How I Landed My Dream Career

How I Landed My Dream Career

 

First, I just want to say this isn’t an article about how everything happens for a reason, and if you just focus on success, it’ll happen. This is a story about not settling. This is a story about how a job and a career are different things.

A year ago, I felt like my career was going nowhere. I left a job I loved because I just couldn’t keep going on a path that was all dead ends. So I took a job that I thought would move me into the right lane, and the pay was great. I soon learned that the job wasn’t what I expected. So I moved on after a few months to a position that paid more but still wasn’t what I wanted to do. But it gave me the time I needed to focus on where I wanted my career to go.

However, this was just a job, and I was a contractor not an employee. As a contractor, it was hard to feel like I was a part of something, which made feel disconnected to the work. I worked with some very smart and competent people. But no one seemed to have a plan for my role. It was like they went on a hiring spree, I showed up, and they weren’t sure what to do with me. I was used to just being thrown in, but when you work for a large company, it’s basically impossible to create work. But I tried. And really the clichés about large companies are mostly true: lots of red tape, corporate speak is rampant, and most of the time, new ideas aren’t appreciated. These were not bad experiences. I did learn things. I learned a lot about what I didn’t want for my career and that having at least some leeway to be creative is essential. And that I really like working and collaborating with others. The in person meeting is hard to come by in global companies. Technology allows for alternatives, but in my opinion, there’s no substitute for looking someone in the eye and giving them your attention.

I also learned that in a large company, your role is just one small cog and that was hard for me to swallow as my experience has been one where I’ve had to wear a lot of hats. I was able to connect what I was doing to the bigger picture; I just had little opportunity to influence the strategy. It became easier to just do what I was told. And that’s not me. I need to be challenged and engaged. Otherwise, I just feel like I’m simply showing up.

But during the year of contacting, I enjoyed flexibility that allowed me to find exactly what I wanted and focus on continuing to improve my skills and connections. This time allowed me to connect with some amazing folks and do some really cool things. So even if my day job was blah; I had work that was creative and challenging. I also took this time to learn new skills. I can now create landing pages without the help of a developer! Life doesn’t really hand out opportunities just for showing up. Attitude about your situation is what you can have control over, not much else.

So while I could worry less about financials, I had plenty of time to find the right fit. I had a lot of bad interviews. Not that the people were bad; it’s just I kind of immediately knew it wasn’t for me. I never turn down interviews even if I was already on the fence. You never know who you might meet or what it might teach you. I, at one point, thought I had found a great opportunity but because of situations beyond my control, the company made the choice not to fill the position. I did meet a great guy who 100 percent believed in me. We were completely on the same page so it turned into an opportunity, just a different kind.

The worst interview had to be the one that made me literally sick. It was so hot in the room, and I was in there for over an hour with no water. I’m not saying it was a literal toxic environment, but I decided my body was trying to tell me something.

So it was months of bad interviews or jobs that seemed like a good fit but were under my salary requirements. I could have just gotten comfortable in my day job routine. But I knew I wasn’t fulfilled so I kept putting myself out there.

Then something amazing happened. I applied for a job on LinkedIn and had a phone interview with my now boss. I immediately knew I wanted to work for him. Then in my in person interview it got even better. I knew I had found my people and my place.

I’m just finishing my first week, and thus far it’s as advertised. The people are fun and friendly. I’ve already received so much praise and recognition for my work and ideas. That’s pretty amazing! And I’m thankful everyday that I get paid well to do what I love, write and marketing!

My advice to anyone unhappy in their career is that only you can change it. Your boss isn’t suddenly going to start appreciating you. The work won’t become interesting and challenging if you wish hard enough. But don’t settle. You deserve to be treated well and paid fairly. I bring up pay because it’s important to ask for what you need and not back down. I know what I’m worth, and in the end so did they.

If the offers don’t come then keep learning and growing. Top talent is a bit of a unicorn these days. If you know how great you are, make sure employers do, too. Tell your story because we all have one. I’m feeling really blessed right now, and right now, I feel that my career story has just launched into an exciting new chapter.

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When will I be enough?

