You May Not Be Crazy
When I first spoke to Maria Ford she was the marketing communications manager for a semi-conductor start-up company, and a confused and distressed woman.
She was working at “yet another high-tech start-up,” her third company in four years. “It’s turning out to be another bad experience,” Maria lamented. She’d just walked out of “a very stressful meeting,” returned to her desk, opened up the phone book and looked under career counselor listings. She found me.
Sitting in my office, Maria opined that she had no support system at work. Her job was “getting engineers to relate a good story,” the only person in the company with that responsibility. “It seems like the engineers and a communicator, like myself, are two disparate species,” she said. “I feel like I am the “crazy one” on a daily basis.”
Maria had been doing a comparable job for similar companies for five years and thought the problem must be her. No matter what company she joined, she always had the same experience. In Maria’s words, “It’s not unlike the movie Groundhog Day. I wake up every morning and it’s the same struggle, day after day.”
To make matters worse, many of her friends were envious of her success. For her, the rub lies in the fact that, “I am really good at my job. Everyone loves my work, I’m making great money, I have a nice house and I’m highly employable. I look successful,” she added.
“My friends think I’m the poster child for English majors. I’m being rewarded for the job I’m doing, so it must be the right work. However, if this is success, I’m going to die very young.”
My work with Maria was very simple. Sitting across from me was a very talented, creative young lady, an excellent writer with a Bachelors and Masters degree in English Literature, trapped in a job misfit.
I pointed Maria to her authentic self. She was not being true to herself, the writer. She was listening to her social self – parents, teachers, peers and society – authorities in general. Here was a woman working with engineers who could not recognize or reward her for her natural writing talent.
Engineers represent logic, left-brain thinking and rationality. They typically don’t appreciate creativity and right-brain thinking. A semi-conductor company is comprised of people who spend their days thinking about circuits, ones and zeros. Maria spends her spare time writing poetry.
If you talk to Maria now, she admits she had no vocabulary for what was wrong. “I now realize that they weren’t bad people. The job was merely a bad fit for me. I’m a creative person and a communicator and I was working for and with engineers who communicate with math.”
In order to be true to herself, she had to find a work setting where her talents were recognized, appreciated and valued. At the time, she didn’t have the self-awareness to understand that her creativity was unique, but once she was able to, she created a life that focused on it.
Within eight months of her first visit to my office, she started her own company in Ottawa now called Phrase Strategy. She utilizes her special abilities as a Brand Specialist to communicate the differences and values a business offers to its’ target audiences.
The ironic part of Maria’s story is that eighty percent of her client base is still high-tech start-ups. Now there’s a big difference. What allows her to enjoy working with those clients anew is that she is able to structure her business in such a way that her services focus on offering what she’s good at and what she loves. She is able to say “no” to elements of jobs that aren’t good for her.
Maria’s job situation wasn’t unique. It’s important to be true to yourself, even when you’re being rewarded for not being true to yourself. Otherwise, you will pay a price – an emotional price. Not being true to oneself is a slippery slope to self-destruction.