Tuesday, April 19, 2016

One of the best things my mom ever did for me...

I love that FB shows memories from a specific date for past years.  I always find myself reminiscing and I’m awed by how little my boys once were and how much they’ve grown in a short time.  I'm also embarrassed by how many posts start with "C is going..." or "C is doing...".  Why did I talk about myself in third person??


FB recently reminded me that I left my second real job 5 years ago.  It was a job I loathed and I’m still bitter about some of my experiences there.

I took the job because I believed it would allow me to learn a lot more about drug products and their associated test methods.  It was for a much, much bigger company regarded as one of the top places to work.  I also thought it would provide many opportunities for growth along the way.  I quickly learned that while this may be true for some, it was certainly not the case for me.

The job I came from (my first real job) was very much research and development driven.  The work was interesting and changed daily.  I loved the team I worked with and they pushed me to learn more and do more.  I grew so much in a short period of time.  But the company itself was very, very small and only specialized in a narrow field of the pharmaceutical industry.  I knew that in order to progress, I needed to leave.

Enter big pharma and my most miserable job experience ever.  From the start, the work was incredibly boring.  Every day consisted of the same routine test methods.  I was assigned to a specific project and that was it.  There was never an opportunity to work on another project or a different test method, experiencing something new.  It was the same monotonous work day in and day out.  There were a few improvement type teams to join, but they were still related to the laboratory and department.

And the people.  I made some friends and stuck with that group.  But many of my colleagues were minions, happy to do the same thing over and over again.  People who would be content staying at the same company, doing the same repetitious work for a lifetime.  And these same people got promoted because they had been at the company so darn long and were so “experienced”, but the majority lacked any real managerial skills.

My “goals” were never actually my own, but company goals.  It was all about expanding the business and continuing to do your job, never thinking outside of the box.  I realize that it IS a business, a profitable business at that, and expanding the business is important and necessary, but not at the expense of employee growth.  [In related news, this company has not developed any of its own drugs in quite some time despite having a drug discovery group.  Their blockbuster drug is the result of an acquisition.  Go figure.]

After a year of misery, I approached my manager and explained that I was interested in staying within the pharma industry, but perhaps would be a better fit for a different department.   She told me that she would support me, but it was very clear that her “support” meant that I’d have to find my own way out.  I scheduled meetings with managers in other departments I was interested in and applied to a certificate program and then a graduate program.  Luckily, the company had tuition reimbursement – one of the few perks I was able to take advantage of.  I kept my boss informed along the way, but there was never any effort made in actually giving me work related to the fields I was interested in and studying.  The mindset was that I was still a scientist and my job would always be in the laboratory as long as I stayed in the department.

My “friends” suggested that I was the problem.  That I wouldn’t be happy anywhere and that I was just a complainer.  I knew differently.  I knew I really liked my first job and that I just didn’t fit in here.  I needed work that was challenging and interesting.  Work that involved strategy and insight and allowed me to utilize my writing skills instead of following the same procedures day in and day out.  Funny – those “friends” stopped inviting me to gatherings and belittled me after I left.

The lowest point came from a conversation in an elevator (of all places).  A colleague told me that he’d be training me to work in the controlled drug lab.  Wait, what?  I had zero interest in learning more laboratory practices and my manager certainly hadn’t mentioned anything to me.  When I approached her, she confirmed that it was true.  I was being groomed to work with controlled substances.  How very professional for me to hear of my new career path through small talk in an elevator.  When I asked why I was selected for this training, seeing as it had nothing to do with my interests or studies and would actually push me further away from my goals, I was told it was because management knew I could do it.

I went home that night and sobbed.  I’ve never felt so stuck in a job and so hopeless.  Quitting was not an option.  For one, it’s not my nature to give up and give in.  That’s just not me.  And two, A had recently completed student teaching (an unpaid stint) and was now working as a teaching assistant (a very low paying stint).  We were newlyweds with a new mortgage and plenty of bills.  We needed my income in order to pay for our house and necessities.

Luckily, a short time later, after applying for nearly 100 jobs, I finally landed a new one.  This was during the time when the economy was absolutely awful and jobs were extremely difficult to come by.  The new job paid exactly the same as my current position, but I was desperate to get out and didn’t care that there would be no pay increase.  The problem?  I’d have to pay back the $9000 I had racked up in tuition while pursuing my graduate certificate.  It was ironic – I needed the classes to get the new job, but I didn’t have the $9000 that would allow me to leave my current job.  And that’s when my mom came to my rescue.  She knew how unhappy I was and offered to pay my tuition, letting me know that I could pay her back whenever I had the funds.  She wouldn’t allow me stay at a position I despised any longer.

Since then, I’ve enjoyed the jobs I’ve had.  This month, I’ll celebrate 4 years with my current company.  A company that has also been named as one of the top places to work and is actually deserving of the title.  I still can’t figure out how the previous company achieved that honor?  I can only assume other departments were more fulfilling or that the survey was taken by those in the highest level positions.  I know that in the 3 long years I was there, I was never once asked about job satisfaction.

I’m thankful to be where I’m at today (even if it means I haven’t gotten to Ireland ;)).  Working for a company that challenges me, offers flexibility, has very knowledgeable, genuine employees, and pays twice as much as that previous job.  Live and learn… and thank you for saving me at one of my lowest points, mom! J

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