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This is probably a question that pops up in everyone’s mind from time to time; it’s like a stain that keeps reappearing or bad breath that a mint can’t cover. It persists so we persist in trying to define “enough.”

The chorus in my head has been on the same verses for too long: Am I good enough? Successful enough? Smart enough? Pretty enough? I wish I could say that the answer is yes. But depending on the day, it can go either way.

I had competing viewpoints on if I was enough in my childhood. My mom was generous with praise, always the encourager. But she pushed a lot, too. Straight A’s were expected. I never had a B until high school, but she wasn’t harsh, just slightly disappointed. My father, on the other hand, was absent and incapable of praise. Instead I got a lot of lectures on being fat. When this is how you start out in life, it’s hard to be kind to yourself and believe you are “enough.” Because ultimately isn’t it about having that belief in yourself?

But we keep falling into traps about what is “enough.” We get snared and dragged down, losing all focus on the things that really matter.

Trap One: If only some magical thing will happen then I’ll be enough. If I get the right job or the perfect marriage or some other thing then finally I’ll be enough. Listen, we all need to have goals and dreams. It keeps us moving, but what happens is that we stop caring about the present. It’s easier to look toward the future with hope that things will be better. The past betrayed us, and the present is just this thing getting in our way of the perfect future.

You know those vision boards that were so popular years ago (maybe they still are?). People put so much time and effort into looking at a board that was their ideal life that they didn’t appreciate what they already had. I don’t have a vision board. I stopped looking for what was at the end of the rainbow and decided the rainbow’s pretty awesome on its own. I haven’t completely conquered this trap; I still want more. I still have plenty to accomplish, but I refuse to ignore these moments that I’m experiencing right now.

Trap Two: Self-doubt and insecurity make us less likely to ever get to the prized “enough.” How much confidence do you have in yourself at this moment? Probably less than you deserve. I’ve always been confident in my intelligence and skills. With every fiber in me, I believe in my talent as a writer and marketer. I’m educated, curious and work hard every day to keep sharp. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have doubts. I still second-guess myself and feel that I’m not where I should be in my career. I’ve made mistakes. I stayed at jobs too long that didn’t nurture me and my ideas. However, I do make my living writing. People pay me to write! The topics aren’t always interesting, but it beats looking at spreadsheets or filling in balance sheets (I hate math!).

Do the most successful people in the world have self-doubt? I don’t know; it’s hard to believe that they could be confident in everything 100 percent of the time. I can only speak for me, and I am harder on myself than almost anyone ever could be. Some would say it’s tough love, but being kind to yourself has nothing to do with being “tough” and everything to do with being comfortable with who you are and where you’ve been.

So when will I ever be “enough”? I’ll probably consider myself an utter failure until one of my books is out there in the world. I may never be a best seller, but I’ll never give up on this dream. It’s the same dream I’ve had since I was a five years old. It’s been really close then far away then close again.

So what is your “enough”? This is a real question from a real person typing these words, not a ploy for engagement. Because if we can all make peace with “enough” doesn’t that make the world a little bit better?

 

Don’t Be a Flake

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No one wants to be a flake. We all like to think we are accountable, decent human beings. But there’s still an unfortunate amount of flakiness out there. If you are wondering if you are a flake then you probably are. Don’t despair; this isn’t a condemnation. You can get those ducks in a row or at least in the same pond. Here are three lessons to start.

Show Up

When I say show up, I don’t mean just physically being there but being present. But first we will start with actually being there. I have a full calendar most days. I have meetings and conference calls for my day job but also lots of calls or meetings for freelance work, and I can say from experience that people don’t show up. Even for interviews! A little over a year ago, I scheduled an interview with a hiring manager, which included me taking time off from my current job. The lady never called me. It was supposedly an issue with not having the correct bridge line. So I was okay with rescheduling. The call was rescheduled for a day in which I was on vacation on the west coast, but I still accepted the meeting. I got up way early, as it was a 9 a.m. start time, but I was on Pacific time. And once again, the lady did not show up! At this point, I was done. I had no interest in working for someone who thought so little of my time. It was rescheduled again, and trying to be the better person, I accepted. When I finally had the call, the person never apologized or even mentioned the previous mishaps. She could have offered me a golden throne to rule from, and I would have said no.

