Working off of commissions like I do for my day job is hard. Starting a new business is even harder. There are some days that I am filled with a lot of doubt. Why did I give up a nice, steady paycheck for all this stressful uncertainty? Then I try to remember why I left that world in the first place. Not that there is anything wrong about working in corporate, but just the things that I certainly don’t miss anymore (from my experience)!
1. Performance Reviews As A Formality. Out of the hundreds of managers I was responsible for as an HR manager, I can count on one hand the ones that actually took performance reviews seriously. And none of them were my own managers (who ironically, were preaching about the importance of reviews as HR professionals). Having seen behind the scenes of this process at several companies, the truth is, there is not much you can write in a review that will change your boss’s opinion of you. First impressions rarely change. If you were a great employee the first year, you will likely always be considered one. If you are considered a “problem employee,” there’s not much you can do to change that opinion. So don’t stress. Your raise, or lack thereof, is for the most part, based on opinion, not so much accomplishments. I don’t miss agonizing over those!
2. Living Like A Vampire. When I was working at Goldman, I would leave home while it was still pitch black to be in the office for our 7:30am meetings. It was depressing as hell because I would get home past 10pm many nights. I never saw the sun many days. I think normal human beings, like houseplants, need to feel a little sun on their face each day.
3. Worrying About Details That Don’t Matter. I once had a panic attack that I sent an email about something frivolous (a performance review reminder, ha!) and I had missed an unnecessary hyperlink. You might say, well you’re just crazy. But I was then sent a nasty email about said hyperlink from a senior person, shamed for my lack of work ethic (I read this email at 1am in the morning, still working).
My new process for work consists of me always asking the question first: is someone going to die if I don’t do this? When the answer is inevitably no, I let it wait, or let it go altogether. Sorry doctors and superheroes, this rule of thumb does not apply to you.
4. Asking For Time Off. One of the most liberating things for me working for a small firm (and for myself) is taking time off whenever I want to. It always felt a bit odd as an adult, asking permission from another adult, if I can go spend my time however I want. I once had a manager tell me I could not take an afternoon off to attend my brother’s college graduation (I did anyway). I was also told I was not allowed to plan my wedding in the fall because it was busy season. I love that if I need a mental health day or need to travel (like I did for my MBA) I don’t need to ask for permission.
5. Relying On Other People For My Career Growth. Funny enough, every corporate job I left was shortly after I was given a promotion or increase in compensation. My last corporate job offered to pay me whatever I wanted if I stayed (they actually said, you can get paid whatever you want?!). But I left each job out of boredom and/or frustration from not feeling like I was progressing fast enough and I wasn’t learning what I was interested in.. Now, the only person I can blame is myself if I don’t accomplish my career goals. It’s scarya and a lot of pressure, but I sure love it!
I will say however, that in hindsight, I wish I knew what I know now when I started my career. If I had known some of these things, I might have been less frustrated because my expectations would have been tempered. So even if you are working a corporate job, or better yet, starting your career out, learn to not take everything too seriously. If all else fails and I do have to go back to corporate, I will treat it more like I do my work now with the freedom to make choices and knowing the boundaries that will exist.