In july, I WAS abruptly fired as a FILM PUBLICIST after nine days. THIS is WHAT I LEARNED FROM TAKING THE WRONG JOB.
Initially, the job seemed great on paper. A small production company based in Chicago, looking to revitalize and rebrand. There were a couple scripts coming down the pipeline and the Director (and hiring manager) wanted to start right away. The company had money for the first few projects and were looking to hire their entire team of four (five including the existing Director).
This company has vision, I thought. This production company has money - cause why else would you hire four part-time employees at once if ya didn't have the money in the bank, I thought.
It may also be worth noting that I spent over 6 weeks applying for jobs and only had a handful of interviews and zero offers. I was even being rejected from jobs I was overqualified for. My inbox (and bank account) was looking bleak by July. So when I finally got an offer in the industry I loved, I took it. Even with the substantial pay-cut. I prioritized the long-term career gain over than the short-term financial losses.
But after our fourth staff meeting, myself and the other three hires started to have concerns about our boss, our roles, our pay and the legitimacy of this company. On day eight, myself and my three colleagues were all let go. It was abrupt. And necessary. And dear god I want to give ya'll the warning signs so you don't waste your time on the wrong job.
1. Just because they're in charge, doesn't mean they're qualified to lead you.
There is something admirable about a boss who hires people smarter than him. It shows humility, it shows intelligence and it shows that they value collaboration over control.
This boss did hire well. The four of us were capable. We knew our roles, the job and what was required to get this film developed, produced and publicized. In fact, he may have hired too well because we started asking too many questions, started pointing out all of the holes in the company and the production. Questions he couldn't answer.
We started recognizing that our Director was inexperienced in the film industry and had a lack of understanding about the entire process. He may have hired a superstar team but he couldn't lead us - and so the project and the company would have never succeeded. In fact, during our exit interview, I proposed that he hire film students. Perhaps they'd be wide-eyed and ignorant enough to be led into an uncertain path. But not I!
How to avoid: One of the most valuable things someone told me was “Read their bio!” This goes for the company, the boss and any supervisors. Make sure they are qualified to lead you! Stalk. On LinkedIn, their website, Glassdoor, find any testimonies from previous clients or employees. And if you can’t find anything on them you need to ask the right questions during the interview about their experience. I asked questions about the company and failed to make sure he was an experienced leader, qualified to lead a team of professional creatives. Ask things like:
What has been your greatest success so far? How did you achieve it?
Tell me about a time or a failure where you could have done better.
What skill are you still missing?
How long have you been leading this team?
How do you lead your team to success? What methods or tools do you use to make your team productive, innovative and happy?
2. Lower your expectations. Nope...lower.
I only emphasis that you lower your expectations twice because it's damn near impossible to not get excited and enthusiastic about a new company and creative projects.
As soon as I accepted the offer, I started researching ways to hit the ground running. I mean let's be real - the whole interview process is an anticipation. So I walked in eager, and because of the answers I received during the interview I expected that this production company would have processes and organizational measures in place already. They did not.
I credit my high expectations for why I took the wrong job, but also my inability to ask the right questions during the initial interview. Which brings me to point number three.
3. Ask the right questions during the interview.
So many career blogs tell employee how to best sell themselves. This type of "sell yourself" culture makes interviews a one-way mirror, when in fact the employer needs to be grilled as well. The employer is paying you for your time, expertise and knowledge - I think employees forget their power during the job-hunting process. Start asking questions to make sure they're qualified to lead you!
What are "the right questions"? Honestly, I had to do alot of digging. Most career blogs advise employees to ask superficial questions. Questions about pay, vacation, the follow-up process and career advancement are important, but it doesn't give you answers about how the company leads their team or how they deal with internal conflict.
There's so many scams out there, there's so many employers and companies trying to take advantage of capable and experienced staff. Don't let them.
4. People will use you if you allow them to.
While, unfortunate this is a reality while doing business. Employers will pay you to do 10 things, one month later you're managing 18 projects. You told them you'd go above-and-beyond during the interview. So it'd be tacky to ask to renegotiate pay, right? Wrong!
If you love your work and you are naturally a go-getter, you know what this feels like. You agree to take on another project even though it isn't in your job description. You say yes because you are capable, even if you haven't been compensated. You believe, "Whatever it takes to make the team a success, I'll do it!"
During the first week at the production company I, the film publicist, agreed to help revamp the company's website and logo. The project obviously called for a Graphic Designer and a Website Engineer but I had experience managing these types of projects so I agreed to handle it.
Tempestt was my wake up call. Tempestt Young was hired as the company's Talent Coordinator and we became close while sharing our concerns with the way our Director was managing the team. One day during a staff meeting I gave the Director ideas on how to build his company. Tempestt quickly texted me:
"People will use you. Be careful giving your ideas out..."
And Lord did I need to be reminded of that! So often us "good hard-working people" are generous with our ideas because we want to be apart of the winning team. Hell, some of us build the winning teams! And so, when I was asked for input, I gave it. Freely. Without thinking long-term, forgetting that I was only a 1099 employee. I had no guarantee that I would even be compensated for laying down the foundation for this man's company.
Not everyone deserves your great ideas. Be selective. Especially when they're not paying for them.
Now, let's talk about that....
5. Know your worth.
Whether it's the most money you've ever seen in your life, or barely covering your bills - know what you and your work are worth. And
I left a handsome check when I quit working for my father. The emotional stress and the abusive environment just wasn't worth it. I stayed on months after I was unhappy. One day, I'd had enough and quit on the spot in the middle of a conference call. I was being paid well, but not enough to be berated and disrespected - especially not in front of other employees.
And this...humble check from the production company also wasn't gonna cut it. In both spaces I was being taken advantage of, in both spaces I wasn't being paid enough for my contributions. Myself and my coworkers were being asked to basically build this production company from the ground up and that was not in the job posting on Indeed.
Know your worth and don't be afraid to remind everyone around you.
6. Sometimes it's just time to do your own thing.
During that same meeting Tempestt, a successful businesswoman before she walked through these doors told me: "Remember you have this knowledge because you're suppose to BUILD your company."
So often, we exhaust ourselves building someone else's dreams that we forget our own. We forget the non-profit we wanted to start last year. We never got back to writing that book. We talk ourselves out of going back to school so we can do what we really love.
We do this because collecting a paycheck from an established company seems easier than building something from nothing. We do this because sometimes it's just not the right time.
Pay attention to what's happening around you. Pay attention to the synchronicity of life. Pay attention to every 'No' that is leading you to the 'Yes'. Only you can know when it is time to stop relying on others, and when it's time to build for yourself.