The second part of showing up is being present. I’ve been in many meetings where most everyone in the room was on their phone, not remotely paying attention. I do not take my phone out during meetings. It’s rude and sets the tone that you don’t care. And it’s even worse in virtual meetings! People are on their phones, replying to IMs and checking email. That’s why you have to repeat your question twice (it’s not because they were talking on mute, but that’s a typical excuse).

I was working on a project early last year, and I had offered to help a colleague with some of the project management. She arranged a call, and I accepted. During the entire call, she kept pausing saying she had to answer an IM; then she’d say, “Sorry, I’m being so rude.” I didn’t respond. I would have preferred to say, “Yes you are.” I was offering to help her, and she couldn’t give me 15 minutes to understand her needs.

Showing up and being present matters professionally and personally. My husband and I don’t bring our phones to the dinner table, and you’d never catch us at a restaurant glued to our phones. We actually like talking to each other.

Meet Deadlines

Deadline literally means “the latest date or time by which something should be completed.” Most everyone has to deal with deadlines at work and home. Yet no one seems to be able to meet said deadline. My first job after undergrad was in a legal department. Our deadlines were pretty firm, unless the court granted an extension. If you don’t submit your response to a complaint on time, that’s it. No do-overs. You lose. Because of this experience, I have a unique perspective on deadlines. I hold myself accountable and deliver in the time frame promised or given. But there is rampant disregard for deadlines in corporate America. The justification is always that he or she is slammed or too busy. To which I say, “Do your job.” Everybody’s busy; everybody, however, doesn’t know how to prioritize or manage their time. There are plenty of guides, articles and other content available to help people learn to do this so if this an area where you suffer, get some help. Also stop procrastinating. Make lists. Set reminders.

Stop Waffling & Make a Decision

Indecision gives me literal heartburn. If you can’t make decisions and stick with them, we aren’t going to be friends. I make decisions, not with haste, but I also have the ability to think critically about the consequences of decisions. I do not waffle. Every decision I make doesn’t always turn out as expected, but I learn from it and move on. I proudly own my decisions. But, I am significantly frustrated with the way in which I’ve seen people, who were in positions where being decisive was essential, unable to do this.

Great leaders make decisions with confidence. They carefully think through how the decision will impact the process, product or strategy. When I see leaders unwilling to make decisions, it’s usually because of fear. Fear is the biggest hurdle to execution. Fear keeps people staring into the headlights. I once had a boss that was paralyzed by fear, fear of one little word on a landing page or eBook. His fear strangled my ability to execute and ultimately led to me leaving.

I will admit there is one caveat to my strong decisiveness – sushi menus. They are so long and overwhelming! I defer to the hubby whenever we have sushi. It keeps me sane.

If some of these examples seemed a little too familiar, it’s okay. Most have no intention of being a flake. Often you need to become self-aware to be accountable. But accountability isn’t selective. You can’t just be responsible when things are good; you also have to be responsible when things aren’t so good. Take a deep breath, and decide to shed the flakiness today!

 

What I Learned from Bosses (The Good, the Bad & the Crazy)

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From the What I Learned Series

I’ve had a lot of bosses. Most of which were not really qualified to be anyone’s boss. In fact I’m not sure if some of them were even qualified to be human beings. From many of them I took away lessons of mostly what not to do.

First, I want to talk about the good. Mainly because there’s only two people to mention here. The bad and crazy are much longer. My first job out of college I worked in a litigation department of a now defunct manufactured housing company. It wasn’t an easy job. It was a lot of responsibility. And it was emotional work: plaintiff attorneys were nasty; homeowners were pitiful. But nobody ever treated me like I was a kid. They just threw me in and gave me the support I needed. My boss was an attorney who was both extremely intelligent and likable. My only criticism was his horrible handwriting. He saw something in me and helped me grow. He gave me the encouragement I needed to be successful. He taught me to always ask more questions and focus on facts.  I’m glad for that and know I’m better for knowing him.

