I was told it was nothing personal, just business. The rejection stung like a paintball gun to the kidney. Cognitively, I understood that it was “just business” but that didn’t make it any less heartbreaking. It may have been business to them, but it was personal to me…

This week, I will graduate from a four-month leadership program through FOCUS St. Louis and Coro Women in Leadership. I’m really glad I participated in the program, and I gained some invaluable lessons and insights. For example, I learned about:

1. Risks. I am an ambitious risk-taker. A Coro classmate described me as “taking a swan dive into every new situation.” I like the sound of that.

2. Mistakes. Recognizing my mistakes is not the same as hating myself for them. It’s more important for me to be willing to learn from screw-ups than to be perfect all the time.

3. Guts. My gut is smarter than I give it credit for. I should trust it more often.

I wore floaties until I reached high school.

Here I am prepared to take a “swan dive” into any new situation.

I was accepted to the leadership program in August. My supervisors had enthusiastically written letters of recommendation for me, and my boss allowed me the time to attend the program.

Despite taking the program on as a big financial investment, my husband and I saw the value in professional development, and I needed a challenge.

Actually, scratch that. What I really needed was to change my career.

Let me step back.

Finding My Tribe
My employer was a positive part of my life for two and a half years. My position was exactly what I needed after having worked for a sociopath during the 10 months prior to being hired there. My new boss quickly became a mentor, teacher and friend. Under his tutelage, I improved as a writer and as a professional.

My coworkers laughed at my jokes, granting me permission to be myself in the department. I quickly found my place in the pack. I belonged.

I don’t always express admiration or care toward others in the warmest way. My modus operandi is to deflect personal emotions with sarcasm and humor. But I feel things very strongly. I internalize everything.

Over the years, I grew to care very deeply for my colleagues, and I was passionate about my work. Plus, I was really good at my job.

A Tough Blow
At my annual performance review in April, I received perfect marks and glowing feedback – as I had in each previous review. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to garner the raise I requested. I was told it was nothing personal, just business.

The rejection stung like a paintball gun to the kidney.

Cognitively, I understood that it was “just business” but that didn’t make it any less heartbreaking. It may have been business to them, but it was personal to me. My self-esteem has always been reflective of my professional achievements.

Until then, I had imagined myself working my way up the ranks someday. But now everything had changed.

I hadn’t positioned myself as a good enough investment. From the company’s perspective, they had me for a bargain. If they already had the milk for cheap, why should they give the cow more money? That would have been udderly ridiculous.

A Second Opinion
Friends responded to my plight in one of two ways. Some said I was right to ask for what I deserved. Others said I asked for too much and should be grateful I had a job at all.

Was I deluding myself?

My gut told me I was worth it. But the only power I had was the freedom to leave. And at the time, I didn’t fully realize just how powerful that freedom was. I had no idea I wielded the only power I needed.

L is for Loser
I started feeling like a schmuck for putting myself in this situation. I was bummed. Then I was sad. I became depressed. Fortunately, I learned that the company’s Employee Assistance Program covered counseling.

Perfect! My company was kind enough to provide someone to help me address the depression I felt because of my company.

To call this period a really dark time would be an understatement. I don’t want to get into specifics, but let’s just say even I couldn’t muster enough sarcasm to combat the deep melancholy of those months. I was in the shit.

It’s amazing how differently my year ended than it began.

It took me some time to accept that I wouldn’t be advancing at the company. But walking away is a risk.

I took my time. I sent a handful of applications, went on a few “interesting” interviews – some of which are blog posts for another day. But in August, right around the same time I started my leadership program, I was called in to a couple of promising interviews. Fast forward a few weeks, and I had two job offers in front of me.

My gut was cheering me on! And simultaneously telling me to puke. I had never been so optimistic nor so terrified.

Moving On
When I put in my notice, my boss wasn’t surprised. No one was surprised. I’ve never had a very good poker face, but I never wanted to give the impression I was unhappy. Unsatisfied, certainly. But I loved my work and enjoyed every day collaborating with the talented people around me.

The departure was rough. Having deflected emotion via sarcasm for the past two and a half years, I found tears welling upon informing colleagues.

Despite everything, I left the company in the best way possible. I know they made a business decision. I understand that it wasn’t personal, even though it hurt. I wish everyone could find joy and passion in their job the way I did at this one. I will always be grateful to the company for my experience, and I can honestly say I found something to get pumped up about on every single day I came to work. I laughed on every single day of work. How many people can say that?

Guts and Glory
My gut has been shouting, “I told you so!” ever since I began my new gig. And since starting, I’ve been challenged in ways I never anticipated. I’ve learned several valuable lessons from this past year’s experience:

1. My self worth is not determined by the value an employer may put on me.

2. I’m very, VERY good at what I do.

3. I’ve got good guts.

I will never again let my self worth be defined by my net worth – a lesson I want to record here lest I need a future reminder.

