Love my job, hated every single employer I've ever had(8 Posts)
I studied for a number of years, and I've had rapid career progression vs. the norm in my industry, reaching mid-management a good 5-8 years before is usual.
My problem is that whilst I love my job (the actual tasks I am accountable for), I can't seem to feel happy/settle with any specific employer, and have been constantly crushingly unhappy for my entire working life so far!
Employer 1 - boys club, very cliquey, thrown into real cases with no support as a new graduate (example: I don't even know who my line manager was at this employer, I just got holidays authorised by whichever manager was allocating my work at the time, no training to speak of)
Employer 2 - similar to employer 1, but this involved actual client-facing stuff, again no actual support, in fact my line manager had no idea what/how I was managing clients from day 1 (think: being thrown alone into client meetings at a grand a day as a "consultant" with 3 days experience of the industry/actual role, with all the pressure that entails)
Employer 3 - my first man management role, I joined as a specialist but quickly became a supervisor; my man management training was non-existant, it was a case of "ok, now you're a manager, go and do it"
Employer 4 - my first department manager role, which I started 2 months ago just before Christmas, very similar to employer 2 and 3 above in that I'm being billed out at very high consultancy rates but have no direct experience of the industry I'm working in (was totally honest about this on CV/in interviews - think moving from being a surgeon mending knees in a hospital to being a research specialist in pharma - similar broad medical setting but fundamentally different roles and skillsets). At this place, I walked in the door and was immediately responsible in my first week on a fairly high profile case - at that point, with no system logins, no idea about internal processes, no introductions to the people who I'd rely on to undertake key work, no induction process or training - absolutely nothing. Worst of all was that I was responsible for chairing meetings and representing the department - the one I knew very little about, having only just got in the door! It seemed to be expected that I just turn up on day 1, get my workload, get on with it, with most of the key case knowledge and employer-specific ways of working not written down or communicated (or even a plan to communicate it to me). I flagged my difficulties to my line manager but she seems to think I'm doing ok. She seems happy with the level of support I've been given, despite my communicating (first delicately, then fairly bluntly) that I would prefer more day to day ad hoc guidance for the first few months, rather than just an escalation path if something needs Director-level decisions.
I suppose the common theme of "lack of support" is the key thing, but after working for 4 employers in my career so far it just seems to be the norm that you suck it up, fake it until you make it in terms of building confidence, and get on with the job. But in the meantime, I'm still in a job where I'm constantly feeling under pressure with imposter syndrome, despite good performance reviews etc. I don't expect hand holding and hate being micro-managed when I've encountered it, but feel constantly alone in terms of real day to day guidance when navigating new waters.
Can anyone advise on how to cope better with the situation I find myself in?
Any good coping mechanisms when you're faced with a unfamiliar path at your employer, but just have to get on with the job?
In the past I've just resigned myself to the fact that an employer has fallen short, sucked it up, and stuck it out until I've learned what I wanted or until I've felt myself becoming stagnant. However, my fear is that my entire working life is going to feel like this - constantly unsupported and out of my depth, with line managers who seem to be totally oblivious and/or useless!
I know what you mean, and I've complained in the past about lackadaisical employers, but look at it this way - no employer, especially in the industry I imagine you speak of, is going to put their employees first. They will always be looking out for No 1. This is despite all the progress made in recent years about professional development, support and training - it's not consistent across all industries.
This realisation comes as a big shock after the comparative mollycoddling of school/Uni.
It sounds like you're really talented at your job - have you considered going freelance/self-employed?
my fear is that my entire working life is going to feel like this - constantly unsupported and out of my depth
I don't think it sounds like you are out of your depth, though. You get good performance reviews and your career progression is faster than the norm.
The only advice I would give is to have faith in your own ability. My role can be a very isolated one and I have no-one within my company who can help me with things I don't know about. So, I just do what I think is right. Mostly I'm right and sometimes I'm wrong - in which case I admit it freely, learn from the experience and move on.
