This is the story of two offers. It is not as cool as the story of 2 Chainz, but it will have to do. Recently, we all relearned a good fighter will fall if you hit them hard enough. Word to Anthony Joshua. What does the story of Mr. Joshua have in common with Mr. Garrett? Last month the heavyweight champ and I were left holding the L. The difference is he caught the hands of the heavyweight champ, Andy Ruiz, Jr. I got hit with two job offers and lost both in one week. Here is a quick timeline of the events:

  • I have been looking for new work opportunities for over two years
  • Recently, I interviewed for “Job #1”
  • Soon thereafter, I interviewed for “Job #2”
  • I received a perfectly satisfactory job offer from Job #1
  • I disclosed to Job #2, whom I had not heard back from, the offer from Job #1
  • Job #2 countered with a tentative offer (major key to events that will unfold later in this story) that was better than the final offer from Job #1
  • Rather than string Job #1 along, I decided to (professionally, but mistakenly) pass on their offer
  • Job #2 recommends I disclose to my current job that I have accepted their tentative offer because they will conduct a reference check “soon” (this never happened)
  • One week later, Job #2 rescinds their tentative job offer
  • One week later, Job #2 reinstates their tentative job offer
  • Having lost Job #1 and having gained more than a few trust issues with Job #2, I end the month losing two jobs in one week

Allow me to talk you through what I learned about myself during this chaotic process and why I walk away from this experience a better person. I’ll warn you that I’m not sure this story has a happy ending. I can only guarantee you that it does come to an end.

Escape from Career Purgatory

I realized very early on that my current role wasn’t a good fit. This is no one’s fault. It happens. Sometimes what shines bright in the dark doesn’t look as good in the light. To fix the issue, I started doing what I’ve always done. I went looking for other jobs. What began as a simple search turned into a protracted odyssey rivaling the plight of Sisyphus.

I began my quest with impossibly high standards. I don’t know if you’ve ever been single and looking (not by choice) for years, but eventually, I was willing to take (almost any) job that swiped right.

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by my past job experiences? It has never taken me longer than a few months to find my next role. Like never. I mean like since the age of 16, never. Therefore, I have no personal frame of reference remotely close to this on-going experience. Given my expectations were so widely misaligned, I have cycled from negotiable to miserable and every emotion in between.

Well-meaning people have tried to help me see the positives. “You should be grateful to have a job,” they say. This is the equivalent of telling someone to enjoy the beauty of a sunset while they are lost at sea. This is the advice an antagonist might offer a victim suffering from stockholm syndrome.

These types of people advise us to see the “cup as half full.” They mean well. Allow me to retort. If half my cup is empty and the other half is filled with something I don’t want to drink is that really a come up? I think I’d rather go thirsty.

Forty hours a week, 52-weeks a year, for 40-years is a long time to live a half-fulfilled life.

In fairness, there have been a few redeeming qualities during this transition period. For these I am grateful. They include but are not limited to the following.

  • Mentors and Personal Network – I have a great network of mentors. I have confided in many of them during this process. Several are my personal friends, prior coworkers, job references, or all of the above. It was a mentor that explained “professional purgatory.” Paraphrasing, they described it like this.

You are too well paid to bring in at the bottom of the income ladder. Yet, you don’t have the years of experience to be brought in at the top. You have management experience, but not executive experience. Any company hiring you would have to make a choice: 1) pay you a high-rate as a manager—possibly blowing their budget—and hope you don’t leave or promote out of their division, or 2) take the first gamble on you as an executive, despite the fact that you do not have any executive-level experience. Further, due to your age and years of experience, you are now competing against higher and higher caliber candidates at a time when there are fewer and fewer (executive management) boxes available to fill. You are in professional purgatory.

  • Life Outside of Work – I’ve said his before, but it may bear repeating: don’t let your job define you. It’s fine to have a job you like, preferably, one you love. I might be going about life all wrong, but I don’t pursue work I love. I pursue an income that can support a lifestyle I love. Therefore, work is a means to an end. I work to live; not live to work. Further, it is my personal experience–and from observing the experience of far too many friends to count–to remember employers are businesses. I’ve witnessed many cautionary tales where friends who like/love their jobs lose them simply because an employer woke up one day and decided quarterly profits or shareholders were more important than the livelihoods or loyalty of their employees. By morning they’re employees. By lunch, they are in the unemployment line.

