealing with it right now.
Remember that things are fluid and ever changing. Your situation is not permanent.
Remember that some of the best things come out of the most awful situations + work environments. There are a million stories of girls like me who started blogs because they hated their day jobs. There are stories of CEOs who started their companies as a side hustle while they were working a dead-end 9 to 5. My sister started her textile line because she wanted out of her awful design job. I could go on, but you get the point.
So those are my tips. I am not an expert or a life coach or anything just like that but I’ve gone through some stuff. 😉 Have you gone through something like this before? If you have, I’d love for you to share it in the comments as I know it will be helpful for a lot of people who read this blog.
***I still don’t think of myself as a fashion blogger but you get the point. And I’m here to share cool stuff I find with you but I am most definitely not here to encourage excess materialism or irresponsible decision making. I hope you know that.