My all time favorite boss goes to the guy who took a chance on me, hiring me after a brief interview. I didn’t know much about country clubs, but I was a good writer. He gave me the chance to learn and take on my first marketing role. He and I just clicked. I knew what he meant even when he didn’t. He praised me, challenged me and supported me. He was more of a father figure to me than my own father ever was. I know that if I ever really needed anything, he’d help me. Some of the happiest times I’ve ever had at work were with him.

So that’s the extent of the good. Now for the bad. I’ve had a lot of bad bosses. It didn’t start off bad necessarily. But there were red flags. Huge red flags. For example, if someone tries to talk you out of taking the job and you leave feeling as though you were interrogated, don’t take the job! But I did.

This man is not a horrible human being. I think he just doesn’t know how to interact with people or manage people. On one hand, he wanted to be respected and liked; on the other he wanted to be feared and intimidating. In my book, you can’t be both. Respect and fear are mutually exclusive. He didn’t think this way. Because I didn’t fear him and disagreed with him, he wasn’t sure what to do with me. So he set me up for failure. I wanted to reach goals but was unable to execute on projects to attain these goals. He just didn’t understand modern marketing and was fine with being status quo, but that’s not me. Even though I do believe he is a good person, he was very personally hurtful to me and others on occasions. He believed people needed to be publicly humiliated if they made a mistake or broke the rules. He was obsessed with ensuring that people didn’t make personal connections at work. He told me and anyone else that we were replaceable. It was often a really destructive relationship, one that made me doubt my skills and value. However, the worst thing he ever did was make a snide comment to my co-worker about my appearance.

It was hard to go through this because I really loved my job and my colleagues. But I had to leave. I forgive him for his cruelty. I think he’s a very intelligent man; however, I would never under any circumstances work for him again. It taught me so much though. It taught me to always set others up for success and not take them for granted. Sure, we are all replaceable, but saying that to your employees certainly doesn’t build loyalty. I hope maybe he learned some things, too.

So we are getting closer to the crazy! This boss is borderline bad/crazy. It didn’t start out that way. At first, I thought he was an affable guy. He listened to me. Gave me lots of responsibility. He seemed to trust me. Then I got in deeper and started to realize this guy’s morale compass was not only broken but he was the one who had stomped it into the ground. But he had this salesman smile. People liked him. His incompetence was astounding. He was smart in the sense that he knew the industry and knew how to work people. He had zero business acumen. I tried hard to establish processes and controls but had no support. I worked long hours and took a lot of shit from him and our customers. Finally, I kind of just snapped under the pressure. I felt like he wanted me to be untruthful to customers. That’s not me. I held onto my integrity. Ultimately I couldn’t work for someone that I thought to have zero integrity. One of the last things that really pushed me over the edge was a disagreement we had about what I can’t recall. Apparently it became a bit heated, and he said to my face, “Fuck you.”

I don’t hate this guy at all. I just don’t think he’s a great example of a businessman. For my sanity, I’m glad I left. But it taught me so much about being a boss and myself. It taught me that doing the right thing and the profitable thing are often very different. And I’m always going to choose the right thing. Sometimes you just don’t know until you are tested. It taught me how to listen to others when I’m the boss, not just listening to what they say about a project but about goals, ideas and more. Listening is about giving someone your attention and finding out what they are all about. Neither of these men ever listened to anyone about anything: not their employees, their peers or customers.

Now to the crazy. This lady turned out to be one of the most bizarre human beings I’ve ever encountered. She seemed perfectly normal during the interview process. However, it wasn’t long after I started that her crazy started to show. This woman had nothing in her life but work. But she wasn’t remotely good at her job. She seemed to know very little about marketing or communications. For the first few months, any ideas anyone had were shot down. And it wasn’t in a diplomatic way. She’d flat out tell you that your ideas were awful and so was every piece of work submitted to her. I’d get edits back and be shocked that someone could take a concise, well-written piece and turn it into something that didn’t make sense. She refused to get on board with how marketing was changing, telling us that blogging and social media were ridiculous concepts.

