Making drastic changes in life

I recently saw a big flaw in my attitude towards big life decisions. Once again.

I used to think that the jobs I had were the defining parts of my life in which I should find the reason for being. And I just didn’t get why I wasn’t happy, why none of them gave me full satisfaction and the feeling of living the complete life I felt I could have. Only after a long search, I started seeing that even though our profession is the go-to response to the identity questions, that’s not really a good answer. Because saying “I’m a marketer” is a huge understatement of who and what you are.

And that’s not to say that we shouldn’t work hard whatever we do.  Because we should. But at the same time, our generation has the most freedom to do whatever the fuck we want at any given moment. And we should use this freedom. At least till we turn into family people and get limited by commitments and responsibilities to the point where we can’t just flip everything off and try something radically new.

At the same time, I’m all for taking on responsibilities in general. But only the ones that make you more whole and happy in return, not blindly grabbing all those the society says you should have at your age. Because the standards change. And if 40 is the new 30, then 25 is the new 15.

One of the big reasons for my depression was the fact that I didn’t see any substantial meaning in being a marketer and in devoting the whole of myself to it. I felt that there’s so much more happening on the inside that wasn’t utilized by simply doing my job as good as I could. But I would stubbornly concentrate all my energy on work, neglecting relationships, friendships and all the other things I was lucky enough to have. Even though I was physically there for the people I loved, I kept thinking about work, constantly digging a deeper hole of insufficient meaning for myself.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a ton of meaning in honest work, in growing, in becoming the best possible professional version of you. But this doesn’t require all the immense energy sources your body and mind are producing for love, socialization, creativity, etc.

I learned it the hard way.

A couple of months ago I thought that marketing as a profession wasn’t fulfilling for me, even though on paper it’s kind if the perfect fit. So I put that career on hold and decided to go to China to become a coach. I always thought that coaching is kind of cool, so my logic at the time could be condensed to “why not, I’m unhappy anyway”. And so, feeling courageous and slightly judged for irresponsibility, I came to China.

Imagine my shock and despair when after a month in a completely new culture, with a completely new social circle and a completely new career I felt the same things I felt at all my previous jobs. Unfulfillment, boredom.

I clearly saw that yeah, I can do this, and yeah, I can be successful in it. But what’s the point? Where does this path bring me? Is it the best way to use up my time? Do I feel that my life is or will be meaningful here, far from all the loved ones?

I’ll level with you, I got really scared for a little while. I felt that this was just the way I am: unhappy, emptied and burned out. And the only choices I saw were:

1. To force myself to do something I saw no point whatsoever in doing.

2. To live in constant stress of getting used to new challenges.

And then it struck me. What if the meaning of life isn’t only in work? What if the spheres I neglected are just as (if not more) important than getting to the top of a corporate ladder?

You probably think that this was also the moment I felt sorry for going to China and for changing everything in my life so drastically and so quickly.

Well, not really.

I felt good. I felt relaxed. All the resources I poured into this trip were justified that very second since I’m not sure I would have realized the same things have I kept on going down my old path.

Catch my drift?  Would I have stayed, I would’ve been miserable for who knows how much longer. Which brings me to the main point I want to make in this text.

Even when you’re young it’s very easy to settle down and get used to stuff. A job that pays well, a city you don’t like that much, okay people. It’s easy to start telling yourself one or several points of the following:

  • If I change everything it can get worse
  • It’s just a normal life
  • Many people are far less happy
  • Many people live like this so that’s fine
  • I have invested a ton of time into this so I can’t quit

For some people, it works. But I also know for a fact that many people like me try to convince themselves that everything’s fine but don’t believe it.

And guess what it means.

It means that you’re not in the right place. It means that you can and should look for a way out, for a drastic change, for a new route to take. It means that all the reasons listed above that feel like concrete walls you can’t break – are just in your head.

If your being asks for change, it will get it. No matter how much you struggle to fight it, you can’t win in a fight against yourself. Some part of you loses either way. So why not trust yourself and at least consider the way your subconscious hints you at.

I think it’s worth completely changing surroundings when you feel stuck. When you find yourself in a new place with people you just met and doing stuff you’re not that good at, some survival mechanisms kick in and you start growing like crazy. And in this pumped up adrenaline-filled state, you have a decent chance to jump over several steps on a ladder which you were trying to conquer for years before that.

The truth is that some people never find ecstatic happiness. Some people do just live okay lives in okay cities with okay people. And for some people it’s fine. But imagine how sorry you’ll feel if you don’t try and see if you happen to be one of the lucky ones.

What if your fulfilled life was around the corner and you decided that the job you don’t like that much pays well for now?

