I get asked a lot of what my passion is or what I really want to do for work, and my answer is always, “I do not know”. These days it seems that you cannot be happy if you are not working towards your passion or even be successful if you are not working towards your passion. But what if you truly do not know what your passion is? And how can you find your passion when you are out of work and the rent is due along with the cable bill, the mobile phone bill, and every other bill?
My first job out of college was with Virgin Megastore in Los Angeles right after I moved there. I worked in shipping/receiving and had fun because I was working with music but the money was not a living wage; at the time I was making only $5.50 an hour. A couple months into the job I got an offer from a friend at World Domination Records to work as a College Radio Promoter and I transitioned over while taking a slight pay cut; going down to $5.00 an hour. The money may have been not the best but I had a lot of fun. I got to talk to hundreds of college Music Directors across the country, see concerts, attend parties, and have numerous fun memories with the people I worked with. After a year’s time I moved over to the music publishing world with Warner/Chappell Music, one of the world’s largest music publishing houses, working in their newly formed Tracking Department. My pay doubled up to $12.00 per hour and I was learning all about mechanical and sync licensing from my boss. It was a lot of analytical report work which I enjoyed and I actually enjoyed it up to a point. While many of the people I worked with were great, the one person that became a thorn in my side was my co-worker who thought I was hired to be her personal assistant. While I was there I was diagnosed with HIV and instead of fearing the disease, I became more distraught at the thought that I would be stuck in this job since I needed the medical insurance. After a blowout with my co-worker one day, where I later found out she told the HR Director that my job title needed to be changed so I was her personal assistant, and a warning from a business counterpart about a shady new hire in my department I was fired. My boss told me that my email header was found to be threatening to some, it was a laughing Calvin (from Calvin & Hobbes) in the header (or maybe a pissing Calvin – can’t really remember), and that he had to let me go. Nothing made sense but by that point I was not happy and fortunately the HR Director told me not to worry about the medical insurance since COBRA had been passed and that I could go on disability based on my health diagnosis.
For about a year I enjoyed the time off, worked out a lot and got into crazy ripped shape, worked for a family friend handling the office for his private investigation company, and went back to school to learn French and Spanish. After a while I wanted a 9 to 5 job and had no luck with the employment agencies (I remember registering with Apple One that seemed useless) or networking; I never really had a resume since all my jobs in Los Angeles were by word of mouth or networking. Needing a change I upped and moved to New York City at the end of 1998 with no job lined up, knowing only one person and having $400 in my pocket to my name.
New York City brought a needed change and within a couple weeks I was hired by Noonan/Russo Communications through an employment agency. I was the Executive Assistant to both the SVP, Communications and VP, Communications. Immediately my head boss, the SVP, knew I was more than just an Executive Assistant, and had me do Senior Account Executive work by writing up business proposals for clients. Overall the job was fun but there was always an underlying “watch your back” feeling and I learned why in the end. Since I was an Executive Assistant I had to go to weekly meetings with all the other assistants, including the Office Manager, the Receptionist and the Human Resource Director; and by the way everyone in that group was gay (it was a bitchfest that I did not like being a part of). Since I never spoke about my private life at work I was always under suspicion or questioned by the other assistants. And considering I would never relent to their inquiries I became the outcast to the point where someone in the group decided that I had to go. I was told I was being fired since I was answering the outside phone line for my bosses incorrectly, which was a blatant lie, and that my termination was immediate. I never knew who I pissed off but I found it weird that I worked my ass off and yet by somehow pissing off one person I was fired. I later found out it was a setup and my bosses were upset that this happened but their hands were tied since the decision came down from the CFO, who was gay and who was the husband of one of the Co-Presidents of the company, and he could be a nightmare to deal with.
My luck with employment agencies was still pretty bad since I did not understand how to put a resume together; one headhunter said it looked like a “restaurant menu”. Through a friend I ended up getting a bouncer job with a bar on the Upper East Side which lasted almost 6-months until a patron screamed in my face one night, “don’t you know who I am?!” Within a couple weeks I ended up with an Executive Assistant job with Entertainment Drive; a company that designed and hosted official celebrity websites. The woman I worked with complained about everything I did and my boss, who was the president of the company, loved me; it was a very odd atmosphere. The company got bought out by a company in Los Angeles, the president got fired with no one in the New York City office being told what was going on, and the CFO in the Los Angeles took it upon herself to tell me what I could and could not do in the office even with the fact that I never reported to her. The people I worked with in the New York City office were a blast to work with but the company was coming apart at the seams. So I left and went to work for a startup called Zactus as an Executive Assistant to the president.
Startups are an odd atmosphere with many egos vying for the spotlight and although there were some great people there, the president was a nightmare to work with along with some of the programmers who for some reason were highly emotionally sensitive. About a month later I was fired since the president said he no longer wanted me with the company. Of course this came with perfect timing the Monday after Thanksgiving since I was not only fired but my boyfriend broke up with me and told me I had to move out.
December of 2000 I was unemployed and homeless and had no clue of what I was doing next for work. I moved in with friends in Brooklyn for a couple weeks, couched hopped for more weeks after that, almost slept on the subway train one night since I had nowhere to go and learned who really were my friends; I later learned that one of my “close” friends flat out lied to me about not having his extra room available for me to use for a couple days – yeah that hurt when I learned that. Come March 2001 I found a place to live on the Upper West Side and by April I was hired as the temporary Director, Human Resources for RED Distribution.
