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Job and Career PTSD

April 26th, 2018

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while now… not sure how to write it, but I’ve put it off for too long, so here goes.

Before I get into my issues, I want to say that by no way do I minimize combat veteran PTSD. This is one of the biggest issues, in my opinion, of the military, and I wish the governments would do more to help soldiers who come back from war with PTSD.

When I first learned about PTSD, and for years after, it was only associated with combat veterans. It was scary, and it was tied to a high suicide rate, divorce, etc.  Sad stuff. Let’s get a real focus on preventing and treating this for our veterans, please.

Could someone like me… someone who can’t even do five pushups in a row, have PTSD?

When I was 17 I was in a bad car crash. The three others involved, and their parents, were very gracious, and I’ve not felt or heard any animosity from them. Still, it took me a solid two years before I could (a) talk about the accident, and (b) talk about it without shaking. More than twenty years later I get emotion thinking or talking about it, and if I witness an accident a whole lot of feelings come over me.

I’m no psychologist but I’ve always thought this is PTSD.

When I got my new job, almost three months ago, I started to see symptoms of what I’m going to call Job PTSD. This stems from experiences I had over 12 years ago, when I had a boss that caused me a considerable amount of grief. This happened for about three years, culminating in me losing my job.

Let me put that into perspective: When I lost my job, I lost my income, my health insurance, my vacation, future contributions to my retirement… I lost my identity (because no one told me that I wasn’t just my job title), and the hopes and dreams I had worked so hard for. I lost friends… some real and deep relationships, I lost self-respect and self-confidence. I also entered into a period of deep depression and struggled with my relationships, including the most important relationship I had, with my wife.

I could go on, but I don’t need to. You get the point.

This happened because of one person and, really, because I didn’t understand career management, personal branding, and networking. I gave that one person too much power over me.

When I landed my dream job (almost) three months ago I was in a situation where it could all happen again. I’m wiser this time, and more prepared, but still, I put myself in a position where one person could have such a big impact on my life and future.

Soon after starting, while I was going through the learning curve and “impostor syndrome” I started to feel a lot of anxiety. A different kind of anxiety than I had experienced before… this time it was a tight chest, and some other things.

I had some talks with my new boss about it and they were great. But here I am, an fairly accomplished, mid-level professional, having these issues from stuff that happened 12+ years ago. This was unlike anything else I’ve felt before.

For the last week or two I’ve felt MUCH, much better. A lot of the anxiety has subsided. I feel more calm, more at peace, more in control, and less vulnerable. I have less feelings of “what if this happens, and then I lose my job?” I have had feelings about “what if I get backstabbed, or politicked out? What if the project doesn’t work out… what if, what if, what if?”

I don’t have an answer. I am “chilling out,” and working through this. I’m having the right conversations with the right people.

I don’t write this because I have an answer, but because it’s a real thing. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has gone through it. I hope that somewhere, somehow, we can start a dialog that will help people. Because this, job or career PTSD, really sucks.

So, now what?

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How I Found A Job (11/20): Waiting, Waiting, Waiting…

April 17th, 2018

Waiting stinks. Especially for someone with my personality.

How do I wait while not doing the job? How do I not become too emotionally invested in this, only to be let down and have to move on?

Bury myself in any work. Transitioning my duties to Liz, finishing up some projects, chatting with the team about the possible changes, looking at other jobs…

Ugh. Something switched. No other job, no other company, was interesting. I couldn’t imagine myself doing what I was looking for (product management) anymore. I couldn’t image myself working at any of the companies I had targeted anymore. Even the two companies that were really close to my house had no appeal. If I had to work at them I would, of course. But, the idea of not working at BambooHR was becoming unthinkable.

I was getting hooked. Hook, line, and sinker.

Not a good place to be, if you want to negotiate. Or, if you don’t get the offer.

I knew it, but I didn’t know how to not go there.

It felt like it was right, and it was going to happen. But what if it didn’t?

I wouldn’t be prepared for that. More prepared than 12 years ago, but it would still be a hit.

What could I do?

Not much. Wait. Try to keep busy. But with a mind that was mush it was hard to do anything but hope, and wonder, and try to keep self-doubt away.

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How I Found A Job (10/20): The Second Interview and the $300 Suit

April 16th, 2018

I have one real suit.” That is how I started the post about the first interview.

My first interview was on a Monday morning. I got up early, got on the road for a 22 mile commute, and had a fun meeting with Rusty, the guy who would eventually hire me. He said he’d get back with me to come in for second interviews on Wednesday and have me come in and interview with the COO and CMO on Thursday… so I got to wait, and start wrapping up some loose ends (and finishing some JibberJobber projects). I wanted this job. It was made for me.

But I knew I couldn’t get too emotionally attached to this, like I did 12 years earlier. That didn’t end well.

The problem is, how do you move forward in a job search without getting emotionally attached? I think it’s impossible. You are making decisions that can have a dramatic impact on the rest of your life… how can you not get excited and nervous and anxious and _____ about that? How can you not think about what kind of work you are going to do, and who you are going to work with, and what this might become in a few years?