But it wasn’t just her ineptitude. This woman was vicious. She insulted everyone personally, made up lies to pit her employees against one another and watched us all to the point of stalking. We had to start parking on the other side of the building because she was always looking to see when we arrived, went to lunch and left. I never heard her say anything positive about anyone or anything except a computer once. She also made remarks that were borderline racist, once stating that all Canadians were lazy because they had a holiday (we had offices in Canada) and weren’t available.

While I was her employee, I had to take leave for an operation that was really serious. Some of my co-workers were aware but not all. Yet she announced it during a staff meeting. She seemed to go out of her way to make everyone around her feel insignificant and foolish. She was cruel just to be cruel. Look, I don’t really hate anyone. I’m just not going to carry that around with me. I chose to believe in karma, which came eventually when she was fired (long after I left). I don’t hate her, but I do believe you get what you deserve in life eventually, good or bad.

So most of the lessons learned were about what not to do. I’ve been on the other side as the boss. When I’ve been in this position, I have tried to be a leader, one that values the talent around me and nurtures it. The boss employee dynamic can be challenging. You can’t really be a friend, but you should be empathetic and open to suggestion. Guess what? Bosses aren’t always right! If you have good people around you who are experts, you should defer to them. Otherwise why did you hire them? One of the fatal flaws of all the bad bosses I’ve had was their own ego. It was their personal preference, not what was best for the brand. I just think there’s no room for ego in the workplace; it’s just going to fill up the room, leaving the boss to see only his own thoughts.

So how have good, bad and crazy bosses influenced your work life? I’d love to hear your stories! Share them by commenting below or tweet me.

I Don’t Have a Five Year Plan

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I’ve always had a plan. I am a planner. Not to say I’m not up for spontaneity, but you won’t find me waiting for a table on a Saturday night because I’d have a reservation.

I’ve always wanted to be in control of my future. Planning seemed the logical path. However, most of my plans have required revision and rerouting. It’s important to be flexible. Not everything can be planned for in life.

I was an ambitious planner in my teens and 20s. I had a vision. I knew what I wanted. I did everything I could to get there. I had lots I needed to check off my list. My young self never got tired (even migraines rarely slowed me). I was emphatic about what and who I was going to be: happy, successful, something.

I finished my second novel at 25. And was busy planning for more. I was submitting poetry and fiction to journals weekly. I was writing pitch letters to agents, researching everything I needed to do to get noticed and basically doing everything to say I’m a writer!

This was early 2000s. Online journals were fairly new. Pitch letters were mailed. Social media hadn’t really become a thing. Back then self publishing was not what you did as a serious writer. So for years, I was planning and working every day. I stayed convinced I could be something. I paid little attention to my own world; wrapped up instead in the worlds I had created.

Perseverance would get me noticed I thought. But it didn’t. There were small victories: short stories and poems were published. A few agents actually wrote me back. So I kept pushing until I had to walk away. Had to find a new plan and tame that dream.

By this time writing was my job. I realized that in marketing I could get paid for writing; it just wasn’t going to be my story to tell. So I rechanneled my energy. I could be a success in marketing. So I went to grad school. Worked all day and went to class at night. Those were long days, but it kept me busy. I needed to be busy. And needed to believe this plan would work. I would shape brands and make the money I deserved. Ambition suited me well; always has.

After grad school, I got a new job with unlimited possibilities. I threw myself into building this brand and increasing business. Work became all I was. My personal life was in shambles so I needed the diversion. Most weeks I worked 60 hours. There was no boundary between life and work. I answered emails late at night and calls on Saturday mornings. Because in my plan if I just worked harder and longer then I’d get where I needed to go. WRONG.

Life’s not fair. Rewards rarely come for the ones always there doing what they say they’re going to do. People will use you, manipulate you and disappoint you. I was burning out when another offer came my way. This opportunity had more structure and a chance to build a marketing team. It seemed like a win. I still had so much drive; so much I wanted to offer.

