I’m often told what an amazing career I’ve had so far. Despite graduating from university in the height of a recession I managed to get a job in advertising, move-up to a top-tier ad agency, and then end up at one of the biggest social media companies in the world. To any outsider, I’m the typical running-in-heels, human energizer bunny, who can do it all while still keeping a smile on her face.
Yes, my career has been charmed, but it sure as hell didn’t come without it’s fair share of Cinderella moments. For me it’s been less of a career ladder, and more of a career game of Snakes and Ladders. For every ladder in sight, I’ve had to find ways to move forward despite the snakes: horrible bosses, lack of resources, insane hours, and that’s just to name a few.
So how have I kept climbing? Below are some of my methods:
1. Make Commitments
I once had a boss that would needlessly keep my coworker and I in the office for several hours longer than anyone else, because she claimed she needed to consult us on projects. To get out of these late nights, I signed-up for a twice-weekly running clinic that required me to leave work by six. Sure enough, my coworker would often text me to complain about being at the office still, and I’d be home already getting some much-deserved rest.
One night I was working late when I found out that my most urgent project was put on hold because one of my international counterparts “didn’t understand” it. I was exhausted, angry, and close to the point of tears. Instead of curling into the fetal position under my desk, I found a quiet area in the office, and used the Stop, Breathe & Think app, to calm-down. After doing the seven-minute guided meditation that the app recommended, I was calm enough to get back to work.
3. Make To-Do Lists
Not only do I rely on my project trackers and to-do lists to stay organized, but I use these as a life boat to keep floating when I’m too exhausted to think. Even when I’m too pissed-off or depressed to go in to project attack-mode, I can still sit down, zone out, and just focus on making it through that day’s check list.
4. Make Yourself Up
I truly believe that when you look good, you feel good. Just putting on a bit of mascara and some earrings makes me feel put together even when I feel like I’m about to fall apart. I’m also a big fan of Sunday night teeth whitening and nail polish application … sure my hair is a mess and my skin is breaking-out from stress, but at least I have fabulous nails and white teeth!
5. Make An Appointment
During a particularly dark phase in my life, I constantly felt lonely, frustrated, and anxious. Once every three weeks, I’d spend one hour talking to a psychologist. Even though I didn’t have anything the DSM could diagnose, I found this appointment to be my safe haven for expression. In that hour, I could be free and open, and be assured that the person I was talking to was bound to confidentiality. When something bad happened, I took comfort in knowing that I had an appointment in sight in which I could share that experience.
6. Make Yourself Heard
I’ve struggled throughout my twenties to find my voice, and most of my biggest regrets involve times when I didn’t speak up. I’ve found that speaking-up with the model of saying how I feel, why I feel that way, and what I think may be a solution, works to make me feel better. There have been times when I’ve spoken-up and the problem doesn’t get solved, but it always makes me feel better knowing that there’s nothing more I could have done.
7. Make Anger Something Positive
I always used to think that anger was a useless, time-wasting emotion. When I first talked to a psychologist, he taught me that anger is the emotion you feel when one of your personal boundaries has been crossed. Anger can actually be very motivational and productive, because it can inspire you to fight for what’s right, or sometimes be the spark you need to start seeking-out something better.
I believe that what makes people truly admirable is not how they handle fortune, but instead how they handle hardship. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the praise I get for my good career choices and the glamorous parts of the jobs I’ve worked, but I also think it’s important to be honest about all the crummy things it takes to get there.
Play-on my fellow young professionals. May your board have many ladders in sight, and your bag full of tools to tame the snakes.