For today’s post, I’m going to try not to get too emotional and tell the story of my first-ever job in the writing field.
Ever since I graduated in May of 2016, I kept looking for jobs in the writing field as I worked at my beloved hardware store five minutes away. Even though I landed a permanent job that I loved with set hours, weekends off, insurance benefits, and good pay, I still felt pressured to find a “real job,” something in my field. My bachelor’s degree just couldn’t go to waste.
So I kept looking once every few weeks online. In November I found a local opportunity that was different from the rest. It was actually something I’d be interested, the job posting said “Creative Writer/Author.” Not thinking anything of it, I applied, and a few weeks later was given an interview.
After work on a cold, dark, Monday night, I drove 25 minutes away to the little office in the middle of the woods where the startup company was located. I signed in. I looked at the list of all these other people before me who were interviewing for the same job. A lady came out of a nearby room, clearly in her 40s, holding a binder full of all her qualifications. I thought I had no chance.
I was up next. I went into the interview with not enough time to turn my phone off. The woman who would become my future boss frantically looked for my resume on her computer. She didn’t have it. Neither did I, since every place I’d interviewed at beforehand had already seen and reviewed my resume before interviewing me. So we had nothing to go off of. I started telling her about my experience and qualifications, my phone buzzing from my mom’s texts the whole time. I thought I blew it.
“Okay, so the next part of the process is to judge this by writing,” Future Boss said. “We’ll give you some bullet points to go off of and you can submit us a writing sample.”
I was shocked that I made it to round 2. Since the company was an education startup, I needed to give them a 1,300 word story at a 5th grade level about apples. I spent hours on it each night after work, edited it meticulously, and submitted it two days before it was due. They made me an offer, and after going back and forth on the pay, I said that I needed a night to think about it.
“Umm, okay,” the talent recruiter said through the phone. “I figured you’d be excited because this is a job in your field.”
“Yes, of course, but this is a big decision,” I said.
What I really wanted to say was, “I’m scared because I don’t really want this job. I only applied because I felt pressured and I don’t want to leave my store.”
After some convincing from my parents and coworkers, I accepted the job and had to break the news to everyone at the store. They were sad about my departure, but extremely happy for me. My department manager bought me a chocolate cake on my last day. I tried not to get too emotional as I said goodbye to the members of my close-knit team (we were a group of 4 at the time).
I bought all new clothes for the office. I bought new shoes, because sneakers weren’t appropriate for the office environment. However, I saved all my jeans and sneakers, along with not deleting the early alarms off of my phone from my 6-3 schedule–just in case I needed them again.
On Tuesday I started at the office, since every Monday was a work from home day. Everyone was really cheery and friendly. Boss came in and got me working on my first assignment, which was carrots. I’d never written educational stories before, or stories for children. I was given a list of Lexile levels to stay within, did my research, and started writing. When my parents called after my day was over, they immediately asked how my day went. I told them, “I hated it. I want to quit.”
The people in my group, the content team, all worked in one space. There were 11 of us in one room. They were all funny, fantastic, caring women. However, communication was strange. Whenever someone has a question at the store, we call, page, or just ask them in person. At the office, even people sitting right next to me would ask me questions by sending me messages online. Being at a computer all day just wasn’t for me.
Management was very different, too. At the store, my manager was either with me or a phone call away during the day. And no matter what, he was never out of the store unless we were at lunch, which our group all took together anyway. Boss at the office was hardly ever around. She traveled weekly to California, Texas, NYC–you name it, for conventions and such. Understandable, of course, but very difficult to create content when the person who makes the final decisions isn’t there.
Of course, I was fine with Boss not being there. Everyone in our room felt nervous and intimidated. Truly, I’d never been afraid of a boos before. I’d had 5 different managers at the hardware store and never felt scared to approach them. Nothing was more frustrating than when Boss would stare at me and I could see her doing it out the corner of my eye.
On Valentine’s Day, I came into the office to find negative feedback on our special feedback website from her. She had a meeting with me that morning. She was furious because I “used an unsafe word” in a first grade story. While writing about a CHEMIST, I said that she worked with chemicals. Of course, I did not forget to put in a paragraph about how chemicals were unsafe and how the chemist only worked with them in her lab wearing protective equipment. Boss told me that my work lacked passion.
She told me, “I get that you don’t have any background in education or children’s writing, but this needs to be better.”
So I worked even harder. I stayed late, even working on my stories from home after work. Everything I wrote felt like it was garbage to my boss, even if the rest of the office enjoyed it and found them full of information. I felt like there was something wrong with me. I’d done so well in school. I was Cum Laude, aced all my writing classes, and had great relationships with my professors.
At the hardware store, I felt like a rock star. I was loved by upper management. My bosses always told me I was doing great work. How did I go from feeling so happy and secure in my store, to a room full of people scared of the Boss who was sending me passive aggressive messages online?
On a Thursday afternoon in April, Boss called me in for another meeting. I knew it was going to be bad. She asked me how well I thought I was doing. I didn’t know what to say. She told me that all my work was so terrible that she had to give it all to the other writer to be redone. I didn’t know how to feel. All I could do was cry. It felt like everything I did was for nothing. I told my boss I felt sick and went home early, immediately applying for jobs back at my hardware store. I couldn’t handle my job anymore. I cried so much that night, my face was sore from wiping away the tears.
I put in for 3 days of vacation time that night. The next day, I called hr at the hardware store and set up my interview for the next day. That same day, Boss approved my vacation time. Saturday morning, I accepted a temporary seasonal job at the hardware store. That afternoon, I held a party at my apartment with my coworkers from the office to celebrate completing my 15th novel. It was a full day of celebration, but I didn’t want to tell my coworkers that I was leaving. I was going to tell them on the day I planned to resign 3 weeks later, after using my paid vacation time for a trip I’d wanted to take for a while.
Monday was fine. Tuesday morning, the office environment was normal. My coworkers talked about my party and we all worked on our assignments. For lunch, my group of friends invited me out to lunch for the first time. We had a great time at the Indian buffet they raved about so much. I was on time with my work and it seemed like a relaxing afternoon. At 4:30, I was on the last rubric I had to make, only 3 questions away from finishing, and planned on heading home a few minutes early.
Then Boss’s Assistant asked to meet. The office’s HR was in the room. I didn’t know where Boss was. Boss’s Assistant proceeded to fire me, wishing me luck and saying that one day she hoped to “see my name on a book in Barnes and Noble one day,” when, newsflash, my name has been in books sold in Barnes and Noble for over 3 years…but that’s besides the point. I asked to say goodbye to everyone, even though HR told me they were removed from the room. Everyone was confused to see me crying. I explained to them that I was being terminated. We all hugged and cried while Boss’s Assistant and HR told jokes to each other and ushered me to pack up my desk faster. As I left the room, everyone sat down at their desks with their heads in their hands. They just couldn’t believe it.
On my way out the door, being escorted quickly by HR, Boss came in, carrying her cell phone. She smiled and said, “I tried to make it in time for this. Sorry! Good luck!” and walked off.
Even after everything that happened, I have no ill feelings towards the company. Even though there were things I disagreed with, I loved everyone in the office, other than my boss, obviously. Even after everything that was said and done, I hope that things change for Boss and her life becomes less stressful than it was. As a startup, the CEO said to us numerous times how they were planning to go IPO in July 2017. I honestly hope they do and obtain all the success that was promised to us every Friday during the team meetings. Unfortunately, I won’t be there to celebrate that success with everyone, but with things improving at my hardware store, I’ll have success to celebrate elsewhere.