🐚 The Salty Shell: Lessons for (Office) Survival


My only full-time corporate job taught me a lot. A lot about people, office politics and procedures, and literally nothing about my job. Some could argue I only know one company, but I took my skills and learnings to freelance for 25+ agencies and 150+ brands after I left - because it doesn't take 40 hours to do my job and I can't do it well while sitting in a felt box.

πŸ§‚ Salty Insights: IYDKYWK

Unfortunately, I continue to see all of these red flags with every company I work with and I think everyone would be in a better place if everyone was a bit more human. Onboard like a human, give some color commentary, be available and approachable, have flexible systems, cancel meetings, and think outside the box.

I think, to be successful you need to worry about yourself, be proactive, and able to anticipate what's next while providing value to your team, cross-functional departments, and the brand/organization as a whole. Make them think you're not replaceable because not everyone is.

Don't sit back and wait for anyone to bring you information, a raise or promotion.

βš“οΈ Anchor Your Success: Have Your Own Back

This list could be incredibly long and include things like a junior employee will take an hour to write a well thought out email and the CMO will reply "thx." Or people will use and abuse your calendar if you don't take control of it. People really do steal your food out of the fridge, burn popcorn and reheat fish.

I will say, everyone could improve their onboarding process whether it be for new employees or freelancers and the biggest thing missing is the human element - onboard them the way you would want to be onboarded:

  • Lunch: when do people typically take it? How long? Where do they go? What's the culture like?
  • A tour on the first day is overwhelming, do it again in a week when they know who people are and what departments exist and why.
  • Talk about meetings - what are the recurring ones? Why? Who goes? What will their role be?
  • Have a team meeting that's not at the office so you can all get to know the new person and make them feel comfortable.
  • Processes and drives - don't expect someone to be as curious about the Google Drive as I am - tell them where things are, what they should be aware of etc - it's common courtesy.

More Snakes than Ladders

HR does not have your back and nothing is confidential. HR works for the company and will do whatever it takes to protect the company. They laugh and gossip about confidential issues with the door open, accidentally BCC the entire organization on Workman's Comp emails for months (thank you, it was pretty entertaining) and make you wonder why you went to them for help.

Snakes are people, things, or predictable situations that hinder your performance. In the sense of the board game, you can take shortcuts climbing the ladder, get bitten by snakes or be the snake and have to backtrack. The best way to win at snakes and ladders is to not look for either but to move square to square consistently.

Till Layoffs Do We Part

You need a work bestie or two for SO many reasons. You spend the majority of your week at work with this person, they're safe to talk, bitch, collaborate and go out to lunch with. They have your back and they're your therapist on Slack.

I didn't have one when I first started, but while I was on maternity leave, a new hire reached out via email to introduce himself and typical me, I was secretly reading my emails while on leave (because who wants to come back to months of emails?). I replied and we started chatting, I asked about specific things and people and we quickly realized we vibed and could confide in each other. When I left this company (because I moved), I cried - because I was leaving my work bestie and felt awful about the people he was going to have to work with without me. We are still friends.

This was back before Slack and GChat, we legit downloaded AIM to talk during work and AIM really wasn't being used by anyone at this point. We were trendsetters, I suppose. Ridiculous that we had to be secretive that we talked at work in a way that no one could hear us.

C-Suite? More Like Ivory Tower

I've never understood why someone would aspire to be a CMO or in a corporate leadership position. After what I saw and experienced, I would never want people to think of me that way. Leadership is so out of touch. They sit in their back-to-back meetings talking about who knows what - well we do know, because we find out in meetings (because we need more meetings) what brilliant (not) idea they've come up with.

Rarely does leadership/CSuite's direction ever line up with data, the state of the business, current campaigns, what the audience is saying etc. Not only are they out of touch with the business, other than financials, they are out of touch with their teams. They speak more than they listen, they see positions, not people and they love to take all of the credit.

I would never aspire to be that.