Impossible.

So I tried to keep myself busy. Figure out how and what to transition to Liz (who has done wonderful over the last 2+ months), and my go-to: continue the job search. This is my advice to people who are interviewing and have a chance: keep doing the job search. When you have more in your pipeline you can feel more in control, have more power, and feel like you “have the cookie.” That puts you in a much better place, emotionally and for negotiation, than if you don’t have other opportunities.

So I tried to do that. But I was so mentally and emotionally distracted that it was hard to concentrate.

Man, the job search is such an emotional journey!!

I didn’t hear from Rusty by Wednesday, and I thought I was supposed to interview that afternoon. Ugh… does this mean they like someone else? Someone better than me?  I hated not knowing anything, but having to be cheerful and ready. Self-doubt is real, and it’s discouraging.  That morning I sent a “hey, I have some ideas and questions, can we get on a call” email… and it went unanswered until about 4:45 that day. Rusty said their schedules are too tight, could I come in Monday? Sure, I said, of course. I’ll come in anytime.

Bright idea: why not get a new suit? I had already exhausted my other interview wardrobe (consisting of one suit)… so I went down to the local suit store and got a suit. It has been almost 15 years since I had a new suit, so maybe it was time? I didn’t have $300 bucks for a suit, but I did have $300 bucks to invest in a new job. And, now that the interview was moved to Monday, I had time to get the suit and have it altered.

A few hours later I walked out of the suit shop a few hundred dollars poorer, but excited to have some new threads.

I got home and opened my email… Rusty emailed and said hey, can you come in tomorrow?!

Uh… YES, of course!  And I just had to laugh. My $300 suit would go unused for the interview because it wouldn’t be ready by tomorrow.

I go in and meet with the COO and then the CMO. We has super conversations, and I thought I did well. I followed up for a few minutes with Rusty, and before I knew it I was on the road, driving home.

To wait.

I love waiting.

Which is okay because I love waiting. Actually, no, I don’t love waiting. I am really bad at waiting. But, I need to get better. So I wait. And apply to a job or two, just to feel like I’m stacking my pipeline.

I hate waiting.

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5 Tips for Building Your Personal Brand

April 2nd, 2018

You are not just a person. You’re a brand. In the business world, you are a product, and the most important one you will ever represent. This is also true in your personal life. And you can clearly see it just by taking a moment to look back on your high-school years, if you can bear it.

There was the cool kid, the smart one, the leader, the wallflower, the rebel and non-conformist, and the one who managed to get alone with everyone. The reason these have become such stereotypical roles is that these are common ways teens unconsciously brand themselves.

We engage in this type of self-branding our entire lives. The ones who are best at it are the ones who do it intentionally and self-consciously. But whether by accident or on purpose, you are always in the process of branding and selling yourself to others. It is an inescapable trait in all social creatures great and small.

The first step to improving your personal brand is to realize that you are doing it, and doing it with intent. Here are five other ways to enhance your personal brand:

1. Go Professional

If you want to be seen as a professional, you should consider utilizing a professional image consultant. If you are trying to market yourself along with your small business, try an SEO services provider who can make sure people find you when they are looking for people with your particular specialization. Don’t just help people find your company. Help them find you. Over time, you will have other companies. You are the one they will trust, not the company.

2. Avoid Controversy

You should have separate identities for your personal life and your professional brand. Spend all the time you like talking politics on Facebook. But make sure that is a different account from your professional page. Never mix your profession with your politics, sports, religion, or personal biases. When people look up information about you, they find your social media profile. Make sure the social media profile they find is free of controversy.

3. Start a Blog

One of the best ways to enhance your personal brand is to start a blog. Starting a blog has never been easier. It requires no particular expertise. It costs virtually no money. And it is an easy way for people to learn more about you. If you do have some controversies to overcome, your personal blog can serve as a way of putting your side of the story out there.

Another benefit of maintaining your own blog is that you get to talk about whatever interests you. Branding is not all about self promotion. You might want to brand yourself as a person who likes to read. A blog gives you an outlet to talk about some of the books you are reading right now. A personal blog is one of the more useful ways of expanding and defining your brand.

4. Leave Your Family out of It

Your family is not a part of your brand. Leave them out of it. Don’t put your spouse or your child in your profile picture to show what a good family person you are. Don’t turn your kids into marketing fodder. It is not fair to them. And, if your brand takes a nosedive, they might be permanently linked to that social disaster.

5. Dress for Success

Like it or not, how you dress is a part of your brand. In the business world, you don’t have the option to dress comfortably or stylishly. Whether or not you work for a company, you need to dress as any professional would in your line of work. You cannot successfully brand yourself as a financial consultant if you don’t dress that way.

Your personal brand is a part of who you are. You can’t escape it by pretending it doesn’t exist. So the best thing you can do is own it and take control of it. Get professional help to put your brand forward. Avoid controversy with regard to your brand. Start a blog. Leave your family out of it. And dress like the success you want your brand to exude.

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