#ngl (not gonna lie, for those that aren't familiar with the popular hashtag), I was one of the many people that were very happy to see 2022 come to an end. I don't tend to be an overly emotional person, but dang it if 2022 didn't feel heavy and dark all over. However, it left me with a few lessons. To summarize the entire blog in case you don't feel like going into the nitty gritty details, here they are:
1- There's always something new to learn. Even more so from the negative situations.
2- No amount of financial compensation is worth working in a toxic place with toxic people.
3- Being a freelancer/consultant/having your own company is awesome, you have lots of freedom to work wherever, whenever, with whomever. You can also earn more per hour. But, it's also a big risk because if you can't fill those hours, you can't fill in the piggy bank.
4- The sole fact that you are a woman can sometimes be used against you in the workplace because you are 'too emotional' if you stand up for yourself and your work. To be honest, I AM a woman, and women have emotions. So that will always be my response. #sorrynotsorry
5- Knowing how to work with other people and be professional in the workplace is not a skill everyone possesses.
6- Everybody thinks they are marketers, that they know how marketing works, and that marketing is easy even when they have never studied/worked in Marketing.
7- You can make a huge impact even with a small action.
2022 was laden with breakups, not only personal but also professional ones. The year started with great projects for The Working Story: on the one side, working on Marketing at a company (Company 1) that allowed me to reunite with two former (and awesome) colleagues. On the other, working at another company (Company 2) on Employer Branding: one of my recently-found passions, as I strongly believe that the environment where you work has a huge impact on your mental health. I love working with companies that allow me to highlight and improve the great things they have to offer their workforce.
Going down under...and no, I didn't go to Australia
A few weeks into 2022, one of my former colleagues quit Company 1. His replacement was an unpleasant, 50-year-old, old-school man who was hired for Sales yet tried to take over Marketing, completely disregarding the sales, which is what he was hired for, and who thought I would be more like his assistant. It started with something as simple as him refusing to use the company's branding, creating his own documents with distorted logos, and different fonts on each page (think almost as bad as using Comic Sans or Chiller), which not only gave me an eye tic but made everything from there within my role an uphill (and distasteful) battle. Then it escalated to him attacking every single thing I was doing marketing-wise so he could implement his own ideas.
Despite my efforts, there was zero chance of working as a team. By this time, my other colleague had already left too. Needless to say, the environment became tense and stressful, and none of the marketing strategies I had built up for the company were executed. Instead, we started executing other campaigns that were not part of my plan, which brought in exactly 0 leads. I was let go in the most unprofessional way - I found out from a third party that I had brought on board that they were letting me go. I was quite happy to go, except for the fact that they refused to pay me for my last month. Fast forward a few months after I left, the whole company collapsed and if I am not mistaken, it is now bankrupt. To this day, they still owe me my last payment: A major setback for a freelancer like me, and after multiple conversations with lawyers, I surrendered to the fact that I worked for them for a month for free. To make matters worse, I was let go in the middle of summer in the NL, and no one was actively hiring. Which left me thinking:
1- How do people with zero experience/knowledge and zero personality get so far in life?
2- Why do companies hire experts if they won't listen to them?
I was happy that I at least had company 2 to rely on while more projects popped up, but then many of my contacts within the company quit as the company went through major management rehaul.
Project-less, I decided to give myself a break. During the summer, I went to Jamaica with a friend, and while there, Company 2 called me. They wanted me to jump back for a few hours a week.
Then, towards the beginning of Q3, I started getting other projects and while the professional side was picking up, the personal side started going down the hill. So, while I was in Jamaica, drinking a margarita by the pool bar and rubbing my belly (which had expanded while I was under stress the previous months, as I am a stress eater), I realized I was not happy with the way things were going.
Sharing is Caring
Not everything was gloomy in 2022. Aside from the work setbacks and breaking ties here and there, there was also room for the good stuff. Every year, towards the end, I travel to Mexico to spend time with my family (and run away from the Dutch winter, because that CAN BE gloomy). My sister's company and partner, CARMA - a Mexican digital marketing agency - sets up their CARMATÓN: a Christmas toy drive that collects clothes, toys and candy and brings them to kids in underprivileged communities in the Jalisco area, in Mexico.
In previous years, I decided to make a donation myself. However, this year, a mere weeks before my flight, in the midst of my underwhelming professional life, I decided 'Why not contribute more myself?' I could ask some of my closest acquaintances (who knew me well enough to know I wouldn't run off to Cancun with the money) to also donate. I only shared it with a handful of friends on my personal Instagram and collected little less than EUR 200 in cash. With those EUR 200, I was able to buy 109 toys, and 14 megapacks of chips, cookies and candies to fill in little goody bags. Other donations came in with some of my friends shipping toys directly to the toy collection point. Along with the other donations that CARMA received, we ended up having to organize two days of the toy drive.
Being able to give back in such a modest way (on my side), made me realize that we can make a big impact even with a small input. That's why, this year, as the time comes nearer, I will try to expand whom I reach out to so we can make an even bigger contribution. We know that we don't solve world hunger or fix the socio-economic issues that these kids are growing in by doing this, but at least we can spread a little joy during one of the most symbolic times of the year.
Kicking off 2023 with New Year/life resolutions
After the whole 2022 debacle, I decided on a few things.
I will try to give more. For someone who sometimes (as I experienced in 2022) doesn't know if clients will pay (yeah, looking at you Company 1) and doesn't have the certainty/security that working as a regular employee provides with an incoming guaranteed paycheck every month, this is a tough one. For a while, I tried holding on to my pennies as much as I could, until I decided to trust that better things are coming.
I also decided that I no longer want to be around people that are not nice people - this applies both to my personal and professional life. For me, the basis of any relationship, be it work or personal, are RESPECT and COMMUNICATION.
Sometimes, the need for financial security has made me stay in situations that can be quite toxic, but the monetary payout keeps me there. In the end, it has never been worth the pain, stress, and self-doubt of my own knowledge, skills and achievements. In the case of friendships, my sense of loyalty and empathic side has made me put up with UNfriendly behaviour. It's true sometimes people are going through something and you have to be understanding. But when it's repetitive behaviour, it's not an isolated incident anymore: It's a pattern, and sometimes we have to accept that's who they are.
In my line of work, I have learned that you can say whatever you want, even something that is not nice, but the way you deliver it makes a huge difference. Both personal and professional disagreements can always be addressed respectfully. So, I am sticking to that.
As the new year kicks off, The Working Story is starting strong with several projects lined up for three different clients, which hopefully will translate into long-lasting work relationships. And hopefully, many more projects with other awesome, professional clients are on the way.
In the meantime, a huge thanks to everyone who stuck around, who believed in me (including me not running away with the donated money), and to my clients who continue to give me work so I can keep on keeping on. So, having said that: