Career · Finance

How One Job Made Me and Broke Me at the Same Time

Since I have a degree in something other than my chosen profession, although closely related, my climb up the corporate ladder has been slower than most of my peers. Things changed drastically once I was offered an associate financial analyst position at a large corporation in 2005.

I’d been working as a senior accountant for a family owned company, making around $36k/year. While I was learning a lot, as the finance department was just the CFO and me, there was nowhere for me to move up to. A friend of mine was working for a well-known and well-respected company and mentioned to me that they had a lot of finance openings. I hesitantly passed along my resume, figuring nothing would come of it. Incredibly, I got an interview and was offered a job. It was entry level, despite my 6 years of experience, but my starting salary was $44k/year — an increase of $8k just for moving to another company. This is the beginning of how this job made me.

My manager in that role was great — she encouraged me to get my MBA (which I did, with tuition reimbursement), and she gave me a promotion to financial analyst just one year after I was hired. This promotion bumped me up to $55k/year. I was finally on par with my peers in regards to salary and I obtained a graduate degree, paid primarily by my employer. There’s no doubt that this set me off on an incredible trajectory and it completely changed my life. If I hadn’t taken this job, I wouldn’t have my MBA and would likely be making less than $50k to this day.

But all good things come to an end. Shortly after my promotion, my manager accepted a new internal position. After that came a string of less than stellar managers, as well as a culture shift that made working there very difficult.

This is the part about how this job broke me. The culture at this company became such that they really believed that treating employees horribly would make them work harder. Instead, the good employees chose to leave the company, while the bad employees remained.

This was a culture where failure wasn’t an option. Mistakes were unforgivable and the environment was extremely tense. Every day I’d walk out of the building and think to myself, “This job is going to kill me.” They’d eaten away at my self-esteem so much over the years that I questioned my self-worth and really started to believe that I wasn’t good enough to find a job elsewhere. Fortunately I found the strength to leave and I’m thankful every day that I did.

This is a well respected company and when people hear that I worked there, they always ask what it was like, expecting to hear me confirm all the great things they believe to be true. This company provided great benefits and pay, but rarely is the culture ever discussed and people are shocked to hear of my experience. While I’m grateful that this company significantly increased my base salary and paid for my most of my MBA, I’m so happy that I don’t work there anymore.

If you’re in a position where you’re doubting your abilities and self-worth, I hope you find the strength to take the steps needed to better your situation. Don’t ever give employers or anyone else the power of deciding what you’re capable of.