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  • I am also extremely grateful for our business, Paychecks and Balances, LLC. It has provided me a much-needed lifeline by remaining a consistent north star in an increasingly turbulent professional sea. I have had six years of consistent positivity and growth to look forward to here. It offers counterbalance against the chaos of the professional world; where the only constant is change. Whether you feel your job is great, bad, or indifferent, I recommend that you have something outside of the 40-hour work week to keep you afloat should the professional tides ever unexpectantly turn.

Related: Chances Are the Decision to Leave a Job Won’t be Yours

Not surprisingly, my most meaningful life lessons come from my most painful experiences. This event reinforced the benefits of owning my own business and why I should re-emphasize financial independence. As long as the fate of my paychecks remain in the hands of anyone other than myself the reality is someone can always change their mind about whether they want to continue to pay me. The worst feeling in the world is realizing you should have stopped procrastinating on taking those swimming lessons because you are in the middle of drowning.

Protect Yourself at All Times

On a personal level, I hate not being in control of my own life. I don’t need a handout. I don’t need a slap in the face either.

The ‘job search’ inherently limits my (everyone’s?) ability to control my destiny. I can’t force anyone to hire me. I can only do my best to resemble the most hirable candidate. When opportunity knocks, I should be qualified to answer. But, what happens when there is no door?

There is a large amount of data that suggests the biggest source of stress is the workplace. Yet, finding a job is itself a job. If you are drained by workplace stress, then you’re not going to have the capacity to go out and look for another job. – The Workplace Is Killing People and Nobody Cares

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I have no way of knowing everyone’s experience. I don’t know how closely mine aligns with the exceptions or the rules. However, as a Hiring Manager myself, I try to extend efforts to inconvenience applicants as little as possible. I know and respect the game played on both sides of the hiring table.

For me, it might be the routine administrative motions of filling yet another random position. For the applicant, this job might be the one that impacts the rest of their career.

I’m not asking of others anything more than I ask of myself. A minor effort on everyone’s part would have prevented this whole fiasco and this blog would be about my one new job rather than how I nearly lost three. Here is a simple, less serious example of how this works in the real world.

In my role, some candidates ask about our telework policy. For some, not having telework as an option is a dealbreaker. I know this is a fact. This leaves me with two choices:

  1. I can tell applicants the whole truth and nothing but the truth; or
  2. I can tell applicants the half of the truth most convenient to me and most likely to make them accept the job.

In practice, I know our telework is nonexistent. Of course we have a telework policy, but we effectively don’t allow it. I could tell the candidate, “We are working on our telework policy.” This is a statement of truth, but it is not the whole truth. Because I know we have been “working” on our telework policy for nearly four years (and appear poised to work on it for the next four).

In both instances, I am telling the truth. In one instance am I telling the whole truth. It might be easier to hire under false pretenses than allow the applicants to make the most informed decision about their future. I practice the school of Keep it 100 and let the chips fall where they fall.

Before this month, I assumed most employers extended this same good faith. My doubts about that assumption have grown. Since I’m on the topic, a few other observations that I’ve experienced and toss out there as highlights:

  • Make an Effort – One recruiter (in good faith) kept me apprised about a potential job offer for well over one year. Ultimately, the job wasn’t filled. While this time span is somewhat insane, it was for a great job that they knew I was extremely interested in. Not to be dramatic, but it could have possibly changed my entire professional life. The recruiter knew this and I truly admire and respect them for making an effort to keep me up-to-date when they did not have to. This was not required of them. They made a choice to go above and beyond the minimum effort.
  • Stop Ghosting Candidates – I’m not asking you to follow-up for 365 days like the golden recruiter mentioned above, but most of us have automatic HR systems. A simple closing of the requisition or notification that another candidate was selected is more than sufficient. Saying “we’ll call you back” or “we’ll be in touch,” then disappearing into a black hole as if you just collected the final infinity stone and Thanos snapped your way back into the multiverse is…frowned upon.
  • Tell the Whole Truth, Not Just the Convenient Truth – If you know your applicant has a disqualifier, tell them. I know this is an uncomfortable conversation. I’ve had to have it with multiple candidates. But, most applicants are adults (over the age of 18). Treat them like it. To be fair here, and in full disclosure, I was ultimately contacted about the results and reasons for the changes in the decision. It was too little too late, but I must acknowledge the acknowledgment. (More on why timeliness matters later.)

Looking at the cup as half full–and you know how I feel about half filled cups–I’ve decided I’m not going to hate the player, but I will change how I play the game. I’ll walk away from this event a better fighter even if they knocked me to the canvas with a completely unnecessary punch below the belt. As they warn before the beginning of every fight, protect yourself at all times.

Lessons Learned and Key Takeaway

The facts of my experience are this: I told three jobs the truth and almost lost all three as a result. I still believe honesty is the best policy. But, here are some lessons learned:

  • Lesson Learned #1: Unless you are applying internally, do not disclose to your current job that you are looking for work. I believe the risk of disclosure is greater than the reward of waiting until your official two-week notice (unless required by contract to disclose sooner). Yes, I’m still employed but it is awkward. The scenario is equivalent to your mistress convincing you to admit to your significant other that you’re having an affair and plan to leave. The next day your mistress randomly breaks-up with you to be with her soulmate. Now you (choose to?) work on your marriage. In the words of Aubrey Graham, ‘Nothing Was the Same.’
  • Lesson Learned #2 / Lucky Break – Never put in your two-week notice until you have an official offer or confirmation letter. I was extended a ‘tentative offer.’ The tentative offer was rescinded (then tentatively reinstated). Lesson Learned: Do not assume any employer will perform reference checks. Instead, ask them to notify you on the exact day of or one day before they are finalizing your offer so you can give your references/employer a courtesy notice.
  • Lesson Learned #3 – If you receive more than one tentative job offer, regardless of the order of offers, accept both until one is official. I know this statement will upset several hiring managers. Having had candidates burn me as a hiring manager in this exact fashion, it pains me to even offer this advice. However, based on the facts, here is my reasoning.
    • As a Hiring Manager, you are primarily concerned about the needs of your company (as you should be). I will never know, and therefore have to assume, this is why they likely knew they were going to rescind my offer long before they actually told me. I know the game. At most companies, the employer’s needs > the individual’s needs.
    • Applicants, on the other hand, should be primarily concerned about themselves and their household. These companies will continue to have a hiring budget whether they onboard you or not. In a worst-case scenario, I could be completely jobless right now simply because I tried to be open, honest, and transparent with everyone. And guess what? Nobody cares.

Key Takeaway: I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Who knows how or why this happened. It happened, and it is what it is. Sometimes that’s all there is to it. It may be unfortunate that this is how we have to operate in the professional world, but I recommend you put yourself first in all interactions because that is exactly what employers do. You may not go undefeated but never lose the same way twice.

——–

If you came here for the professional part of the blog this is your official intermission. Thank you for reading. Have a wonderful day and a thousand years of continued success and prosperity. Now that I’ve gotten the professional spill out of the way, it’s time for the personal anecdotes.

For those who remain…

——–

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

When a dam breaks, it’s natural to focus on the immediate flood instead of all the prior warning signs. We ignore the minor repairs when times are good and allow a thousand storms to weaken us over time. In my case, it was never a matter of if I’d break. It was a matter of when.

Time might heal all wounds, but that assumes you take the time to heal. Otherwise, you move on just as broken but more susceptible to breaking again. Maybe you’re lucky enough to hide the skeletons in your closet before anyone else sees them poking out. This experience forced me to confront a number of internal issues that I likely would have continued repressing. Why? Denial has gotten me this far.

In the words of Kevin Hart, “He wasn’t ready.”

