There’s a colloquial usage of a word in the English language that’s always befuddled me. There’s a specific way the word ‘break’ is used that essentially makes it come off with a positive connotation. See: break the seal, break a streak, break a slump, and others. Basically, it’s used to mean ‘to bring an end to something’.
I’ve found this weird for the longest time in part because of the primary usage of the word break. As a verb, it’s meant to indicate when something is separated or shattered, while as a noun, it’s an interruption1The verb can also mean an interruption, but in this context, it is more commonly a noun.. Yet, regardless of the exact nature of the usage employed, the word break typically has negative connotations. With the exception, again, of bringing an end to something.
It’s been a rough couple of years for me in the working world. To explain why though, I need to take a step back and give a little context. One of the things I’ve been working on for quite some time now is trying to get myself to the point where I could make a transition to a human resources role. It’s something I’ve wanted for a few years now and I’ve made an active effort everywhere I go to try to learn things the best I can so that I can grow into such a role. But then I watched the people who supported my move transition roles or leave the company. While I gained new support in some cases, other key folks felt I needed to be further entrenched in the role I was in because I was too valuable to lose. I don’t say all of this as a matter of sour grapes — things worked out the way they did for a reason and I hold no ill will against anyone for it. It’s needed context.
I took a job that I though would help me out. A job that I thought (from the interview process) that would both be a step forward in my role and responsibility, and one that would help me to have opportunity to grow my career with supportive people who wanted me to move up, but also to do so on my timeline.
Two days into the new job, I realized I was wrong on so many levels. I had been misled heavily in the interview process by the director over our department about the department, its resources, the nature of my role, its responsibilities, and its seniority. Over the course of the rest of the year, I’d learn that the career growth opportunities I’d been led to believe existed were in the company, though not to the extent as they were originally portrayed. There was nothing I could do though. I had no where to go back to. And considering I had changed jobs in the extremely recent past, companies wouldn’t touch me with a ten-foot pole — longer if they owned large enough poles.
I felt like all of the work I’d put into my career to that point was a waste. My career had taken a massive step backward. I wasn’t challenged anymore. I didn’t feel like I fit in with my new employer, be it socially, ethically, or mentally. I had just gotten out of what was, at times, the worst job I’d ever been part of, only to feel like things had managed to hit an even lower point. This wasn’t a feeling of imposter syndrome. I’d had that and knew very well what that felt like. This was something new. I felt rejected. By prospective employers, by my current job, by my previous job, by those who didn’t believe in me, by those who did believe in me…if you can think of someone it felt like I was getting this feeling from, you’re probably right.
While all this was going on, a former coworker of mine reached out to me seeing if I had any interest in doing a freelancing writing project for the company she worked for. I was somewhat interested, though nothing ever came of the project. Considering I was having struggles getting my own freelancing work off the ground at this point, it would have been a welcome gig, though one I definitely would not have had time for in retrospect.
Later in 2018, I interviewed at the same company for what would have been a dream role. I had a lot of confidence that the role would come to fruition and that it was just a matter of time before it happened. Then, right when I was hitting what was arguably my lowest point mentally with how rejected I felt by everything work related — all while combined with a massive amount of non-work related stress — I found out the budget had been cut for that role. I didn’t get the job.
I was on my break when I found out. On my breaks, I typically walk around the parking lot in an effort to get some exercise, as sitting in a cubicle all day is a rough way to lose weight. In that moment, I found myself standing in the parking lot of a nearby building, crying because I felt like I was never going to get out. Nothing was going to change for the better. I felt like the world was rejecting me, no matter how hard I tried to make things better.
Things did — and are still getting better. I write this post, including the previous 900+ words of sadness and frustration, to remind people that in order to advance your career, it requires a ton of hard work. Not just a little bit here and there. Not just one day of hard work and you’re set for the rest of your career. Do your best every day. Even if what you’re doing isn’t what you’re passionate in, do the best you can and put some of that passion towards finding something to fuel your passion. No one is going to help you out of the rut. Sure, you may find someone who helps you take those last few steps and helps you land a new role. But if you’re not putting in the leg work yourself leading up to that point, they’ll never see your hand poking up from the ditch to grab.