Over the years, I’ve been pretty vocal about the heartache I suffered upon discovering I was a millennial. After spending the better part of two decades not caring about or even seeing the point of these classifications, I was suddenly angered by the fact that because of a technicality (my birth year) I was officially associated with a group that consists of people who were responsible for creating Facebook and inventing the role of “YouTube star”. My disappointment was equivalent to that of the internet when everyone was moaning about how they hated the finale of Game of Thrones (a show I’ve never watched nor care to, which I think is the most non-millennial thing a person can do).
My real mental disconnect from being a millennial is the trendiness. I’m not a trendy person. I don’t think I slay, or you slay, or anyone slays, primarily because it just sounds stupid (also, I don’t see people using it anymore so the word either lost its trendiness or currently nobody is slaying – because it’s stupid). Up until last year, I hadn’t accepted that there was such a thing as Social Media Manager. And excuse me but when did being an “influencer” become a vocation? Why are we letting these jerks with selfie sticks tell us what’s cool? I’m sorry but I’ll stick to the original “influencer”: Google. Also, side note: if you use a selfie stick you are inherently uncool. That’s just the way it is. Google it.
The wardrobe, the sayings, the music, the insta-poses. I haven’t the energy nor the time to keep up, which officially makes me my parents. Whatever. That’s not enough to make me turn trendy. So when I decided to switch careers and ended up at a stereotypical startup, how do you think that went?
First, a quick background on my work experience. For a little over 10 years, I spent the majority of my time working in marketing, primarily in motorsports (there was also the time I was an MMA promoter but that’s a post for another day). Eventually, I took a job as an assistant art director for a local advertising agency, mainly because I would only have one co-worker (my boss) and I was told we would only be busy 2 days out of the week, so I had plenty of time and space to write. That’s when I launched this site and began working towards my career as a writer.
I’ve always wanted to write so for 2.5 years this was the best. But do you know how hard it is to get writing gigs when all you have is a website full of stories of your short-comings and annoyances, like how my hatred of 50 Shades of Gray deepened because a woman called it “mommy porn”? I knew if I wanted a shot I needed to get a job that pertained to writing so I could establish some street cred. So I got on LinkedIn and began adding every person I could find who worked at local marketing agencies in an attempt to get scouted as a content writer. In about a week someone reached out to me and, after a couple of interviews, I was hired. Even though we never talked about my job description I really thought, this was it! I was getting my shot! Soon I would get outside writing gigs that would lead me to a book deal!
Then I started the job.
Now, at first, I liked it because it was different and I felt super mature. That lasted a week. By week two, I felt like I was working in a parody. Whatever comes to mind when you think of the word “startup”, it was like that. It was everything millennial and I was surrounded by Gen Zers who carried themselves like little professionals and were serious about their Google and Facebook ads. I just wanted to have a legit writer job so I could leverage it into my dream career of writing jokes and books with more jokes and use the word “fuck” wherever it sounded good. Soooo, how did I do?
When I started I already had a scenario in my head that I thought would take me about a month or so, tops, to accomplish. I thought I would be given assignments and then I’d add my personal touch and then someone would see my writing and think I was sups hysterical and then they would hire me to write blogs with my touch of humor and then a literary agent would be like “who is this hilarious girl? I don’t even care about this topic but she makes me want to read about it because she makes me LOL.”
The for real scenario was I wrote for audiologists.
We worked with a company that was basically a monopolist of audiology practices, and the more practices they purchased the more I had to write about hearing aids. The 4 seconds it was enjoyable was the time we got a call from one of our audiology clients who informed us that a woman had called them to ask them why they were targeting her with hearing aid ads on Facebook. She wore hearing aids but didn’t want her friends to know and because the ad appeared in her newsfeed she was sure they’d find out. I wanted to create an entire campaign around it called “Don’t be a Sherry” that was all about not being embarrassed to wear hearing aids but got denied. Other than that it was lame-aty, lame, lame.
Hang on. Before anyone turns on me and starts with the “well at least you had a writing job you selfish millennial ass”, let me do a little clarifying. I did very little writing. That company had acquired so many audiologists that in order to keep up with the work I had to plagiarize myself. So content I wrote when I first started got spread across the nation and could be seen on the websites of like 60 audiology practices. Hold up, there’s more. I also had to help our web guy build websites and landing pages that were also exact replicas of those that came before them.
By law, I don’t think I was allowed to call myself a writer. I think my legal title was ‘clone-smith’. It was like a sweatshop but instead of Banana Republic shirts, I was churning out landing pages and websites. At least those kids were probably proud of their work. I wasn’t. Typical millennial.