I did a lot in my time there. But there were still long hours and lots of miles traveled. What was worse was the wall of frustration. I couldn’t get excited about a project because I knew like the 100 before, it would go nowhere. When you don’t allow people to succeed and shine, you dim their passion. When passion is extinguished there’s no resuscitating it. So I had to go leading me to where I am now.

Which is me not really having a plan. I mean I do have a broad picture in mind. And I still keep lots of running lists of what I need to do to further myself. I’m not always motivated. I’m not always my own cheerleader. I could do more.

My plan looks different now. It’s not about money or status or titles. Success looks a little different now. I want to be excited every day about what I’m doing. It’s about loving writing again and not looking at it as a chore.

What will I do without that five year plan that every guru tells me I need? I’m just going to be a rebel. Look, I had plans. They didn’t work out. I waited patiently for that big break, for someone to tell me I was talented. I’m still waiting. Waiting for that one post to go viral or for one publisher to think I’ve got what it takes.

Yet I still feel like a failure 93% of the time. I still worry every day I haven’t lived up to my potential. I’m still haunted by things I should have done differently. I think these things, but there’s nothing I can do to change the past. Maybe I wasn’t ready for success earlier. Maybe my voice has to get stronger.

So what do I do? Keep writing. Keep posting. Keep believing that if it’s good stuff people will read it. I once heard that dreams can’t become more than that while you’re still sleeping. I’m awake now. Wide awake.

The World is Different for Women

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Being a woman is different than being a man. Even in such a civilized and progressive country as ours. I had to pause for a moment after typing those words because these days I’m not sure how civilized or progressive we are. But this world is different for a woman; I don’t have every option that a man does. Everyone women knows this to be true. This is a reminder for all men.

Women, in this country and most others, are too often defined by their relationship to men. Women have prominence or celebrity because they are someone’s wife. After all, a billion dollar franchise was created on this notion yet many of the stars of this show aren’t even housewives.

If we are not defined as a wife then we are praised or shamed based on our ability to be a mother. The president of Turkey recently said women are deficient if they don’t have children. Great to know so much progress has been made. When you really consider where we are, at least in the U.S., remember it’s not been that long since we couldn’t vote, own property, get jobs outside of female professions or have an opinion.

I was lucky in that being raised by a fierce, independent single mom, she never mentioned that my gender would somehow hold me back. Maybe this gave me a false sense that anything was possible. Maybe I should have been prepared a bit more. Ultimately, I think she was aware of the still present barriers for women; she just didn’t want me to see them.

I never noticed the differences while pursing my education. I never saw favoritism toward males, and I had many female professors. Things got more noticeable when I entered the working world. I have not had many female managers. Unfortunately, the one female boss I had until now was no role model. She was the stereotypical female; almost a caricature of the role, something you’d see in a bad rom-com. She was arrogant, petty and jealous. She had no desire to develop the talented women that worked for her. She only wanted to keep us in our place and take any opportunity she had to humiliate us. Years later, I had the opportunity to manage several women. I can certainly say I had a different approach. I worked hard to coach them up and let them know they could trust me. I’m still not impressed by the number of female leaders in business. I’m in an industry (marketing) that seems to skew somewhat female, but there still aren’t that many female CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers).

And while we are on the topic of career opportunities, the pay gap is still a real thing. Men are considered the breadwinners who need to support their families. So does that mean women just work for fun? And we don’t need the money? I’ve seen men get raises because they had a child on the way. I’m not saying that those men weren’t deserving of a raise, but the reasoning isn’t fair. Your salary should be based on your skills, education, experience and what you produce. The mentality has to change. Women should have the opportunity to earn the same salary and seek the highest position. I have worked with a lot of great women who were great leaders. They just weren’t given the opportunity.

This cycle of inequality is not just because of our patriarchal society. Women are the problem, too, as I’ve described above. Women believe they are second class citizens. They don’t want to be seen as emotional or too aggressive. Women are constantly reining it in so as to not seem too intense. I want to see women working together to lead, not tearing each other down or feeling threatened. I have no idea how to solve the disparity. I can only say that I support other women and celebrate their successes. I’m also not afraid to call any man out who is being misogynistic.

