I knew it was coming—we all did. Deep down, though, I thought it wouldn’t actually happen to me. It couldn’t, right?
I was prepared. I had saved all my contacts and updated my resume. I even bought a flight out of town for the day after – and wore all black in a grim attempt at humor. As I pulled in to the office parking-garage, Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More” started blasting through my radio. Things weren’t looking good.
We were all gathered into a room – hundreds more on speakerphone – when our suspicions were confirmed. Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign had run out of money and many of us would be let go. When my turn came to talk to my boss – I had been McCain’s Director of Surrogate Operations – he thanked me for my work and apologized that things had to end like this.
I started to cry.
How was I going to explain this – to my friends, my family, my future employers? I might not have been “fired,” as people see it, but I wasn’t worth keeping. It stung.
I started interviewing as soon as I could, but nothing materialized. I did my best to reach out to contacts I’d made, but, at the beginning of my career, those were few and far between. Something was amiss.
I realized that while I was pursuing positions to advocate on behalf of others – as a spokesperson – I was uncomfortable advocating for myself. When it came to discussing salary, my chest would get a little tight and I would demur: “whatever you think is fair.” While working, I was always at home fighting for what I thought was right, but if someone belittled my resume in an interview, I found myself nodding along in agreement. I would make sarcastic dumb jokes if asked what my best quality was (“my interpersonal skills, can’t you tell?”), and if I heard a former colleague was applying for a job, I’d scratch it off my list.
As women, we inherently know that promoting ourselves is a death knell. We are supposed to be liked – and I want to be liked – and talking about how great we are (to strangers nonetheless) is not the way. This prescription is a catch 22 for female interviewees, and I was the latest victim.
I wish I could say that I figured this out at the time and changed my tactic. I didn’t. But, my hard work paid off, and I was offered a job with someone I had worked with before. Little did I know, the thing that rocked my world the most – being let go – would be a blessing in disguise. About 6 months later, I returned to the McCain campaign post-primary – and in a higher job than I had started. As my Dad once put it to me, I fell up.
Not all lemons can turn to lemonade, but I wouldn’t count yourself out if the world deals you a difficult hand.