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Her words spun in my head as I made the long walk across the office building to my side of the office. Imagining that everyone in the building knew exactly what she had just said to me, my mind filled with judgments I imagined they were making about me. I could almost hear my colleagues thinking… “And Misti thought she was sooo special.”

Too anxious to get any work done, I paced my office, and even vented to a senior leader in the company. I told her about the conversation I had just had with the CEO.  I told her how frustrated I was, and that I didn’t have to work in this environment.

“I don’t need this job. I can pay my bills through massage therapy and fitness training,” I said.

The senior leader encouraged me to do what I thought was best.

Realizing that I could not breathe (much less thrive) in a work environment like that, I wrote my letter of resignation that night. The next day, I proudly turned in that letter; giving them two-weeks notice.

What the CEO Had Said

Thinking that if I knew more, the company could use me differently, I spent weeks researching. I read about the company’s history, the various projects they were currently working on, and dozens of articles where the company had been recognized in the news.

Before presenting to the CEO, I shared what I had learned with the director of HR. It was the encouragement (I received from the director of HR) to share my findings with the CEO that boosted my confidence. I walked in to the CEO’s office believing I was about to impress her.

During my presentation, she seemed intrigued. I thought she would soon put me on projects that played more to my strengths, while telling everyone what a great role model I was.

That was not what happened at all.

At the end of my presentation, she looked at me and said, “Misti, what did your parents do with you? It’s clear you have problems with anxiety.”

She followed that up by asking, “Do you take medication for that?”

I was confused and embarrassed.

While I didn’t realize it in the moment, doing that presentation was a risky (and vulnerable) move on my part.

I was embarrassed, because I thought there was something I could/should have known (or done differently) to succeed in winning her approval.

Couldn’t she see that (as a newbie) I wanted to do a good job and prove myself, but that I didn’t know the rules of the game? Of her game?

Couldn’t she see that I was trying, but clueless? Didn’t she want to help me succeed? Wouldn’t helping me succeed help her succeed?

Couldn’t she see that I needed more direction and support, but didn’t know any other way of asking for it?

The short answer was “no.” Or maybe yes… maybe she saw all of those things, but ultimately, it didn’t matter.  Primarily what she saw was an impatient and entitled newbie who was unwilling to pay her dues.

She couldn’t see that the anxiety I was feeling was normal, nor did she care to explore how my “newness” could be an asset for her business.

Afraid of what I might become in this environment, I needed to move on.  

When I Turned In My Letter Of Resignation

I had a history of running away. It seemed I was always hoping that the person I was running from would chase after me. Turning in that letter of resignation, I think part of me was hoping they would say something like,“Let’s talk about this. We like you and we’d like you to stay working here.”

But they didn’t say that.

They just accepted the letter, and I went on my way.

Desperation Struck Hard

A week after my departure, anxiety and fear crippled my ability to think. I had spent nearly the entire week alone, in my one-bedroom apartment; directionless, and rapidly applying for hundreds of jobs. To say I was “overwhelmed” doesn’t do justice to the immense feelings I had of isolation and loneliness.

There was no one to call for help. I hadn’t lived in the area long enough to build any strong relationships.  

Most of my connections from college were on the other side of the country, and even those connections were quickly fading. My family didn’t have the time (or capacity) to help me.

That’s when I really started feeling like I had made a mistake.

Terrified of withering away into nothingness in this apartment (alone), I put my shoes on and walked the twenty-minutes it took to get to my old office building

Feeling like a starving street dog, I was fully prepared to lick the boot that had kicked me.

Rationalizing My Decision To Return

I reasoned with myself. “She could have told me to beat it after I turned in my resignation, but she let me stay on payroll for two weeks. Maybe this can still work.”

I was ready to do anything to rid myself of the immense isolation I was feeling in my apartment.

I walked in the front doors of the office, fully expecting she would take a meeting with me. I thought that I would apologize, re-commit to doing a good job, and that she’d be understanding. I envisioned her delight in giving me a second chance.

With my tail tucked between my legs, I walked up to the receptionist and asked for a brief meeting with the CEO. “Take a seat and I’ll see if she’s available,” she said, and then picked up the phone.

Hanging up the phone, the receptionist looked up and me and said, “She doesn’t have time.”

“Should I come back a little later?” I asked, fully believing she would at least hear me out.

“Her schedule is full.”

My heart sank as I realized I was not welcomed back. All of this further exacerbating my feelings of worthlessness.