My other grievance was, I just didn’t like it there. For starters, we began every day with a meeting. I came from a job where I hardly had to interact with anyone and now I was having to tell everyone what I was working on for the day. Who cares? It was the same thing every day: copy, paste, repeat. Then we had to talk about our “wins” from the day before. And a “win” could be anything, like a Facebook ad approval or a successful day of copying and pasting. *Side note: I use a Mac but at this agency, I had to use a PC and did you know that keyboard shortcuts are actually not shortcuts on a PC? Some of them require 3 keys. THREE! Who has that kind of energy? Seriously, the 90s called and they…. Anyway, doing your job was a “win”, and after every mention of these “wins”, we had to clap. You know how annoying it is when you see a social media post where the person has inserted the clap emoji between every word? This was like that but in person. We basically handed out participation ribbons in the form of claps. By June I had zero claps to give.
Once we were done communicating in person, we’d return to our assigned spots and communicate via the app Slack. First off, we shared a single room office so if you needed to ask anybody anything you didn’t even need to turn your head because we were so close to each other. I never understood what the point of using Slack was. We even had different channels, one for work and one for bullshit. I hated it. In an attempt to fight the man, any time somebody would send me a message I would just look at them and respond verbally. It made not one impact. While people giggled at each other’s “Slacks”, I silently wished the internet away.
It was the world’s happiest office for everyone else but I felt like Peter from Office Space, only I didn’t have a Michael Bolton or a Samir Nagheenanajar to share in my pain. I hated it. I hated the work (copy, paste, repeat – with a mouse!), I hated the meetings (fucking clap clap clap clap clap), I hated my boss’ catchphrases that EVERYONE would adopt. I didn’t like when Paris Hilton would say “that’s hot” on a loop and I didn’t like when my boss’ answer for everything was “that’s cute”, either. Also, if your answer to everything is “I’m into it”, just stop reading now. Go away.
The feeling was mutual, too. I could tell my boss really couldn’t stand me and I didn’t blame him. He’d created a fun environment for people just entering the workforce as well as those who needed a break from their former grown-up gigs and I just couldn’t buy into it. I had nothing to put in a portfolio. Nothing I wanted to show off. Nothing that would get me to my goal. All of this added up to me being a fucking nightmare employee, at least for my boss and the COO (who, BTW, used to swap out the ‘Tue’ in Tuesday with his last name because it rhymed. Some real “case of the Mondays” shit). I didn’t want office parties or ping-pong tables or video games (they weren’t even the good kind where you shoot zombies. Pfft.). None of that typical startup shit was going to get me a book deal. All I wanted to do was write things I wanted to write, which can be viewed as ambition or as entitlement. Whatevs. I had #goals.
For an entire year, I felt like I was wasting my life. On a scale of one to Charlie Sheen, I had completely lost my mind and, what was worse, on a daily basis I feared that the work I was doing to pay the bills would make me lose my voice as a writer. That terrified me. My days revolved around being boring and I was neglecting my blog (PS, this is the explanation behind my hiatus). By the end of the year I was so sick of audiology, hearing aids, hearing tests, ears, and anything associated with sound that I began to daydream about how I would quit. When I worked at Guitar Center in my early twenties, the entire region received an email from a guy on his last day of work that was full of those Chuck Norris jokes but instead of Chuck Norris he used his name. It was brilliant. I wanted my departure to be aces like that. But by now you know how things usually go down for me.
In the end, they let ME go. I know, right? And it’s not even because of the obvious like never wanting to play ping-pong or be the office DJ. It was because they wanted me to sign a non-solicit and proprietary information agreement and I wouldn’t. That’s it. My boring job ended in a boring firing.
I had my reservations about writing this because a) as I recapped my time there I discovered ok, yes, I am the epitome of a millennial and, b) there were actually a few people there that I genuinely enjoyed spending time with. But, as all 4 of you know by now, most of my stories have a point, and this one is no exception.
I fucking hated that job. There were days where I’d arrive and be sick to my stomach. I would sit in the parking lot contemplating driving home and getting back in the bed. HOWEVER…. I actually learned a lot about digital marketing there.
At the time I couldn’t see it but it turns out, there was a bigger picture. Had I not have taken this job I wouldn’t have learned the skills that got me a position handling the digital marketing (social media marketing and all) for my gym – a job that allows me to work from wherever, be around people I already love (I work out with all of them), and gives me the time to write again and focus on my blog as well as a book project I’m working on for a friend. I even received my first paid offer writing jokes. Ironically, the gig was writing jokes about the audiology world. Typical. The point is, I’m in the best position possible and I don’t think it would’ve happened if I hadn’t put myself in the most miserable position possible. And while I know it’s hard to believe based on what you just read, I’m incredibly grateful for that time.
Oprah has a saying (or at least she claims it as hers, but if Oprah says she said something then I think we just need to agree that she said it): Do what you have to until you can do what you want to. There are some people who are able to skip ahead and get what they want without having to struggle. Good for them. I’m not one of them. I like to think of my time at this agency as “paying my dues”. More dues will be owed as I go but if the end result is a better position, then I’m ready to pay up.
So, if you’re in the position I was, or if you’re thinking of taking a leap that could possibly get you to your goal, do what Oprah says. Even if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s there. It might be blocked by hearing aids and ping-pong tables, but I promise, it’s there. God, it feels good to be back.