What I Learned From Landing—& Promptly Leaving—My Dream Job

dream job
image by atsuke

About a year ago, I left a manager and team I adored for what I thought was my dream job. I was wrong; it was very much not my dream job (let’s call it my “nightmare job”). Now, I genuinely don’t want this post to be a bash fest, but the 6-month period in which I struggled through this role was a slap in the face I must write about. Because I always, for whatever reason, feel compelled to be authentic. Having this experience—and feeling like I took away lessons from it—and not sharing it feels inauthentic to me. Like I haven’t told the world the whole truth.

So here’s what I learned.

I Learned That Nothing Zaps Me of Energy & Motivation Faster Than Micromanagement

Prior to taking the nightmare job, I would have told you I disliked micromanagement (doesn’t everybody?). But this job taught me it’s an absolute deal-breaker for me. I was working in an environment of rules, “suggestions,” and worst of all, mistrust. I was given instructions on how to manage my projects (uh, didn’t you hire me to handle this?), questioned when I didn’t constantly communicate what I was doing (instead of just doing it), and even told how to respond to certain emails (oh! oh! and how to manage my motherfucking inbox. Seriously!). Ugh. Kill me.

I think my brain just started to shut off at some point. I was a puppet; that’s what it seemed they wanted from me. Just follow the rules, do what you’re told, don’t think for yourself, don’t color outside the lines… I despised it.

I Learned That the “Right” Industry Doesn’t Necessarily Lead to Job Satisfaction

The only reason I was even open to leaving the job I had before the nightmare job was that the former was in the IT software industry. I just felt like I’d never do great work in that space—not fine, not good, but great. It’s not a subject I naturally grasp. But lifestyle-y stuff? Hell yeah. Let me focus on health & wellness or career strategies or personal development or something along these lines, and I’ll knock your socks off. I’ll be the most effective, most inspired employee you’ve ever had.

Well, LOL at that. The nightmare job was in health & wellness. But the role itself was wrong for me, as was the culture and even the brand (see bonus learning below).

There was a time when I thought the industry of a job mattered most to me, and that my actual responsibilities, my manager, my team, the culture, and everything else were minor details. I thought as long as the industry was a match, I could make almost any job work. Wrong-o, Cass.

Fast forward to today, and I have the best manager in the world; work with crazy-smart, super-chill people; get to focus on my strengths; am afforded generous amounts of autonomy, flexibility, and creative freedom…and I’m in the tech industry. Haha! Tech?! Is tech a “Cassie” industry? Oh god no. Am I happy? Yep. Am I good at my job? Yep. Who’da thunk?

Industry ain’t everything, kids.

I Learned That This Whole Thing Was Actually All My Fault

I’m an idealist. This is, uh, not a good thing sometimes. It certainly wasn’t in this case. When I was approached about the nightmare job, here’s what I heard: health & wellness brand! work from home! social media & editorial role! What I didn’t hear: health & wellness personal brand; work only from your home office, no coffee shops or anything; social media analyst & editorial (not writer) role. (Not that these things are inherently negative, they just are for me.) I didn’t hear these things because I didn’t want to; I wanted to focus on the good, exciting, in-alignment stuff.

I also just assumed the culture would be Cassie-friendly. I never saw the micromanagement coming. Oh, and the near-constant collaboration, omigod. Didn’t see that either. Again, it’s not that these things are universally bad, they’re just bad for me. And my rose-colored glasses prevented me from seeing them. I didn’t ask enough questions, and I didn’t give the negatives the weight they warranted.

It’s hard for me to recognize and appreciate faults in something I’ve romanticized. And it’s hard for me to not romanticize things when I get excited about them. I’m hoping this particular rude awakening has taught me a lasting lesson, though.

Bonus: I Learned That a Super-Sweet & Flowery Writing Style Just Doesn’t Come Naturally to Me

And it never will. And I never want it to.

🙂

image credit: The Dream by atsuke via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Your thoughts?
  1. Janet says:

    Hahaha. I’m so glad you wrote this. It’s so easy to romanticize a job or situation. I’m also an idealist and fall into the same trap(s). What’s worse, is that I often do it without payment. Shocking, hey! I justify it by telling myself that I’m making a difference, making good connections, building my reputation, and many other fairytales. The thing is…. I’d be making more of a difference by doing what I’m actually good at, which will make me the right connections anyway. And the reputation I’m building? I’m getting known as the artist who will do work for free, who will volunteer her time always. every time you ask. Even if she’s neglecting her own work, her family and herself.

    Excuse the rant. Wow. I didn’t realize all of this so clearly before typing this reply! I’m tempted to backspace it all and leave a simple and sweet thumbsup for your post. But then you wouldn’t know how much your post has helped me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    A thumbsup for integrity!!

    • Cassie Sanchez says:

      Oh yay! I’m glad typing it out helped and I’m glad you left it. 🙂 HIGH-FIVE for integrity!

  2. Minni says:

    Hi Cassie!

    I have been reading your posts all morning. I have never found someone who I can relate to like I do to you – and trust me, I have been looking (friends to relate to are hard to find for me)! As a 24 year old INFJ female, I have been in a career crises for 3 years, however from my teenage years I am known to dive from one career ideal to the next and have literally gone from wanting to be a Real Estate Investor to a creator and manager of a Non-Profit social service agency (in one day too).

    I research the crap out of everything, and find myself constantly torn between money and creativity as well. I have been in and out of a social work program for 4 years now and have racked up quite the debt as I do not hold jobs well – I do not like being micromanaged or having to be away from my comfortable home all the time. I find Penelope Trunk to turn anything I think is good for myself upside down, and then I stray from that thinking back into going to grad school to be a psychologist or something.

    Where I live, social work pays well, but I can already feel the burnout and lack of control over creativity. Last week I told my husband I want to be a mortgage broker so I can work from home and make good money. Today I find myself avoiding my homework and looking for gratification from finding a pretty new career. I’m feeling good about being able to privately counsel people from home via online methods – perhaps it would work well for those who are on the go, or have social anxiety like myself. I suppose that means I should get back to my studies today hahaha. And get my shit together too lol.

    Anyways, I just wanted to reach out and say thank you for putting yourself out there. I read a lot of blogs and yours really hit home for me. It feels a lot less lonely out there today. I’ll be back!

    • Cassie Sanchez says:

      Minni, thanks so much for reading and letting me know you found some of my craziness helpful. 😉 It’s so good to hear that, because very often, I’m scared to publish what I’ve written. I do it anyway, and it’s because of comments like this. <3

  3. Michelle says:

    Hi Cassie,

    Thanks for your post! First-time reader of blog, enjoy your ideas and writing style. I found your site by googling “infj penelope trunk” – thought you might find that piece of information interesting! I personally relate to your career journey. No marketing background, but with the money/creativity balance and the values fit and the quarter-life crisisness. Very interesting that you’re currently in tech…would love to know even more about what makes your current gig feel like a strong fit, besides the fact that the company probably does everything opposite from what your “nightmare job” did. Ugh, “it’s all my fault” – tough realization that I sometimes try to ignore for a bit, haha.

    Also – I noticed Penelope Trunk has a course specifically for INFJs (http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2015/06/23/online-course-be-your-real-infj-self-without-feeling-frustrated/). Did you ever enroll in it or have you heard of anyone else who has?

    Nice to meet you and will be on the look out for more of your words!

    M

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