Once upon a time when I worked in Corporate America
Once upon a time I had a “real” job. I had “real” jobs until 2008. The one that made my parents most proud was Marketing Manager for a small French pharmaceutical company. I was 30 and I was living the Corporate America(n) dream. In these times of Halloween, Facebook keeps sending me back to those days when we had an office celebration, and everyone would wear a costume. It doesn’t really make me nostalgic, but it pinches my heart a bit.
A freelance person has recently posted something on a Facebook group I follow (it’s called “I Don’t Have My iSht Together Either“, check it out, it’s hilarious), saying that every time they walk into a client’s corporate office and they see the people working there, they feel like those people have their “iScht” together, and they don’t.
All made me wonder: am I missing anything from the time I worked for Corporate America?
I have good memories of that time. The best of them being the people I worked with. I remember fondly the meetings and trade shows with the sales team, the Halloween costume day when our display vendor arrived dressed as Superman, the long conversations with my manager, the candy jar in Dolores’s office and the chitchat that went along with munching on pretzels.
I am very thankful for the really good friends I made there. But, working in a corporate job is not just about the people. There are various benefits you can pile up: relative income security, 401k, social security, REAL vacations (the kind where you’re actually not working), free trips, miles on your business credit card program…
It was a wonderful time financially-speaking… But, working in a corporate job is not just about the people and the money. Or is it?
Coming from a small design agency where I was used to manage projects on my own, finding myself in the monstrous gear of a large company was a bit of a change. Suddenly, my decisions, my ideas were only a small piece on the chess board. I discovered a world of silos, where you only do what you’re supposed to do. Where you only handle the small part you’re supposed to handle, or you were asked to handle.
And, to be honest, being in a small-big American company is not the worst. The hierarchy is relatively flat. I had easily access to all management levels. But that comes at a price: they also had access to me.
Sometimes in 2008. Wednesday morning, 10:45 am. The CEO walks in my office.
“John showed me the marketing plan to be presented in France next week. We need to make a few changes.” And he explains that he heard something on TV about this new trend and we NEED to integrate it in our plan. I (re)explain all the work that went behind the recommendations on our presentation, the hours spent in the field working with the sales team, the customers surveys, the figures crunching by our analysts… But he insists: we need to integrate that new fad.
Did I mention I’m a questionner? So, of course, I can’t help myself… “Why should we do that?” And the response, you’ll have guessed it…
“Because I said so”
Word for word. No kidding.
A few months later I changed my title from Marketing Manager to Corporate Fugitive.
I might just have been a victim of terrible management. And that might just be one story, but I learned that if I wanted to find my Ikigaï, I had to look further. And all the 401k and bonuses in the world will not buy that.
Photo by Sean Pollock