What I hold on to is the example set by my mother and grandmother. I grew up believing I could be anything with no thoughts of a glass ceiling. The ceiling for now has been raised but not shattered. It’s there every time a female leader is criticized for being a woman or when a women is asked about her appearance rather than her ideas. That ceiling is still visible every time a woman is identified as the wife of even when she has her own identity or every time a woman is paid less than her male counterpart.

I’m glad to be a woman. I have no desire to walk in the shoes or the shadow of a man. I know in this country I’m, at least for appearances sake, on the same level as men. There are many women in the world who have to deal with all kinds of atrocities simply because of their gender. My great hope is that eventually there is no hesitation when a woman assumes leadership or speaks her mind; that we are simply considered based on our abilities and that gender isn’t part of the conversation.

The Money Talk: What Are You Worth?

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I don’t dream of money. Sure, I like money. But it’s not the number one driver for me in terms of success or happiness. But it certainly helps. My mom used to say, “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure makes things easier.” It’s true. Money can’t guarantee happiness, but it does remove all the worry that not having it presents.

I suppose I’ve been worrying about money most of my life. We didn’t have much of it growing up. I was raised by a single mother who was a teacher so I guess you can tell by that description that we weren’t raking it in. Luckily, my mom had help from her parents. I never really thought that I didn’t have nice things. I had lots of Barbies, brand named clothes and a house to live in. But we never had new furniture or a nice car. We didn’t have fancy vacations; in fact I never took a flight until college. I know now that my mom sacrificed a lot so that we never felt that we didn’t have everything we wanted.

I’ve been on my own for a long time so I’ve had to pay bills and be responsible for my own finances since my teens. I’ve always understood the importance of paying bills on time and how if you don’t what can happen. I’m proud to say I have a credit score in the high 700s thanks to this practice. I also never expected anyone to pay my way: not a man or anyone else. And no one has. I put myself through college and grad school. I bought myself all the cars I’ve ever driven. And I’ve made all my own mortgage payments. I’ve struggled at times; done better at others.

And even though money isn’t the number one driver in my career, I still believe I should be paid my value. A former manager once said to me, “You’re only worth what someone will pay you.” True enough. This was in response to my request for a raise. The request wasn’t made because I had bills to pay or that the cost of living had gone up (although of course it had). The request was made after years of dedicated work and a proven track record of real growth and revenue. Yet, he wouldn’t budge on my salary. He said he wanted me to make more money, but that I would need to do that through my bonuses. These bonuses, however, were out of my control. They weren’t based on my production (inbound leads) but rather some percentage of new sales. I protested this wasn’t fair because it wasn’t based on the work I was doing.

I did research on PayScale.com and showed him that I was in a very low percentile of salary based on my experience and education. He was unmoved. Then I started interviewing for other jobs and went back to him with a firm salary number. This was a number that other people were willing to pay me. He again did nothing to make my salary competitive so I left and immediately started making over $20,000 more annually.

It’s hard to take when someone doesn’t believe in you even though you’ve proven yourself and shown great results. In my experience, however, this manager was the exception. In other jobs I’ve had, I received numerous raises – based on my performance. When someone won’t pay you what you are worth, there’s more to it than just the fact that you should be fairly compensated. The message is that you don’t matter; that you aren’t an asset; that you are replaceable (he also told me this on more than one occasion).

Money isn’t everything. But it does give us freedoms; freedom to travel, to have safe homes, to live with a bit more ease. So my advice to anyone who deserves a raise or who is in the job market is to be clear about what you are worth. If you don’t make a case for yourself, no one else will. I’ve interviewed for many jobs that I thought were great fits for me, but the salary wasn’t where I needed it to be so I said no. I know what I am worth. I won’t say salary is negotiable or I’m open. I say what I deserve. If they don’t like it then it’s not the place for me. So many times in life, we (especially women) don’t speak up about what we are worth. We just keep trying to make ends meet in this year with last year’s salary. We miss out on opportunities and experiences because we didn’t have the funds. So money doesn’t make you happy; it is, however, the currency of life so we’ve got to keep making it. Never accept less than what you are worth. You’ll be disappointed; mostly in yourself.