Loud & Proud

As you know, I typically say what everyone else is thinking, but when appropriate. This was my first corporate job so I was in a ton of meetings and everyone was pretty quiet or only the same people would talk, but as soon as we got back to our desks, the secret emails and shit talking would start. "That campaign we just approved is so stupid, it's not going to do well." Then why the hell didn't you say something? Why did you agree with it? So now we all have to sit here and work on something we know will flop? Make it make sense.

I speak up in meetings when I can add value with my subject matter expertise or give my opinion. If I don't think they'll understand then I'll ask a question I know the answer to, but to get them thinking or make them think whatever I'm trying to convey is their idea.

Speaking up improves your relationships within your team, company, agencies, and whoever you're working with and it shows your worth. You gain allies, you find people start asking for your opinion and people will remember what you say.

That Could've Been an Email

Speaking of meetings, they could probably be emails. I'm all for meetings when they are productive, have a purpose and are the appropriate length. I don't care if a meeting is 15 minutes or 4 hours, if it's necessary, I'm there.

A lot of time is wasted in meetings. If the purpose is to share information, updates or reports - email it. If you want feedback or to brainstorm - email, then have a meeting after people have time to review.

Stop recurring meetings. So often we are forced to pull an agenda out of our asses or think the client will think we are a bad agency if we cancel the meeting - cancel the meeting! If there's nothing to talk about, there's nothing to talk about!

I cannot brainstorm on demand. I need time to think, wander the internet, and work things out on paper - I'll get back to you.

I've never been a fan of people who withhold information until a meeting, whether it's a team meeting or one on one, why did you wait 4 days to tell me that? You could've Slacked me or had a quick call.

Fluorescent Fatigue

There's not too much you can do about lighting in the office other than bringing your own, and you should. If you're stuck in a land of cubicles with no windows or fresh air, I think you should do whatever it takes to get out, but while you're there - make it better.

Sometimes we'd be able to convince the whole section to turn off the lights so we could work in peace without those horrific lights above us. I had a daylight lamp in my cube for more lighting but for the lighting that made my eyes happy.

Other than the lighting, cubicles suck. You don't have any privacy, you can hear everyone (especially if they are chomping on chips) or pounding angrily on their keyboard. You can't talk to colleagues without everyone listening and you have no idea if the world has ended because you can't see outside and you're stuck breathing forced air at god knows what temperature all day.

If it doesn't take you 40 hours a week to do your job, you're still stuck sitting in your felt box. Even if you have your own office, it's misery. There's no flexibility. That's why I freelance - for freedom.

Network If You Want to Work

Whether you're content in your job or not, get out of the office, especially when the company will pay for it. Try to go to every conference you can - everyone needs a little time a way. It's certainly not a vacation because you probably won't leave the hotel, but you get to meet a lot of new people, learn new things, and get a bunch of new LinkedIn connections.

I met a lot of my now closest friends at conferences and it was great when we all kept going to different conferences and meeting up - expensed friend time. I have had a lot of new business come to me through someone I met at a conference - I've never worked with them or for them, but they like me and know of my work so they recommend me. A lot of people get poached at conferences to way better jobs.

🌊 Use Your Brain Waves: Be Proactive

Think about your answers or create documents to address the below. Even when I knew I was leaving a toxic agency that wrecked my mental health, I spent 2 weeks working on a document that would be helpful for anyone taking over. It included every document and process I could think of, but they weren't just linked, I included my personal thoughts, things I didn't agree with, recommendations, client backgound (person by person), account team red flags, people to befriend, people not to trust - the most helpful onboarding playbook ever.

β€’ What's your company culture like?

β€’ What do you wish you would've known when you started?

β€’ What do you wish someone would've told you your first week?

β€’ If you were hit by a bus or simply wanted to go on vacation, how would people know how to help or cover you while you're out? Create your own job bible.

Is there anything you can do to improve any of the above right now?

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