As a Marketing Coordinator, I spend most of my days using social media as a window into the soul of the marketing industry.
I scroll endlessly, asking myself, “what are people talking about?” and more importantly, “how can I use this information to build us into an unmatched digital creative agency empire?”
During my millionth hour of scouring a corner of Linkedin for potential marketing dirt, I stumbled upon a phenomenon called “The Great Resignation”.
This idea that the worldwide upheaval brought on by COVID -19 has caused people to look deeply within themselves and re-evaluate not just their professional choices, but their personal ones, as well.
In November of 2021, it was reported that 4.5 million Americans had left their jobs. With most citing dissatisfaction with workplace conditions and company culture as the main reason across the board.
This civil uprising against corporate America got me thinking about my place in this revolution. I quickly realized that the pandemic-induced professional journey played out a lot less like the Devil Wears Prada, and a lot more like a Hallmark-esque cliche.
I have been conditioned to define success with a few key things. A corporate job, shiny hair, a hot boyfriend, and a kickass wardrobe. I wanted to walk the halls somewhere with a title that intimidated everyone around me, and have the confidence to match.
Most importantly, though, I wanted to have all of these things in a place a million miles away from my hometown.
Growing up in suburban North Carolina, I spent my days with The Smiths blasting in my headphones, cultivating my hipster identity, and convincing myself that there HAD to be something better out there.
So, as soon as I could, I left a world of humidity and Southern hospitality behind and moved to Seattle, Washington. I attended college in a socially frigid hippie-topia, and did my best to assimilate.
I achieved the shiny hair, and for a while, even had the hot boyfriend, all the while keeping my eye on that corporate job. Then… the pandemic hit.
I sunk into isolation and felt my twenties slipping away. I wrestled with the reality that my professional aspirations may need to be put on hold. Realizing that all I wanted to do was go home.
After six years of pretending to care about politics and mountain ranges, the pillars of the PNW, I returned to Raleigh.
I hesitantly accepted a hostessing gig at a restaurant just thirty seconds away from my childhood home, spending every free minute searching the internet for my big break.
I had never worked in the service industry before, and quickly learned that while rolling silverware was not my destiny, there is immense beauty in honest work.
At the end of a virtually thankless shift, I’d collect my whopping $7 in tips, and somehow, I never felt frustrated.
I had something no other job had ever given me, a community.
My favorite post-work ritual became drinking a cold beer with the after-work crowd. I began getting to know a group of guys from the car dealership across the street, blue collar fathers and husbands who stopped in to unwind after a day of turning wrenches.
Some of them are clowns, doing anything to elicit that perfect spit take, some of them are introspective and sit quietly taking in my words, and some of them are tough, wearing a lifetime of experiences like a suit of armor. Despite all of their differences, though, there is something that bonds them, their values.
Hard work, strength, and kindness are at the core of everything these men do. As a few of them celebrate 20+ years in the same position, the pride that they take in a job well done never wavers.
They provide for their families, support each other, and they support me. Watching me go on interview after interview, they were my cheerleaders. Assuring me of my resilience, intelligence, and capability.
While on the seemingly endless job hunt that eventually led me to M&P, I found myself overcome with admiration for the lives these men have built on everything that I had run from.
I began to re-define success as their dedication to their craft, their dedication to their families, and their dedication to one another. Small town life didn’t scare me anymore, and instead made me feel more content than I had ever dreamed of.
I don’t want this piece to be mistaken for my denouncing climbing the corporate ladder, but instead seen as my personal belief that as you make that climb, taking time to touch down every once in a while is essential.
It does not make you any less of a shark. I plan on being one hell of a shark myself, but if the Great Resignation has taught me anything, it’s that I’d rather not get to the top of that corporate ladder and realize I’ve sacrificed my integrity, my mental health, or my happiness.
As they read this, I hope the men I wrote about are proud of the marketing industry badass I’m working to become, but at the end of the day, the thing that means the most to me is being able to drive ten minutes down a small town road, and laugh with them when I need to take a break from climbing this ladder.