My early career started in late 1997 at a Bank in Maryland. I joined the bank straight out of college. I was integrated into the commercial division where we worked with companies earning revenues from $10 to $100 million. It was a fantastic challenge. I was very proud of my achievement. And I looked forward to learning as well as rubbing shoulders with the high profile clients.
In 1999 about one and half years after my training probation, I was attached to the bank’s newest office in Northern Virginia. Tysons Corner was the elite mini-tech city of the state back then. All young and thriving professionals who had made money during the tech boom had their jazzy offices located there. And they were the coolest companies to work for as they allowed working-casual on a daily basis, pool tables, couches and TVs in the break room, and flexible working hours. I was 24 and new to the corporate world so I felt that. I had landed my dream job and a dream location.
But it did not quite work out as I expected. See tech companies had accumulated plenty of speculated wealth from the stock market rise of the late 90s. But the majority of our clients were baby boomers who had accumulated their wealth over time. And in order to maintain strong client relationships, we sometimes entertained them to golfing, working lunches, and tickets to basketball games in the VIP suite at the Arena.
Now, remember I was a 24-year-old black girl. I quickly realized that every time my boss invited me to a client engagement, I would dread it. I remember thinking "I do not fit in; I am going to be bored". I compared myself to our clients and of course, I felt I had absolutely nothing in common.
What I did not realize is that the negative talk was creating my reality. I was living exactly what I was thinking. I put my mind in a state of boredom and my mind agreed.
I certainly wasn’t showing up as my authentic self. I was faking it at every client engagement. I was not at all interested in conversations about their kid's football leagues, or golf outings, or fishing trips, nor their love for cigars. I absolutely wasn’t giving them a chance!
I recall this one particular lunch with my boss and a client, in a small town in Virginia about an hour away from the office. On the menu was soft shell crab. I liked crab meat. I wanted to try the sandwich so I ordered. But 15 minutes later when my plate came, I did not believe what I was seeing!!! The crab legs were sticking out of that burger!!! Clearly I hadn’t quite understood what ‘soft-shell’ meant. Should this be eaten like this? I wondered to myself! But remember I was faking my entire existence at work therefore I braved it. With so much anxiety I picked up the burger!! I took one bite and at that moment I thought “Oh God I am going to be sick to the stomach!” It was the nastiest thing I’d ever tasted! The sound of the soft shell crushing in my jaw just wasn’t appetizing at all. It was a whole baby crab in a burger. Do they even clean out the intestines??? The yellow source for flavor didn’t make it any easier either. I had reached my limit; I couldn’t take it anymore. I ate the fries off my plate and pretended to be stuffed.
I bet you my companions could see through all my fakeness! But the gentlemen that they were, saved me the embarrassment by not making a comment.
My friends, this is what happens when we fake it. We end up shooting ourselves in the foot.
We think we are pulling it off but we are struggling, and everyone around us can see it.
It is difficult to separate your physiology from your mind drama.
I wasn’t bored because my colleagues or clients were much older and enjoyed fishing.
I was bored because I let my brain believe it. See boredom is a thought. It is not a feeling. It is something we choose to create for ourselves.
I had no idea how to live in the moment and to make the most of it. Mind you my bosses were wonderful older white males who cared for my success and well-being.
But my mind wasn’t ready to receive their compassion and kindness because of the negative self-talk. It is even surprising to me right now that I was able to rise to the Vice President level.
Looking back, I believe I could’ve achieved much more. But I limited myself. I simply chose to not fit it in. I separated myself from my colleagues through my thoughts. It had nothing to do with who they were. It had everything to do with what I was choosing to believe.
And as a result, I requested transfers from one department to another thinking that I’d finally find a fit. I transferred twice in 7-years, not for growth, but looking for comfort. I did not realize that whatever it is I sought, I could've created within my mind.
Folks we can only fit into an organization when we choose to. The decision is always ours.
I will return with tips on how to like your job even when you think you do not fit or when you think your boss is nasty.
If you would like to enjoy your job before you leave, check out my new program “How To Take Your Power Back” or Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details