You know what’s the scariest thing that can happen really if you find the strength to do what you want?

I will tell you cause it happened to me. You will start over. That easy. But this time with the new insights you gained, new experiences you had, and a ton of stories to tell.

Why I left everything and went to work in China

I went to work to China to work as a coach to feel alive again. To experience new culture and look at my life from the farthest spot possible and reevaluate the things it consists of. I went to China to escape the office work that had me sitting on my ass for the bigger part of my life, talking to pretend specialists about the things no one cared about.

I know people who would do this kind of work gladly and just get paid for making a serious face and pretending to listen during meetings. And that’s fine. I totally get that. It’s just that for me, at the age of 18-23 it was soul crushing. And not that much because of the work itself, but because I tried to find the reason to live in it and in its fruits.  

It’s hard for me to write about where is all started for some reason. I know all the reasons perfectly well, but I’m kind of tired thinking about them.

Nonetheless, several months ago I finally figured out that my job and my relationships weren’t right for me at that time. Even though everything was objectively going fie, I was really unhappy. Truth be told, the main reason for it was me. It was my forth year working in marketing and over the years I kept getting more stressed out, critical of myself and unhappy. Even though I had some amazing work opportunities and climbed the career ladder rather fast, I wasn’t enjoying it.

I won’t get too deep into all of the reasons for that, that’s for me and my shrink to discuss, but in a nutshell, I wasn’t able to just come in and do my job halfassedly. I had to deliver, I had to always prove something to everyone. I had to push myself to the verge rather than just work and do a decent job of it. I had some great bosses, some coworkers became my good friends, and my fiancee at the time was an extremely kind and the sweet person.

For now, sounds like I’m just humble bragging, right?

Well, I’m not. Because for three years or more, I was very, very depressed. I limited MYSELF and stopped meeting new people, I became reserved and bitter, I had an awfully hard time getting out of bed every morning and none of the things I did or had were making me happy. I felt royally ungrateful and pressured myself into feeling even worth for not being happier. Not a good strategy, FYI.

At some point, having gained 17 kilos I didn’t need, having developed mild health issues, having made everyone around me significantly less happy just by being miserable myself, I saw that something was wrong in my life and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Because if I did and kept on going the same route I was going, I’d become the type of person I dreaded becoming most. Namely, someone who’s given up, who accepted the status quo, who doesn’t care about neither their close ones nor themselves. Someone who stopped in every sense of the word and turned from a promising kid into a disappointing grown up.

The thing is that what society accepts as doing good isn’t always what you need. You may want a family and a career at some point. But if you’re not happy pursuing that now, why do it?

I’m being longwinded, I know. But I want to give anyone reading some context and possibly show them that there are ways to fix the awful state of a long-long depression. And it doesn’t necessarily mean working in China. It’s about believing that it can get better and therefore finding the strength to fix the things that are out of place.

Because speaking from experience, I didn’t think it I would ever get better. I was dead sure that this half living state was forever, that it was just the way I was and nothing could be done. So whenever anyone told me that I will feel better at some point, I was just getting more and more angry at the world that didn’t see the effort I put into daily functioning and how much it worth me.

I know that there are many of us out there who maintain decent social lives, look good on social media, build careers and stay in relationships at the same time feeling absolutely devastated. I’ve been there and it’s awful.

So, to cut a long story short, after I broke up with my fiancee and put most of my marketing projects on hold, I already felt significantly better. But now I needed some proof of concept to show me that my newly gained freedom is really something I imagined it would be. That’s why I googled around and found an agency that would help me find a job in China (doing whatever, I didn’t care all that much).

I wasn’t specifically keen on going to China. It’s not like I dreamt about working there or even visiting for years. I just thought about the biggest change of surroundings I could make, that biggest shift I can make in the shortest period of time. And China seemed like a far better spot than the stuffy old Europe.

For some reason, on every step of the way, when the perspective to go to China was getting more and more real, I wasn’t anxious or stressed out. I just chilled, saw the girl I really-really liked and finally felt relaxed and calm. It was so unlike me that every so often I’d snap out of it and ask myself why I wasn’t panicking. But this new happy state of being was so unbelievable and refreshing for me that I just kept on living.

The 2 month of preparation, while extremely packed with events and emotions, were the calmest times I’ve lived since I was probably 13. I just knew that I was doing the right things in my life on a bigger scale. I felt like I moved the huge pieces that were holding me back, so everything else started falling in the right places automatically.

