I don’t do failure. All my life, I’ve been a Type A perfectionist who dots her I’s, crosses her T’s, and wraps her work in a pretty bow. Getting fired was never (I repeat, NEVER) something I thought would happen to me.
Until it happened. But clearly, I survived! And looking back, I can truly say it was the best thing that’s happened to me in my (relatively short) career. Here’s why.
After graduating with my master’s degree, I left my role at a Fortune 500 to explore agency life. There are many paths within the communications field, but the two main routes you often hear are corporate and agency. To me, agency life was like the Greek sirens in the Odyssey, luring me in with cool assignments, free beer, and of course, the magic of New York City.
I landed a job with a small agency owned by a giant one, hopped on the bus to Port Authority, and went on my merry way. And that’s where this happy story turns into a nightmare.
Don’t Ignore the Red Flags
On Day 1, I was greeted with a cute little rhyme printed on paper, along with some candy and flowers. Sweet! But where was my manager? Answer: she hadn’t started yet. As in, her hire date was after mine. Red flag #1. I didn’t need hand-holding, but I did need answers—like what accounts I would be working on, the main channels I would be responsible for, which clients I would be communicating with. But hey, there were snacks and an in-office beer cart.
My colleagues were young, and most were of the work hard, play hard mentality. Though I like to call myself an old soul, I thought I could get behind this. Wrong. Have you ever met someone, and no matter what you say, or how simply you say it, there’s a communication barrier? That was me with 95% of people (shout out to the sweet, sweet ACs) in that office. Email or in-person, we just. did. not. click. Red flag #2.
It’s still not easy to talk about, and at the time, it caused me severe anxiety. To overcome the communication issues, I tried multiple tactics—I asked for feedback, repeated instructions back, volunteered to shadow as a form of learning, and still, nothing improved. During one conversation, it came out that one of the account managers thought I was “disrespectful,” and “couldn’t follow directions.” Red flag #3. When your core strengths, skills, integrity and character are sorely misinterpreted, it’s time to question whether the job is right for you.
It’s All About the Culture
I’ve been obsessed with company culture since before I even realized there was a term for it. Even the most highly-capable, experienced, and passionate employee can’t thrive in an organization if they’re not a cultural fit. It was clear to me this particular organization didn’t take onboarding seriously, and I would just have to do my best to catch on.
A few months later, I was asked to step into the Big Boss’ office. My stomach sank—I subconsciously knew what was about to happen. Sure enough, I was told that while I was bright, motivated, and had a great personality, it wasn’t working out. I felt like I was in the middle of a cordial dating app break-up. The company agreed to serve as a positive professional reference, wished me the best, and I went on my way.
I was crushed. I left a great job to try something new, and I failed.
Except, I didn’t fail.
I know I’m conscientious, disciplined, and driven, and have friends and peers who can speak to that. To be clear—I have nothing against agency life, and know my limited experience doesn’t speak for all of them. I loved the work itself, after all!
But the reality is, I learned the importance of taking time to observe company culture before accepting a job offer. I learned to be honest with myself, and to stick to a list of non-negotiables for my next job.
I also learned resiliency. It’s hard to be scared of the worst happening when you’ve already lived through it. Today, I work at a great company that allows me to be my best self. And it took getting fired to get here.
I know I’m not alone—what are some of your moments that turned out to be blessings in disguise?