Escaping the Pit of Despair
This month marks 2 years of independent consulting, with many ups and downs. I owe a lot of thanks to my friend Mike – for as much as we may poke at him for giving his “Going Independent” talk/workshop everywhere, it’s really a great session to catch before going independent. He’s been at it for a very long time and is full of a lot of solid advice and direction for becoming an independent. After sitting in his workshop one CodeMash, I knew it was the right decision for me to finally make that jump.
While relaxing a little today, I came across this article on LinkedIn – HELP! I’m Too Smart for My Job. As I read the article, it reminded me of part of why I went independent. Like Drew, I was in a career stupor. I was working for a company I had believed in, and yet I still felt like I was in the daily grind and going through the motions of “the job”. While I liked the people that I worked with, the grind and everything else about it really hit me hard, to the point where I felt like I had low morale. Had I stayed in that stupor, I’d probably fall behind in my skills but still be working on a cause I believed in.
Drew had his old boss to get him out of that stupor. For me, I had my friends and family. Before company policy changed, I’d get random IMs from friends outside of the company with ideas that they’d want to run by me. I loved getting those, as I’m a social being. There were also those IMs that I could send out if I needed direction on something. And Twitter… being able to get a quick answer when my search engine fu failed me… that was awesome.
But then one day, company policy changed, and I was banished to Rapunzel’s tower, Fort Knox, or the Pit of No Social Media. Any way you spun it, I knew this wasn’t good. It was a step towards trying to increase productivity, but in reality, at least for me, it made me unhappy, which caused me to slow down. Talking with my friends and my family, I knew I was not headed in a good direction. This would be the first of many moves that would hit my satisfaction levels.
Unfortunately, my close friends could read me well and knew I wasn’t doing good. Some were supportive and let me vent about the situations. One went so far as to remind me of the days of random IMs and how I’m essentially locked up and isolated from the world – and that really impacted me the most. As a social being, I thrive on human interaction. While I had co-workers around me, I found I thrived more when interacting with the outside community or interacting with both co-workers and the outside community. So if you take me away from the outside community, then my chances of being happy and thriving drop severely.
I didn’t like being reminded that I was isolated from the world, and I needed to break out of there. It was a suffocating, claustrophobic feeling that I had to escape. The more my friends prodded, the more reminders I had, the more I knew that while their causes were great, it just wasn’t the right company for me anymore. After many talks with my husband about the troubles and our options, he supported me going out on my own.
It wasn’t that I was too smart for my job – I worked with a ton of talented people who were just as smart. For me, I was in a stupor of unhappiness and yet did not want to abandon the cause. I was pulled away from what helps me succeed. Add a few more things to add to the unhappiness and enough was enough. Surrounding myself with friends who tell me “You can’t do that” and yet know that I can and having family who know the stubborn, determined me turned out to be what I needed to get out of that pit of despair.
Like Drew in the LinkedIn article, I was in my early 30s and starting a family. As I was transitioning out of that company and gaining my communications with the world during the day, I found out that my connections to the world would be shifting anyhow as I was due the following spring with my son. As I was escaping the pit of despair, I was also wondering how to make it happen while raising a child.
Here I am today, still doing independent consulting today. But I also spend half of my week being Mama to my son. That unhappiness that I felt in my last job is no longer there, even if my working hours aren’t as much. I have IMs again, and I’m back on Twitter during the day. I have all of my social media back, and my productivity is quite well when those are back. (If they’re too distracting, I can close them to focus on my work.) And like Drew in the article, making a change in my career helped me to feel like myself again.
So I have to agree with the article’s author – Liz Ryan. We need to surround ourselves with people who keep us on our game.