As I was saying, I felt skeptical about this trip working out. On each and every step something could go wrong and I wouldn’t be able go. But at first the agency found the company where I’d work, then I passed all the interviews successfully, then the documents started moving between cities and all the to-dos required were just happening. Strangely enough, me not stressing out didn’t make this whole venture harder to happen. On the contrary, I just showed up, did what I had to do, everyone else did their part and it all kind of happened.

Because going to China to work isn’t rocket science, despite what it looks like from inside the box. It just takes one person willing to come and a couple of other people willing to give them work. That’s it. The bureaucracy and papers may be messy. But overall, it’s very doable.  

Only while I was flying over Beijing, it struck me that all this is really happening. That I just decided I wanted it, did all the needed steps and here I was, looking at this amazingly huge entity from the sky, with 21.7 million people sleeping right below me. For several minutes I was overwhelmed by the fears I used to live in. The ones that try to block you and rob of any joy you might feel.

But then, they faded away. And you know why? Because in the last months I learned that even if something in China will be making me unhappy, that’s not a problem. I will either fix it or change it. I learned that leaving in fear of being unhappy in the future limits you incredibly in terms of the choices you have today. And even if you are unhappy because of the choices you made in the past, it’s not that big of a deal. Take new conditions into considerations, work out a new acceptable plan and stick to it. If the plan doesn’t work – adapt.  If you fail at something, don’t give up and try again.

I artificially limited myself for several years. And I know that a ton of people in their twenties do to. That’s no way to live your life. You can and should be happy. It’s not something only the chosen ones are worthy of. You just have to try. And of course there can be tough moments. Deal with them and move on. I promise you, it feels so much better to feel alive than to feel unrealized but secure.

The rise of a bullshit marketer

The online marketing niche is crawling with new “influencers”.  They don’t have much relevant experience. But they are all very active on social media and write at least several guest posts a month, they take parts in roundups and are very open about their opinions.

I totally get why they do it – the more presence they have online, the easier it is to convert new clients. And I’m not judging. But I do feel very sorry for those clients.

The problem is that for this kind of marketers it’s easier to get clients through quantity of content, not quality. So they got into a loop of Infinite Content (Arcade Fire reference). They need to create more content to stay relevant and that’s why it is and will be so basic and unoriginal.

Don’t know about you, but as an online marketer, I’m constantly bombarded with content about marketing.  On social media, via email, on websites I follow, etc.

I can judge this content based on some practical experience I have. And I can tell you one thing – be very careful with online marketing advice you read or listen to.  Because most of it is written without any evidence, research, and experience.

What’s worse, usually it’s not written to solve a need or to answer your question. They say that that’s their sole goal, but it’s not. This content is written to trick you into thinking you need some particular marketing software or services of the author or their company.

The amount of marketing content published every day could be hundreds of times smaller and no one in the world would bat an eye. There are literally thousands of posts on the same topics that bring nothing new to the table.

In my opinion, the online marketers who really know what they are doing and could share some valuable insights usually remain silent. Because, honestly, there’s nothing noble in sharing your tips and tricks with the “community”.

And the pros who find time and motivation to share, do it rarely because they have better things to do.

So the majority of marketing content isn’t written by professionals. And the majority of so-called “marketing influencers” are just people who either write obvious things or rewrite what someone smart wrote before them.

But how do these people get all those shares and links to their websites, you might ask.

That’s a valid question, thanks!

All of those shares and links are:

  • from other bullshit marketers who share and link to stuff just for the sake of networking;
  • from regular people who believed these influencers are real;
  • from a new batch of marketers who also still believe in influencers.

Developers, QAs, engineers, devops or HR specialists – they don’t have this compulsive urge to write, record videos and create infographics. If someday they feel like they have something to contribute to their field, they will put together a research or a post and publish it somewhere.

And it will be good because it will be dictated by an honest will to help and say something new.

But that isn’t the case for us, the egocentric marketers. Since many of us exist in this constant need to process and create information, it becomes a habit.

And since we work with other marketers, we start to think similarly and feel like each of us should have a platform to share our thoughts (oh so few).

Additionally, when you see that someone a lot dumber than you gets praise in your field, you get jealous and want to put yourself on the map too.

In reality, you can count the people who add value to the conversation about online marketing on one hand. Yet almost every marketer feels like they need to have their say.

We call it creating a personal brand. You get a website, you get more followers in social media, you start selling stuff.

I even fell for that motivation myself a while back. But the things I write about don’t really make up for a good personal brand, so I’m clean.

Nevertheless, there are good websites that try to bring value to this market. But they too get caught up in the never-ending stream of updates and recurring topics.

There are a lot of smart people in the field, but the niche works like this for a while now and there’s no changing it in the foreseeable future.

Anyhow.

I can rant about it for a really long time.

