Just over a month ago, I was employed at a design agency whose values differed greatly from my own. Since it was a small company with long-standing clients and just a handful of employees, I was fortunate to be given a great deal of responsibility very quickly. With my fair share of trials and errors behind me, I inevitably reached the peak of my position as Junior Graphic Designer.
In just two years’ time, I found myself with nowhere to grow in the company, and virtually zero opportunity for learning and development.
My desire was to thrive both personally and professionally, but my attempts to implement changes in workflow, and approach repetitive tasks with an open mind, continued to be met with a great deal of resistance.
I was stuck: with little opportunity for growth, I quickly turned into someone that I never wanted to be. I began dragging my feet on my morning walks to the office. I wasn’t engaged in the work I was doing, and the hours ticked by slowly. I knew that I was capable of so much more as a designer, yet I continued to feel stifled by the very people who were paying me to be creative. Every night I returned home stressed, anxious, and unsatisfied because I felt that my work had been criticized unfairly.
I made the decision to move on.
On my journey to find a new job, I was met with even more resistance. I submitted applications to job postings that I felt described me to a tee. Yet, more often than not, I left interviews feeling defeated. I felt the need to portray myself differently each time; to become a reflection of what I thought the person I was speaking to was looking for. I was consistently met with a dreadful feeling of not-enoughness.
Despite the fact that my job had given me great qualifications, fantastic experience, and the ability to identify my strengths and weaknesses, I still felt unqualified, inexperienced, and more weak than strong. This was my first time experiencing rejection in this capacity, as I was fortunate to secure my first design job straight out of University. At the time, I was so pleased to have been given an opportunity in my chosen career path that I neglected to consider whether the position was right for me. At the time, it absolutely was. Two years later, however, it absolutely was not.
This time around, I set out with a list: I wanted not only to be good at my job, but to absolutely love my job. I wanted to feel confident and capable on a day-to-day basis, but take every opportunity to learn something new. I wanted to observe positive change as a result of my effort, and work with a team of people who would give me the space in which to make that change. I also wanted my job to love me in return. I wanted to feel valued and respected, to be given a fair wage with fair expectations, and work in a pleasant environment. I also wanted to be acknowledged for the things that I do know, and not feel judged for the things that I don’t (yet).
But the process of being repeatedly interviewed by people who I just didn’t feel great talking to left me feeling discouraged, wondering whether my expectations were too high. Maybe the right job for me just didn’t exist.
Finally, after many terrible interviews that left me feeling discouraged and deflated, I spoke with Chris Taylor, Actionable’s Founder and President. Chris recently wrote about how to hire for culture, and I can say from experience that he practices what he preaches.
From our first conversation I felt that I could be myself, ask questions, and talk openly about my aspirations.
Speaking with Chris felt less like an interview and more like a conversation (the feeling was further reinforced when I met Anna, my soon-to-be manager, who is extremely kind and approachable). My expectations were totally flipped upside down, and I never felt the need to cater my answers toward the job description. I was able to answer Chris’s questions from an honest place, and submit my work to Anna without the slightest fear of judgement or scrutiny. There was zero resistance: I already felt as though I was an Actionable team member.
When Actionable’s Managing Editor, Sara, revealed to me that she composed a checklist of things she expected from Chris during her interviews with him, I was blown away. I had gone into every one of my interviews with the expectation that I was supposed to present myself in a certain way in order to score the job. I never once considered the interview from the opposing perspective. What Sara said made me realize that in order for a work relationship to function, interviews have to go both ways. It’s not enough for me to demonstrate that I would do a good job in the role, the interviewer also has to prove that the company is a good fit for me.
In the few weeks that I have worked at Actionable, my experience has been very much like those initial conversations with Chris and Anna. I feel comfortable speaking honestly and openly with everyone on the team, and I have received nothing but positive feedback as a result. In the short time that I’ve been here, I know that I have made an impact. I can see positive changes happening as a result of a comfortable workflow and the ability to freely apply creative ideas to my work. We are an engaged team of collaborators, and it is refreshing to work with people who are not pretending to be a different version of themselves.