I sympathise with that strange underlying fear of not being up to the mark, though. I get it from time to time, and I would dearly love to go freelance or self-employed so I'd join bakeroony in suggesting you have a look at these options.
bakeroony - that's exactly it, I attend HR led sessions which talk about work/life balance, and looking after yourself - and then I go back into the warzone that is my daily life at work and it's difficult not to get frustrated that talk is cheap with that sort of thing - doing something different never materialises, even at huge companies I've worked at.
stowsettler - I think part of the problem is that I project confidence fairly easily. But it doesn't stop me waking up at night in cold sweats, or wanting to run away in dthe middle of really difficult meetings (like today!) when I'm getting attacked from all sides, representing a department I barely know and yet which I have to defend/speak for/manage with no support or plan to support me from the company. Not even if it would be mutually beneficial (happier, more loyal employee, effective quicker = profit for all).
I suppose what I'm really asking about are the techniques I can use (if there are any) to develop the "water off a duck's back" attitude you mentioned in your 2nd paragraph. And how to stop being so resentful/agitated about my workload/pressures at my employer.
Sadly, it's not the sort of role where I could easily go freelance due to the nature of the role itself, there isn't a freelancing/set up on your own culture due to a mix of financial constraints stifling it and the actual work my department does. Difficult to explain without outing myself - but I'm always very jealous when I hear of so many other careers out there where you can more easily work from home or set up for yourself!
I totally get where you are coming from! Unfortunately, what you have said sums up my world for the last few years. I think that company support systems, attitudes, cultures, etc. have changed dramatically in the last ten years and not for the better.
I also agree with the gap with 'HR speak' and what is actually going on. If they employed more people rather than paying for poncey wellbeing workshops we might be able to get out of the door at a reasonable and actually have a work life balance.
I think in your current environment it sounds like you need to suck it up and get on with it. Unless someone tells you, you are doing something wrong then just carry on as you are. My mantra for these situations is, "I'm doing the best I can".
Only other thing I can say is to change industry but to be honest I did this to go to a not-for-profit and it was just as bad if not worse!
* I think that company support systems, attitudes, cultures, etc. have changed dramatically in the last ten years and not for the better.*
That's interesting, since my working career has only been over 6 and a half of them. So I haven't seen "before".
I think I'm despairing at this right now because I'd always imagined/hoped that I'd just picked a bad employer. I always thought "the next one will be better" - but they're not! they're all just the same, whether it's smaller employers, larger ones, ones that focus on a specific niche of the industry, or generalist ones, etc.
Do you think Investor in People and the newspaper rankings of good places to work holds much weight? Or should I just forget hoping and just try and accept this is the normal world of work for me?
I think that company support systems, attitudes, cultures, etc. have changed dramatically in the last ten years and not for the better.
I think it depends a lot on who you work for. I'd say my company has really improved in recent years, and I'm very excited about some of the diversity stuff that's being discussed at the moment. I really want to work for my company, but my department is crap. (However, I've heard something today that some of that might be changing, as it's been noticed on high.)
Well, that's just my experience. I worked, went to uni in my twenties and am now in my forties. I'm also a PA so pretty much know exactly what is going on with the brains behind the organisation.
I've spent many years despairing but now I just accept it for what it is. There is a lot of 'stuff' going on in my company (redundancies, restructuring, etc.). A lot of it hasn't been handled very well and there are a lot of people who spend most of their day bitching and moaning about it. Much as I agree with them I don't enter into conversations about it and, as such, I think I am seen as a pretty strong member of the team (probably a bit like you!). From an employer's point of view, being receptive and coping with change is a highly desirable skill and a bit of a necessity in this day and age. There are people around me buckling under the strain of the uncertainty though.
I think I'd look at the rankings rather than Investors in People (which has never meant a lot to me). DH deals with a company that rank very highly in the Times List of Best Companies to work for and he always say that they seem like a very happy bunch.
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