I crash coursed everything on human resources and proved myself repeatedly while getting strong recommendations from the executives in human resources at the Sony Music Entertainment offices in Midtown. Yet because I was only a Director I was not entitled to the annual bonuses, since I only had a Director title I wasn’t entitled to the several thousand dollar bonus the VPs received each year, and I was treated like I was an entry level employee, namely by the CFO who defined office bully. Most of the employees from all the offices across the country, and in New York City, loved me since I put as much of a personal touch on the human resources services; the previous human resource person, I found out, would scream and belittled the employees in front of others – and I had my own encounter with her to have that verified. 9/11, office tear downs/build outs, office moves, human resource databases built, employment hiring and terminations streamlined, counseling employees, and designing office Holiday parties, that were always talked about, on an almost non-existent budget, were many of the things I handled until 2-years later I was fired because my department was shutdown by Sony Music Entertainment which owned RED Distribution. That was a blow and the bully CFO who gave me nonstop crap for 2-years praised me for my work and said he was actually upset that I was being let go. Imagine that.
By late Spring of 2003 I was unemployed with no job leads, an OK termination package, and I decided to take the Summer off and enjoy myself. Lots of nightclubbing, bar hopping, early morning workouts, movie watching took place that Summer. By Fall I started looking and dealing with headhunters from various employment agencies; and that is when I started my disdain for headhunters. I was told that taking the Summer off was a bad thing and I needed to cover it up on my resume, that I needed to re-write my resume, that I needed to re-write my cover letter, that I needed to re-write my job achievements with each job. This got to a point where I had multiple versions of my resume and that was bullshit. One resume is all anyone ever needs and not this multiple versions for different jobs. Bottom-line it is just too fucking confusing.
January of 2004 I got a temporary job with Burberry, the fashion house, working with the Senior Vice President, International Visual Design. Now you know someone is going to be difficult to work with when two human resource managers warn you ahead of time about the person you are going to work with. The woman I was assigned to work with was EXTREMELY particular and MASSIVELY detailed oriented. If you did not have something she asked for or wanted she would scream and yell at you. Well her actions only lasted so far with me since I never tolerate that type of behavior from anyone regardless of their title. One day she started screaming at me for some odd thing and I stood up and said, ” I do not get paid enough nor will I ever to let you scream at me. I will not take this fucking shit from you or anyone ever! Until you can apologize and engage with others like a normal well-mannered employee then I will not be talking to you.” I walked out of her office and into the other section of the building where my desk was and refused her calls and emails for the rest of the day. A ballsy move but the next morning she came to my desk and apologized for screaming at me and from that point on we worked extremely well together. Yes she was still difficult but she learned to communicate better on what she expected and wanted. My job was only open until I helped open a store in Tokyo and when that time came she asked me if I would please stay; I said that I would not continue on. At that point I was tired of dealing with her for months in a row and she was draining even with the better attitude. Plus I was not sure if I really wanted to be working in the fashion industry, those people are just plain weird; and that’s saying a lot considering I worked in the music industry for a while.
Looking back it is hard to say if I made the right decision but for me it felt right For the rest of the year I took temporary jobs here and there that lasted not that long and it wasn’t until about January of 2005 that I ended back in human resources with Titan Worldwide. I was hired by the CFO to startup a human resource department for a company that was growing by about 30-new employees a quarter. I may not be a complete fan of human resources but I do enjoy systems and setting up systems, and that is what I did with this company very quickly. I also learned very quickly that in an advertising agency the egos are WAY out of control and it really is a “boys club” mentality with many of the women still being treated like it’s the 1950s. This job lasted half a year until I was fired by the owner of the company, who was maybe 5’6″ if he was lucky, because he told my boss that I made him “nervous” when he was in the office. OK that is a first with that type of excuse being given to me. Sadly even though many of the employees liked me and deeply appreciated me, this short-statured man ruled the roost and no one spoke up to him. Another blow with being fired for a stupid reason and it is always for some stupid reason since I have never been fired for doing something illegal or malicious while at the company.
Fortunately the one good thing my boss said to me as I was leaving was that the reason why I probably make people uneasy has nothing to do with my warm caring character. It has to do with my height and my deep voice which I cannot change. He said that my stature, I am 6’6″ just so you know, paired with my deep bass voice can naturally make people feel uncomfortable and that is stupid. He laughed and said if I was 5’10” with a voice half an octave higher, then nobody would ever give me crap. Stephen was one of the best bosses I had and even though it sucked getting fired, again, he made the situation more understandable for me.
Here it is the middle of Summer 2005 and I am back to being unemployed. The constant being out of work while living in New York City is starting to take a financial toll on me because once you get behind on bills it takes even longer to catch up. Fortunately I started a good streak with work and picked up a temporary job with Wachovia building a database for one of their client services divisions. That led to a job with Columbia Business School, which was just 5-blocks away from my apartment, and that led to a job with a DialogueDirect which is a street marketing company. Initially I interviewed for the human resource position but ended up being hired for the Organizational Development position to help pull the company together. And this is where the office workplace drama can only be described in as much detail as possible for you to understand the bullshit I went through.
But that will be explained in Part 2.