What I wanted to say is that when it comes to marketing content, you can’t blindly trust the first link Google spits at you. Use your critical thinking.

But then again, that advice is true for pretty much any situation.

Why I quit 3 times in the last year and a half and what I learned

I’ve been doing different kinds of sports ever since I was 5. And when I was little I had my own cherished understanding and respect for loyalty.

For some reason I really hated people who often switched from one sport to another rather than sticking to something.

Hard to tell, where I got this notion from. Probably one of my first coaches told me that you can only achieve success in sport(and life) through dedication.  And I took it as an absolute truth.

For a while, that was the way I felt about commitment and loyalty. Yet, every so often I had to go on and do a different sport. Because my family moved, because swimming fitted me better than acrobatics, because I didn’t like the thing I did before anymore.

Yet, I kept on thinking that loyalty and commitment are extremely important and those who switch sports often and leave my team or group are traitors. But at some point I started to develop critical thinking and understood that I myself wasn’t really an example of loyalty.

First I did acrobatics, then volleyball, then swimming, then high jump.

So I understood that life just happens. You do one thing, then you do something else. And most things don’t last forever.

And that’s okay. I’m happy I didn’t stay in acrobatics for my entire life. I was really bad — I once got a silver medal in a competition where there were just two participants.  So yeah. Switching lanes is okay.

But when I was starting to work, deep in me I still had the same excessive passion for loyalty.

I was thinking that if you stay in a company long enough, they will inevitably start valuing you and you’ll become one of them, and you’ll be really good and you’ll be forever happy.

And there are cases when that’s true. It is possible that you found the perfect company, team and work on first try.

But for most, it isn’t like this. And you owe it to yourself to understand it and to find the courage to move on.

In the last year and a half I changed 4 good companies. Neither of them fired me. I  quit all of those jobs.  And each time it was really emotional and hard. I’m not proud of it and I know that it might look bad on the CV. But if something isn’t right, you got to do everything in your power to feel peace.

So why did I quit those jobs?

Short answer: I didn’t like it there.

Something was always off – attitude of the colleagues, the boss, the salary, the little things.  But one of those things always led to another and what looked like a great opportunity during an interview became a very stressful experience couple of months in.

And in each company there are always employees who have been there for years and those who just love it there.

Good for them.

But you don’t have to adjust and try to fit in just because someone else likes the place you’re uncomfortable in.

Even though I always left having a new offer, leaving was scary every time. Telling your boss you’re leaving is incredibly scary. Waiting for the first day in the new company is scary. Losing everything is scary. Finding out that the new place is worse than the previous is scary. But you got to take the risk if you feel that you’re in the wrong place.

Anyway, here are some of the conclusions I’ve made after working for those 4 companies in a year and a half time span:

  • You need to talk to your superior if you don’t like something. They can’t and won’t read your mind to see how you feel. I wasn’t talking to any of my bosses honestly before. I just bitched about problems with my colleagues and when unhappiness pilled up, I quit. I didn’t talk to my bosses because I was scared they would get angry, I’d lose their graces and get fired. But the result is the same if I don’t talk and quit the job. So why not try talking?
  • You need to quit when the company isn’t giving you anything new. You can get everything from a company in a month, a year, 10 years. But when there’s no way for you to grow in terms of expertise and salary – there’s no point in staying. Unless you’re the CEO, CTO, CMO or other C-suite, when you reached the ceiling in the company, start looking for new opportunities.
  • Don’t feel like you have to tell anyone in the company that you’re looking for a new job. Unless you have real meaningful relations with someone there. Other than that, you don’t have to tell them anything. Considering other options and being open to opportunities is okay.
  • It’s okay to quit when a great opportunity arises. Your boss would do the same, probably did in the past and is likely to do it again in the future.
  • No one can disrespect you and belittle you. No matter who they are in the organization. If the company put a bad person in charge – screw them. Your professional dignity is crucial. If they don’t respect you – they won’t pay you adequately or help you grow. But most importantly – no one can humiliate you.
  • Bosses make mistakes too.  It’s okay to double-check what they say and make sure they didn’t mess up.
  • Wanting a raise isn’t a crime. If you see that your price on the market is higher – make it clear to the management. If they can’t help you – consider other options.
  • Taking sick days is okay. Even more so, it’s obligatory. If you’re sick – you have no right to come and contaminate the whole office.
  • Make sure to use your vacation days every year. Even if you don’t have any big plans.
  • A company needs you just as much, if not more than you need it. You don’t owe a company anything that isn’t specified in the contract.  A company won’t stay loyal to you if you’re not essential. People are viewed as resources by companies. Employees should view companies as tools for achieving goals.
  • Read contracts very carefully. Some companies put really messed up obligations in them.
  • Don’t give too many chances. If a company failed you twice, chances are, it will happen again. Don’t believe in last times.
  • No matter how unhappy I was when quitting, I never messed up my relations with anyone in the companies I was leaving. Some people might still be upset that I left. But I know that I did what I had to do and I didn’t lose face doing so. You will need a professional network later on in your life, so don’t trade it for being emotionally honest in an exit interview.
  • Extra hours cost extra.
  • It takes about half a year to get comfortable in a company. So when you decide to switch jobs, keep in mind that the next 6 months or so might be a little stressful.
  • If you’ve decided to leave, and have an offer pending, don’t take counter offers and just leave. If you stay and everyone knows you’ll leave if you’re given $100 more, that’s not good for your image.
  • Always keep your CV and LinkedIn account up to date and clean.