Mental-health issues affecting young adults and adolescents in the U.S. have increased significantly in the past decade, a study published in March in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found. The number of individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 reporting symptoms of major depression increased 52% from 2005 to 2017. – Many young people today think civilization may not exist when they’re of retirement age

If I were a boxer, I’d fight better off the ropes than the center of the ring. I like to counterpunch. For example, if there are 100 comments—and 99 are positive—I’m likely to overlook the first 99 to focus on the one negative. As a whole, I have trouble even taking compliments. I’m more likely to think “WTF did they mean by that?” than “Thank you.”

In the words of Aubrey, “I got trust issues.”

Depending on how long you estimate I will live, I have a theory that I have been going through an elongated quarter-to-midlife crisis. This doesn’t make me special. I’ve been depressed before. Who hasn’t, AMIRITE? Clinically? No. Depressed. Yes.

I bring up the quarter-to-midlife crisis because I was already on the edge of emotional collapse before this latest reality punch. I can’t speak for others, but the catalyst for my depression is typically sparked by two primary sources: internal (caused by self) and external (caused by life).

Fake it til you make it works great until you don’t make it.

Imagine it like this: you drive to work every day, but you likely do most of it from memory. You can probably drive whole blocks or miles without making a single conscious decision about your actions. Suddenly, you arrive at your destination and you wonder “how did I get here?”

Like an already well-known route, I don’t pay attention to each turn life takes because I usually know what will come next. On my best days, I even know what to avoid.

On my worse days, I cycle between laughter, crying, drinking, drinking, self-medicating, and drinking. I know there are no answers at the bottom of a bottle. The difference between 36-year-old me and 26-year-old me is that in the past I would have repeated this case study for the equivalent of a college semester to verify the results. Progress isn’t perfection, but in my latest visit to Rock Bottom, it took me a few weeks versus a few months to break the cycle.

Learn Your Triggers and How to Resolve Them

I am never depression proof. There are only periods when I go longer without falling into a pool of sadness and self-pity (Note: my issues are not clinical, which is a whole other separate type of recovery). 

The few benefits–and there are very few–of having gone through depression at an earlier age is that my reactions are predictable, albeit not preventable. I’m familiar with the 5-steps of grievance because I recall the moves from my many live performances: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (maybe) are all familiar friends of mine.

By now you might be reasonably and completely confused. 

“Why in the hell did you fly off the edge from what—in the grand scheme of things—was a fairly minor setback on the road of life?” you might ask. Well, I have an answer for you.

First, this latest roadblock completely blindsided me. As an added bonus, I had already had an emotional breakdown earlier this year from an unrelated event. Every subsequent emotional breakdown comes faster and easier once your spirit is already broken. Just because you don’t know I’m going through it, doesn’t mean I’m not going through it. Besides, is there ever really a good time for disappointment to arrive?

By way of reminder, I started casually searching for work over two years ago. Eventually, I started passionately searching. If I’ve applied for less than 100 jobs during this timeframe I would be shocked. I have received “you’ve been placed on the hiring list” notifications and I’ve even landed multiple interviews. Honestly, I don’t know which fate is worse: 1) to hear nothing for years, or 2) to hear something every few months resulting in nothing. Like getting invited to the prom but no one asks you to dance.

Not only was I excited about the promise of change after receiving 200% more job offers than I’d gotten in the last two years, I literally placed all my emotional eggs in one basket. Right when I had the audacity to hope for better, the safety net was ripped from under me, twice, in a 5-day business week. 

Professional Help to the Rescue?

For those of you lucky enough to have no idea what depression feels like I’ll do my best to explain my version. An invisible force pins me down for hours, days, months, or years.

My mind is free to wander. I know what I need to do. Some days, I even know what I want to do. Regardless of how I feel, this invisible force is always weighing me down. Therefore, it makes sense to do nothing when every exertion of effort takes twice as much energy: my normal effort plus the effort needed to fight off the depression. This is a slippery slope. 