Angry and anxious, I made the long trek back to my apartment. I seriously wondered how long it would take for someone to find me, if I had died (committed suicide) in that apartment. Would anyone even care?

I didn’t know what to do with myself, and I feared that she was right. Maybe there was something inherently wrong with me.

Looking for another job, when you’re afraid there’s something wrong with you, is paralyzing. In a job interview, you need to be able to speak well of yourself. But if you don’t actually feel very good about yourself, then it’s nearly impossible to sell anyone on you.

In other words, when you aren’t sold on you, no one else will be either.

Looking For Another Job

I will always remember meeting the CEO of a non-profit in Bethesda, Maryland just a few weeks later. I sat across a long table from him, as he drilled me with really good questions. He sat with my resume on the table in front of him, as I answered all his questions. Thinking I was impressing him, I got excited by the potential of landing an opportunity.

Beaming with pride at my accomplishments, and his interest in them, I waited for him to tell me that he would like to have me on staff.

Instead, he pushed back from the table, looked me in the eye and said, “There is no way anyone your age could have accomplished what you say you have accomplished.” I was already fighting low self-esteem, and his words felt like a sucker punch to the gut.

Then, somehow (by the grace of God), I mustered these words (before I ran out of that place). “Thank you. Not only have I achieved what’s on my resume, I’ve done more.”

Time For a Private Cry

Once I got out of eyesight, I pulled my Ford pickup truck over and cried my eyes out.

I was hungry for the opportunity to contribute to a team, yet I kept coming across people who sought to tear me down. And, it’s not like I had friends I could call. I hadn’t developed depth in friendships yet.

“Next!” I said to myself, reminding myself to move forward.  As I wiped my eyes, I put my truck in gear and headed off to take care of a few massage clients.

A New Approach To Interviewing

After a couple months of furiously applying for jobs and interviewing, I decided to shift my approach. Instead of doing pseudo-interviewing (I wanted a job more than anything) I switched my approach and started doing real informational interviews. While I still hoped to land a job, this approach allowed me to let go of expectations and relax into interviewing experiences.

Simply asking questions was far more enjoyable anyway!

Once I switched my approach, I got a few of job offers. None of the offers made sense for what I was looking for, or got me excited, so I kept searching. It didn’t make sense to start a new job when I might end up back in the same position in just a few months.

Since I had proven I could keep my bills paid through massage and fitness training, I decided to keep looking until I found something that felt good/right.

Thankfully the CEO refused my meeting request months before. I had gained priceless experiences and learned valuable lessons. I’m stronger than I thought, and opportunities are more abundant than I could have imagined.

Lessons Learned From *Not* Having to Lick the Boot

    1. Choose yourself. If you pick yourself, you don’t have to worry about whether someone else thinks you’re worthy of being picked. You decide your own worth.
    2. Trust in life. A way always presents itself, even when it’s not the way initially envisioned. The resources you need will always present themselves. You are always taken care of.
    3. There’s purpose to pain. Frustrating, difficult experiences bring purpose and meaning to our lives. Every difficulty has a seed of opportunity within it.
    4. Unexpected opportunities. I never envisioned myself as an entrepreneur, but this experience gave me a chance to step up and create solutions to conflicts between professionals of different generations.
    5. Unforeseen talents. As my passion for generational harmony increased, I wound up traveling the country delivering speeches and workshops. In the process, I learned that I am a gifted communicator. As I see, own, and respect my talents, others do the same.
    6. Passion is valuable. I would have never have imagined how valuable my energy, enthusiasm, and passion would be to the marketplace. Looking back, these are the qualities that landed me countless engagements.  
    7. I can do more than I think. If you would have asked me fifteen years ago if I could write a book, or coach leaders, I would have thought you were crazy. Having published four books (5th one is in process), and coached dozens of leaders, I have come to understanding that my thinking often limits me.
    8. Keep learning. Thinking I would only ever speak or coach around the topic of generational differences, I failed to keep learning and expanding my offerings. When the topic lost its sizzle, my business tanked, and I struggled to figure out what to do next.
    9. CEO of YOU. I am the CEO of Misti, no one else.The resources I need are always made available to me. I just have to take the steps to get to those resources.

Are you Licking The Boot?

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like the work you’re doing is below you, or where you’re asking from opportunities that just aren’t going to be there?

What have you done, or are you doing, to get something new in your life? What would it mean to pick yourself?

Misti Burmeister has been helping companies and leaders create a culture of engagement for more than 15 years. Help your team reach its highest potential at https://MistiBurmeister.com