If you had told me I would spend eight years at the same CPG company right out of college, I would have laughed you out of the room. Why on earth would I spend more than four, maybe five years at one company when there are so many opportunities in this world?
Let’s back up a bit: I know I’m a new face around these parts, and that statement offers zero context on who I am, why I’m here, and what my story is.
Hi. My name is Sarah. I’m a voracious reader, avid skier, traveler, hiker, and part-time gym rat with a strong dose of Taurus energy. (I’ve never introduced myself by my zodiac before, but @sanctuarywrld has been 💯 the last few months, and I’m owning my skin care-obsessed, house plant-loving quarantine life).
It likely does not come as a surprise that I am also a type-A overachiever who decided to take on an MBA from a pretty good school (confession: I drank the kool-aid) while working full time. And, because that clearly wasn’t enough of a challenge (#sarcasm), I added recruiting to the list and landed a brand new job! I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to put that degree to work, having just poured my heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into it.
After graduation, I quit my job and took time to visit loved ones and travel across Europe. It was exactly what the doctor ordered after three years of going non-stop at 100mph. My savings account wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but how often can you truly check out for two months with a job waiting for you? I was lucky, but I also knew I had worked myself to the bone to get there. I knew to soak up every second of that break because I was about to kick off an exciting new chapter, and I wanted to hit the ground running.
This sounds like a picture-perfect career path, doesn’t it? Woman works hard at first job and gets promoted– multiple times. Woman gets graduate degree. Woman transitions to new opportunity that could open life-changing doors. Cue all the #bosslady memes and cheesy stock photos of businesswomen in suits (both of which I hate, by the way).
The thing is, I had become very comfortable in the extended chapter at that first job. I knew the routine, I knew the players, and I excelled at the game. However, I was coasting on my success and well-earned reputation. I was unmotivated and simply going through the motions, working with clients who generally asked for the same materials, year in and year out. Was I excited when I saw one of “my” products on a store shelf? Absolutely. Did I feel like I was “making an impact?” Not so much. So, I pulled the e-brake, whipped around 180 degrees, and switched to a behemoth of an industry: “consulting.” It was time to seek out a multitude of challenges across all types of companies and industries… why else did I get my MBA if not to take on the world?
Not necessarily on Day One, but perhaps on Day Seven it hit me: I had forgotten what it’s like to be a beginner. To not automatically know the best response to an email from a project lead. To overanalyze your contribution before even putting pen to paper (or content to slides). To overthink and doubt yourself despite a successful track record throughout eight years of work experience. To feel like an imposter for weeks at a time, despite your list of accomplishments and surviving a rigorous interview process.
We often hear experiences described as “a rollercoaster,” and we interpret that as ‘‘ups and downs’. Wouldn’t that be normal, though? Isn’t everything dynamic to some degree? I’ll leave that thought for another day.
What I want to focus on is the full spectrum of emotions on a rollercoaster ride. Picture yourself queuing up: the impatience and excitement, the anticipation of that first climb, followed by the heart-pounding drop (fear), the feeling of weightlessness (bliss), the gentle rolling bumps (comfort), and the exhilaration when you pull back into the gate (success). Oh, and don’t forget the sense of being surrounded by others on the ride with you…. yet flying solo because the safety bar blocks part of your view.
It’s really wild, isn’t it?
I had all those emotions on repeat throughout the first four months, with more time entertaining fear and stress than I care to admit. But, unless you were a member of my family or among a few close friends, I parroted a canned response to “How’s the new job going? Are you liking it?”
I would reply, “It’s a challenge, but that’s what I was looking for and I’m learning a lot. Plus, the people are great.” This was all true. However, it’s as if I were precariously balancing a pair of rose-colored glasses, just waiting for them to fall and shatter. I found myself questioning my decision to leave that first job: why did I leave a track with continued success for a role where I was back at square one. Seriously, why?
Let’s turn to the wise world of Instagram for some help here– no doubt you’re sick of my rambling, and it’s time for some visual aids:
Growth and comfort are not partners, siblings, or even friends. They are acquaintances who periodically catch up over coffee and bid adieu with no definite plans to meet again. Growing pains are real, and you can opt in for rounds two, three, or ten if you have the stamina. The fact that I’ve stuck with this new job suggests I have more stamina than I thought– though I have to give serious credit to friends and family for still picking up when I call.
Coming to terms with being an expert (hello, MBA) and beginner simultaneously is a steep learning curve, and I’m still very much at the beginning. It took many months, an interesting project, and an amazing team for me to really lean into Chapter Two. At this point, one year after closing Chapter One, all I know for sure is that you have to keep moving through the discomfort knowing it’s only temporary, although the duration is unknown. I’ve learned to recognize my weaknesses so I can address them, but I’ve also sharpened the focus on my strengths– after all, that’s what gave me the courage to take the leap in the first place.
Sarah originally hails from the tri-state and, after some time in Europe and PA, now spends her time across the river from NYC in Hudson county. She spends her free time exploring new hiking trails, devouring the latest novels, and planning next season’s ski trips. An avid explorer (and not-so-closet Francophile), she also dreams of post-CoVid19 adventures to both familiar and new corners of the globe to learn and appreciate cultures and values.