How to Escape The Grasp Of Career Burnout
I pulled into the headquarters for Home Shopping Network. It was a towering corporate building with reflective windows and an HSN logo as its crown. In front, was a wide still pond with several alligators floating leisurely. Some dark and cynical part of my brain wondered if underperformers were thrown in.
In the waiting room, five TVs softly played different shopping channels, forming a strange and quiet montage of ridiculous products and quirky actors evangelizing them. A mousey and grandmotherly woman greeted me and sat behind the counter typing as I waited for my interviewer.
I was looking for a new finance job after working too hard for too long, for too little money. The first 70+ hour week I’d put in felt like a big accomplishment. But as these bender weeks bled into each other, it stopped being another cute chapter of hustle culture.
Home Shopping Network wasn’t the answer and I learned that quickly. A woman came to escort me to the interview room and, as the elevator opened to the fourth floor, I saw a wide and dense grid of cubicles that looked like the aftermath of a paper storm. They were abandoned, with cables dangling out of walls, computers seemingly ripped from their wombs. Lonely sticky notes dotted walls and keyboards languished without monitors.
As we walked, I saw two employees total on this huge floor, and they did not look happy. One looked exhausted. The other looked frustrated. I’d seen this play before so I tried to finesse a question to my escort, “So is it always this busy?”
She turned and said, “We did some cost reductions and layoffs recently. But it has already passed. We have great opportunities going forward.” I grimaced inwardly, knowing that macro issues usually bled downward onto the backs of workers. In my experience, a financially unhealthy company will struggle to maintain a healthy culture.
The subsequent two-part interview didn’t go well either. I sat across from a nice blonde woman who interviewed me, and then conferenced with the biggest jerk I’d ever dealt with. He was hostile and pushy, like I was being investigated for a homicide.