My gut tells me I’m not the only one who needs a reminder.

For less about my own personal triumph and more about my own personal humiliation, check out some of my other posts:

97 thoughts on “Finding My Guts

  1. Bravo! You are great at what you do and I love this entry. And yes, sometimes we all just need to put ourselves out there–we wont know if the grass is greener unless you take that risk.

  2. Great post fellow kinder-mat-munchkin. You rock and continue to inspire not only myself but others. Miss you bunches and we seriously need to make plans to catch up! Huge nuggets of truth within the re-discovery of your worth and potential. Thank you for another great post!

  3. Good for you, Annie. Again, we are not surprised…we all knew you were talented and destined for “moving on up.” A new intern started yesterday…another program that you started. Wash U

  4. I’d invest in you in a millisecond, Annie. You say “swan dive,” I say “fly or die.” As someone who also listens to her gut, I salute you.
    I can’t wait to see “Vice-President” behind your name one day. That said, you’re already on the way to President and CEO.

  5. I once heard a wise man say “don’t chase paper, seek truth’. I admire you, for putting forth the action that many of us are afraid to take.

    This isn’t apparent in just our careers, but in all aspects of our lives.

    And lastly, I’ve learned that my guts speak TRUTH, may not aways be what’s best temporarily or in that current situation, but we follow through, bc something better is always on the other side. Enjoyed the read!


  6. Good for you. I don’t think I would have stayed either. I know stepping out into the unknown can be super scary. A lot of people would have sulked it up, stay, and would have been miserable. Believe in yourself and you’ll go far, and sometimes you just have to go around those roadblocks.

  7. Great post. Trusting one’s gut is the best advice. From the start, I knew instinctively that the mental health services site I transferred to within my agency was a wrong one, yet I took it due to what I believed were opportunities and I did get the raise. BUT I ended up quitting after 10 months: wrong place, wrong boss, wrong choice. I am very good at what I do, as well. But I am taking time off–to write, which I also feel I can do pretty well. To re-think my goals. Got to take those risks, as one never knows for sure until you traverse the road you take!

  8. Over the last few years, I’ve realized how important it is to take risks and to find ways to continue progressing. I was attempting a career a few years ago, and realized that I needed to put on my turning signal and shift lanes. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I like the direction I’m going in.
    Also, that picture is fantastic.

  9. Pingback: Freshly Riffed 17: The Very Model Of A Modern Major General « A VERY STRANGE PLACE

  10. I agree with your 1, 2 and 3 above, especially # 1, “My self worth is not determined by the value an employer may put on me.” I’ve told my kids the same thing, but used these words… “Your value as a human, to yourself and others, can ONLY be diminished by you.” I just decided to “follow” your blog and look forward to reading more…THANKS!

  11. This is a fantastic view into a complete cycle of triumph and personal growth. Jack Welch said it best with, “Control your own destiny or someone else will.”

    Glad to see that you took back control and thank you for sharing such an intimate part of you.

  12. I enjoyed this. This situation can be applied to life in general. If you know you can do better, don’t be afraid to do it. And if you can find people and things that make you happy, you should surround yourself with those people. Bravo :)

  13. Well this is certainly a great post!. Through sharing it, would give everyone an impression to free from doubts and to have courage on what they believe is best for them. Congratulation for being on Freshly Press!

  14. Your gut was very right, every one needs to be reminded of such things once in a while, I have been on the paths of recovery from the darkest patch of my life recently so I can relate. Good job with the post :D

  15. My aim in life is to ‘just do it!’
    Your comment form a colleague about ‘swan dive’ is also perfect and I love it as it also has elegance and beauty added.
    Well done on being freshly pressed and now I have found you I look forward to reading more from you. :-)

  16. One of the many interesting points you make in this post is one that resonates for me — working for a sociopath. I worked for a year in a job that, on paper, looked prestigious and interesting and career-building. It was a real hell-hole, and it left me emotionally shredded even though the income was good. Then they canned me. So I went back to freelance writing and when the recession hit really hard, took a PT retail job, at $11/hour. As you did, I needed a place to heal for a while.

    I was then 50 — and many of my journalist friends, with six figure salaries, were horrified. “How could you?”

    in the 27 months I stayed, I learned a lot about myself, new skills, and wrote a book that has been well-sold and reviewed about this experience. That, too, has opened new doors to really interesting possibilities and partnerships.

    Good for you! I really admire your spirit and determination. Swan dive(r)s are the best!

