At 28, with only a little over four years of work experience under my belt, I’m not the best person to be giving career advice. After all, in the past four and a half years, I have joined and quit three jobs and I’m just a month into my fourth.
I went against everything taught to me at business school and all the advice I received from older generations. I’m a girl whose heart speaks louder than her brains. The longest job I ever held stretched just a little over two years and the shortest ended in just ten months.
I’ve had interviewers tell me I seem fickle, that my CV is longer than the years I’ve spent working but I dare to disagree. I was not one of those MBA graduates who walked out of those University gates with a handful of job offers and the world as their oyster. I graduated in the top ten of my class probably in the worst possible year to be a fresh graduate-2009. With the recession that started in 2007 (incidentally the year I finished my degree) just starting to rear its ugly head, the job market was unforgiving for virgin graduates. Jobs were scarce and pitiful and it did not take me long to lose the “entitled” attitude that’s handed to you along with your MBA certificate.
I stuck to my first job at a small time advertising agency for over a year and a half mostly due to fear more than anything else. The job market as I knew was a scary place and I was afraid to venture out again unarmed with solid work experience.
My job was far from the glamorous advertising world portrayed on Mad Men. I was in client servicing, or for those familiar with how agencies work, the lowest rung in the creative world of advertising. I worked long hours almost seven days a week, fielded angry client calls, attended review meetings through my lunch hour, pacified the moodiness of the creative team and consumed more Old Monk and Coke than my liver would have liked, all for a pittance every month.
Almost unexpectedly, a year and a half later, I landed what I thought was a dream role in a huge multinational corporation. I couldn’t wait to kiss the thankless world of clients and final draft creatives goodbye for a more stable corporate job. To be honest, at that point, I would have worked for free just to be associated with the brand but luckily for me, not only did my new job give me a decent package, I was entitled to a whole host of other perks including free food and transport, an office gym, fancy technology gadgets and most importantly, a relaxed work culture. It was a world away from what I had known and I gave it my best for a long time. Somewhere along the way though, I finally took off my rose-tinted glasses and saw that while the job stimulated me physiologically, it did not stimulate me mentally. One day, as I stood watching the rows of cabs leaving the office campus in a carefully orchestrated manner, one after the other, I knew I wanted out.
My decision to quit was met with dismay and resistance from everyone close to me. No one could understand why I would voluntarily leave a job with an amazing brand name to go back to working long, stressful hours at a start-up. I didn’t budge. How can you explain to someone who has never experienced it, that all the free food, perks and parties in this world could never compare to that feeling of accomplishment, the high you got when you see an independent project to its completion or execute a carefully planned event or campaign?
I took up a job leading the marketing team at a company I had freelanced with early in my career. It was risky and I knew it, especially since the company did not boast of a high employee attrition rate, but isn’t that the case with all start-ups? I spent the next ten months working harder than I ever had. Once again I had consciously stepped into the world of longer hours, close to zero perks and fewer parties but the learning was amazing. In those ten months, I had the opportunity to push all my boundaries and test my limitations.
Experts advise you to stick to every job in your career for at least a year but after ten months I decided to quit. I knew after ten months that not only was this industry wrong for me and the company’s work culture did not make me happy. I left the job with no other job offers at hand. The work hours did not give me much time to hunt for other opportunities, I knew that if I wanted to make a change, I’d have to take a chance.
Deciding to leave a job I was unhappy in was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made. It gave me perspective on what was important to me in my career- doing meaningful work in an inspiring environment.
Someone once said, “Great things don’t happen in comfort zones” and they were right. I see people around me every day, afraid to make choices, afraid to leave the safety blanket of multinational corporations, afraid to make mistakes. At 28, I’ve made what some people would term poor career choices but if I had to do it all over again, I would make these same “mistakes”. I chose to only pull out the positives from every job I’ve held. Today I can say I understand both the agency and the client’s side of brand management, I’m fluent in digital marketing and write great content. I understand the world of marketing and brand communication is dynamic and I’m so proud to be a part of the changing landscape of media. If that doesn’t make me an all-rounded candidate, I don’t know what does.
I recently started a new job in a new role after nearly a two month hiatus at another start-up. Does this story have a happy ending? I don’t know. The only thing I do know; is that this story is just getting started.
[About the author: Suganyalakshmi Manivannan is a senior content manager at Reliance ecommerce and has worked at Ogilvy & Mather, Four Clover realty and Yahoo, and holds an MBA from University of Wales. This post was first published here, and has been reproduced on OfficeChai with author’s consent.]