I’m not saying that I stick to all these rules now.  But I really try since I know they make employee’s life better.

I know switching jobs is scary. And it’s not always the right solution. Sometimes you need to solve problems and stay put. But there’s also nothing criminal in looking for new opportunities and taking the ones you think are good for you.  

Should you pursue a career in marketing

Anywhere you go, you hear about startups and tech companies. And even though the vast majority of them doesn’t make any real product and solves problems that don’t exist, they still get a ton of praise.

These days, everyone is a co-founder, vice president or head of something in a no-name tech company. And if you don’t know how it works, from outside it might look like all these people are achieving something and make the world a better place.

Well, they don’t.

But still, due to extensive media coverage and PR campaigns, most of us got this notion that working in tech is cool. That IT is somehow better than a job in a brick-and-mortar business.

Well, it isn’t.

It’s just apples and oranges. But that’s not my point now. My point is the following.

When a young person after school or uni is inevitably tempted to try and get a job in IT, there are very few options:

  • coder
  • qa
  • manager
  • hr
  • devops
  • support
  • marketer

And if you’re not particularly technical, enjoy creativity and don’t want to go against your nature, the choice really narrows down.

So a lot of people who’re into liberal arts, consider becoming marketers.

Entry level positions are easy to get. And it’s one of those jobs that may even seem fun and fancy at first. And that’s a good thing. The more talented people become marketers the better. And if some less talented or suited for the job will come along, soon they’ll leave.

 

Do I recommend becoming an online marketer?

Not unless you just love to read and write.

There will be fewer meetings than in other IT jobs, there will be more creative freedom and choices. There will be a ton of information processing and thinking.

You won’t be making slogans whole day long. You won’t generally sit around a room in bean bags discussing creative approaches.

You will be analyzing and researching. You will need to master a ton of software and perfectly you’ll need to know some basic coding.

Most importantly, you’ll need to learn to talk passionately about products or services even if you hate and despise them.

That’s just the way it is.

You can’t sell stuff if you can’t convince yourself first that it’s the best on the market.

The thing is that most probably the product you’ll work with won’t be the best on the market. But the client can’t know about that. That’s why a lot of the times you’ll feel like you’re lying and pretending. Because you will be doing exactly that – lying and pretending.

But if you manage to grow fast and strong enough within the organization you’ll get a chance to influence the end product. So that you didn’t have to lie and pretend that much about it.

The important thing about an online marketer’s job is that you will need to know your product or service really good. Better than most in the company. And not only your product or service but also all of your competitors’.

Also, you need to be extra careful when choosing who you work for.

Cause see, no one associates a coder or a tester with the company they work for. But if you’re the guy promoting a business – people will feel like you’re the one responsible for PR fuckups of the CEO, bad product, bad customer service, etc.

And they will be partly correct. Since it was you who convinced them that you’re not selling crap.

I might be a tad too dramatic. But you will feel all these things. A little more or a little less. Depending on the kind of person you are.

Summing up

Marketing isn’t the way you see it in movies. But it is fun. If the company is right. And if you’re right for the job.

So what to do when you want to apply for an entry-level marketing position?

I strongly advise to google around and read about the company you plan to work for. As much as you can. But don’t fall for the cliche stuff like “corporate culture”, “innovative next-gen product”, “family-like atmosphere”. Read real reviews from real employees and clients.

Then read about the position you’re applying for. What these people do, what are the pros and cons. You can even get in touch with me if you really want to 🙂

But in general, try to read a lot of theory on that job first. Chances are, the actual work will be nothing like what it’s supposed to be. But still.

Other than that, if you’re still at the beginning of your career – why not try yourself in marketing.

Honestly, it’s not for everyone. But even if you don’t become the next Ogilvy, it might open some new windows of opportunity for you.