  17. You are such a funny writer and I love how ambitious you are, and how it shines through your writing as well! Sweet pics, by the way… nerdwithtaste.wordpress.com

  18. I am in “that” place right now! I love my job but I know I am not paid what I am worth. I’ve been looking and as of yet…not found a thing. It’s easier to settle for less but I know my time here is limited. So hard to move forward into an unknown. Unlike you, I feel anxiety when faced with unknown situations. Great post!

    • It does help when you like your job though. Try to remember that you enjoy what you’re doing. The less you stress, the easier it will be to find a new opportunity. It’s funny how that works out… Good luck!

  19. I bet your old company promoted and gave raises to fools without knowing who the REAL talent was!! That could be disastrous in the long run@@ Their loss, another company’s gain!

    • Like I said, I know they made the business decision they needed to, based on where they are as a company right now financially. It was just unfortunate that I wasn’t able to be a part of their future. But you’re right! My new company is certainly reaping the benefits of my presence. Thanks for visiting and reading!

  20. Hello. Would you be interested in featuring on my blog http://www.5thingstodotoday.com? All you have to do is write five suggestions of inspiration. Include in your suggestions a link back to your blog. Please check out the blog and see the sort of things people have written about. The cost to you would be £10.00, which you can make through the donation button on the blog front page. It would be a way of you creating a back link to your blog and getting some more people visiting your blog. Thanks David.

    • Hmm, let’s see here. I just wrote a post about not letting myself be taken advantage of financially. So, you offered me an opportunity to PAY you, so that I could write content FOR you? Gosh, that sounds like a great business proposition. Good luck with that!

  21. Pingback: Finding My Guts | skoop

  22. Yes, never let your self-worth be determined by $$$-worth. As for requesting a salary raise…I only did it once and made a modest suggestion. Then shortly by coincidence I accepted another job offer.

    But honest I have never requested for a job raise…I had to work for it and see how the performance evaluation panned out. I’ve worked for 8 employers in the past 30 yrs. in public and private sector.

    Yes, I’ve had management positions and they were great experiences. But aiming for leadership was never my original intention: serving clients well and understand them as human beings has been the best journey of my working life so far.

    Rethink the whole orientation of your career from now on. Not leadership but what you can give the very best of what you know. Make that your legacy.

  23. The only performance review we need in life is that which we see reflected in the work we do. Two things each and every employee needs to remember as we work through life. The first is knowing how good we are, where we might need to improve, and understanding the results of when we become the best at what we do and are confident enough to recognize that (as you seem to be). The second… knowing business and where you might fit in it. That means knowing how a business works in order to determine your role in it with your employer. In other words, if you know you are good then you can work anywhere you set your course, perservering as needed to reach your goal of getting the job you want, realizing that you are never limited to your current employer. With knowledge about business then you can stayed tuned to your own employer’s needs to operate profitably in order to have your own “plan B” in the event you need to move on.
    You’ve had a tough learning experience (I wish I had been there for you early on) but you did well. Great post and good luck in whatever you do!!

  24. You make several good points in this blog, Annie. Unfortunately, there are times when the only way to move up in business is to move on. It’s business and it’s personal.

    You are so talented and have so many strengths. I admire you and thank you for all you taught me while working for the sociopath. You just keep being you and the opportunities will keep knocking on your door.


  25. Thank you, thank you for this post! You have no idea how incredibly apt it is for me RIGHT THIS MOMENT, like TODAY. I’m inspired and heartened. I appreciate you sharing your experience and wisdom. I especially appreciate this:

    “2. Mistakes. Recognizing my mistakes is not the same as hating myself for them. It’s more important for me to be willing to learn from screw-ups than to be perfect all the time.”

    I just clicked follow. Congratulations on being freshly pressed, and I’m eager to read some more of your stuff.

  26. Been there, done that. Didn’t blossom to my fullest potential until I was self-employed. I, too, have endured the sociopathic employer, the controlling employer, the employer who refused to fire the troublemaker who hated me, etc. Isn’t it interesting that we women tend to feel as though we’re never good enough, while I know of several men who are a legend in their own minds.

  27. Hi, I really enjoyed reading this blog. Parts of it could almost have been written by me! I’m glad you found somewhere to move on to in a positive way – hopefully I will be able to soon too.

  28. I just wrote a blog on the worth of the working woman because I think we undersell ourselves most of the time. I, too, worked for a complete sociopath for two years. I am dying to get far enough away from the situation to be able to write a book.

  29. I am forwarding this to a friend of mine who now has to make a similar decision. He is running his own business and due to a legal change it is very hard for him to make money, but he is very scared of abandoning ship despite being extremely talented. Thank you :-)

  30. I’m in a pickle now with a job I’ve had for 3 months and an offer letter for another job. Problem is, my gut won’t give me a definitive answer… stay or take the new job. I have my pros and cons list and for some reason I’m still not seeing the light! So frustrating, glad you figured it out! Any words of advice?


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