Further, I’ve learned over the years that most people don’t like to be around sad people. They think they’re trying to help me but they’re really trying to help themselves. If I wanted to “cheer up,” I’d hire a clown. I’m fine being sad. I know sadness is part of the process and one of the spectrum of emotions I will need to experience before I move towards acceptance/recovery. In other words, stop rushing me, bro.

Trying to rush me through my sadness because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t help me. It helps you.

Rather than lecture or come across as having an attitude (I do have an attitude but that’s also part of the process), it’s easier to shut down and keep to myself. In fairness, there’s a healthy balance between falling completely off the earth to not burden other people with my problems versus alienating people who legitimately care about my well-being. That is a balance I still struggle with.

Left to my own vices, I know how far down the rabbit hole I can fall. A vicious cycle transpires whereby I’m so depressed I don’t feel like doing anything. This feedback loop becomes self-sustaining until one day I look up and three to six months (or longer) have passed—and this is a conservative estimate.

If this sounds depressing, my bad. In my defense, it is depression we are talking about. If I were a more mature and wiser man, I would have addressed these issues like an adult and sought counseling several years ago. But, De-Nile ain’t just a river, brother.

So, what changed this time?

While women read countless self-help books, listen to podcasts, seek out career advisors, turn to female friends for advice and support, or spend a small fortune on therapists to deal with old wounds and current problems, the men in their lives simply rely on them. – Men Have No Friends

Everything I’ve learned about “coping” has been self-taught. Age has granted me the wisdom to know I need to do better but not the will. My natural instincts are to return to my usual suspects: drinking excessively, denying incessantly, and pretending nothing is wrong indefinitely.

I’ve known for years, arguably over a decade, I need professional help to identify more coping tools, avoid my triggers, and better process my various emotions. I wish I had a more logical explanation for you than I’ve been too stubborn to admit I need help, because admitting I need help is…admitting I need help.

Maybe an acknowledgement of my own limits is a step in the right direction.

Thank God for Granting Me This Moment of Clarity

I’m too old for this sh*t.

I stopped thinking about getting help and finally acted on getting help. Contentment does not feel the same as happiness. Lapsing into depression every time life lands a good punch is not a long term plan. At least it is not the plan I want to follow. The initial steps for me:

  • Mental Care: Partnering with a therapist/counselor – As my co-founder talked about for Mental Health Awareness month, he has chosen therapy to help retool how he approaches life. Among other tools, I am doing the same. I recognize the privilege we both have to afford this as an avenue, which is why I also recommended on the show that folks employer-sponsored resources that might include counseling or Employer Assistance Programs.
  • Health Care – I’m fairly active in the gym already, but I have been doing the same routines for decades. I’m not getting the same results, physically or mentally. Thematically, I need professional help here too. I’m not positive what form this will take but I have my eye on a local boxing gym and/or partnering with a personal trainer.
  • #SelfCare: Journaling – You’re reading one half of this process (the blog). We brand our show as covering Work | Money | Life. Yet, our shows focus on the first two because they are easier to cover. Life comes at your fast. I wrote this post as much for my own cathartic process as it is an attempt to better meet our promise to cover an array of topics for the audience. When appropriate, I’ll balance sharing our wins, as well as our ups and downs along the way.

The intent of this post is not to intimidate. I hope this story was informative. I roll with the punches of my 30s better because of the trials and tribulations of my 20s. Life is constantly changing how it comes at you: new obstacles, new experiences, known knowns and known unknowns. I don’t believe life is hard. I believe life is complicated because it is unpredictable.

Many of us, self-included, focus on our strengths because we’re scared what exploring our weaknesses may reveal. I’ve learned that if I can get through today. I can get through tomorrow. The soft and hard skills you master in your youth become the tools you use to win in the future. You don’t get to an age where life stops challenging you. You get to an age where you have the confidence that you can handle the changes life throws your way. Over time, you gain a lifetime of valuable experience. Each accomplishment giving more and more evidence of your proven ability to overcome.

Remember, this too shall pass.

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Lastly, some of you are younger. Some of you are older. Some of you are wiser. All of you should feel free to share your insights in the comments below or Contact Us Here.

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