Like most people, I have different groups of friends. I have my college friends, my early-adulting career friends, my business school friends, and my expat friends. What has always struck me about these groups of friends is that they couldn’t be more different. The careers they have, where they choose to live, and what they choose to do in their down time is different.
But because I’m your weird friend that loves talking about money and career paths, I’ve had numerous in depth conversations about this with all of these different people.
What has struck me about these very, very different personalities, is that they all want the same things: they want to be financially secure so they can make choices in life (whatever that means to them), they want to be valued, and they want to feel like they have a voice. Whether they prioritize career, family, fun, or personal development, it doesn’t matter. This is what they want and need.
In knowing that I focus everything on here to help people be more financially secure, feel valued, and have a voice. To me, all three things are interrelated.
2. I’ve learned what happens when you speak up
Two years into my first post-college job I was sitting in my partner’s office for my annual review. He’d just told me I’d earned an early promotion and the pay raise I wanted. While a lot of the details of the conversation are fuzzy, I remember one thing he said to me very clearly:
“I’m not often wrong about people, but I was wrong about you. You went from being my least favorite person to my favorite. Last year I would’ve said you’d never make it. Now I have no doubt in how far you’ll go.”
What struck me was that I hadn’t changed that year. I was the same person. I had the same work ethic. I worked just as many hours. And I was just as smart (or not smart) as I was the year before.
The only thing that changed was that I decided to begin confidently asking for things. I wanted to work on certain clients, I wanted certain experiences, and I made it clear that I was determined to get a promotion and a raise. Asking for things changed the course of my 5 years with that company, and likely changed the course of my career.
Asking for things – strategically – didn’t end there. While I didn’t stay on that career path, I asked for the opportunities I needed to shift the trajectory of my career (see why I believe in a career lattice, rather than a career path). I’ve asked for more money, I’ve negotiated new rates with clients, and I’ve asked for different flexible schedules so that I could make work fit in better with my life.
3. I’ve learned what happens when you don’t
Two years ago I landed myself in the hospital with a panic attack after being completely burnt out from work. I have no history of anxiety and I’ve had plenty of stressful jobs in my life. While there were a number of things that contributed to this situation, a big one was that I didn’t speak up.
I hate talking about this time in my career. I’m not proud of getting into this situation and I’m also not proud of how I acted. But as much as I want to sweep this part of my life under a rug and ignore it, I can’t because it taught me so much.
We moved to London in 2014 and I set out to find a job. I was still nearly $100k in student loan debt and desperate to get out. After 6+ long months searching for a job, I finally found a job. I knew the company had a reputation for being a difficult place to work (you either love it or hate it, there’s very little in between), but I felt desperate. On the first day, I remember being intimidated by the strong personalities in the room and I felt myself shrink back into a corner.
For months I hated my job. I didn’t believe in the project I was working on and I didn’t know how to voice that. Then, the travel started. When I took the job I specifically asked if I’d be required to travel and made it clear that I was looking for a job that would keep me in London. I was only going to be living in London for a short amount of time and I actually wanted to experience living in this city. Unfortunately, I ended up flying all over the world every week for a job that I really didn’t enjoy.
But, I still didn’t speak up.
While there were other reasons why my time there ended (I wrote about this in DailyWorth, which you can find here), when the dust settled I saw that I had more control than I realized at the time. If I deeply hated the project I was on or the travel was too much for me, I could have spoken up. I could have started a conversation about what I needed in order to be the best employee for them.
But I didn’t. I stayed quiet. While I don’t think that speaking up would have changed my eventual outcome of quitting, I do think it could’ve made things more bearable.
Looking back now it seems so silly to me that I didn’t know how to ask for what I needed.