Hello everyone! It’s been the usual long time, and I’m back with more life experience for you to partake in! In June of 2011, I was hired as an Interactive Designer at a small startup. After working there as a freelance contractor for about nine months, I decided it was time to find a new workplace. My decision wasn’t truly necessary if you just look at the hard facts: my salary was acceptable for the average entry-level American designer, I had flexible hours, a good computer, a steady workload filled with interesting projects, friendly workers, and guaranteed a full-time position whenever the company was able to switch its workers from freelance to permanent. However, behind each of these facts was a fault that eventually became incredibly apparent (along with others I had no idea about).
The first of the facts became flawed a few months into the job– it was nearly impossible for me to find an apartment without a roommate on my salary. I had once dreamed of the day I would be earning the amount I was, but by the time it became a reality, inflation had made it paltry and nearly worthless if I wanted to be financially independent from my job. Even so, I accepted it for the time being, believing that I would, at the very least, receive some sort of pay increase after working for six months. Everything else was fine.
Soon, the flexible hours became an issue. Not for them, but for me. My bosses (I had two, and it was an interestingly comedic situation that I will not discuss) would leave at all times of day on short notice, which made working in the office confusing and directionless. I stopped receiving timely emails as well, and many of them made no sense. Sometimes, the only boss who wrote checks would suddenly not come in on payday, then sent an email out several hours into the day. We were always severely disappointed and enraged by false paydays. I was able to handle the pay rate, but not expecting to get paid on time wasn’t so easy. My coworkers and I would laugh about once again waiting until Monday, but dissatisfaction was brewing in each of us. One of my coworkers has yet to receive payment for two weeks’ worth of work.
The next thing that ticked me off was the lack of a stable business plan, lack of morality, and consistency. I understand that a startup is new to the game, and therefore young and innocent, but I 100% believe that the consumer opinion is nothing to play around with. I was asked to do some things I wasn’t morally okay with (padding reviews online, having my friends pad reviews, etc.), and that made me feel pretty bad about my company. In addition, the promise of going full-time and hiring us as permanent workers became became more and more of a dream than a possibility. Apparently people who had been hired over 1.5 years before me were still contractors, and that wasn’t something I was okay with. I can deal with a company that has to worry about headcount issues, but the carrot-on-a-stick method stops being fun at a startup very quickly.
After the pay flubs & failed promises, I was basically fed up. However, I really liked the work I was doing – web & mobile UI design and some branding work. I also had the occasional proposal to design and some stuff equivalent to a designer’s version of data entry, but those were few and far between. Then, the UI designs became less important and most of my work never came to fruition. I found my days mostly consisting of duplicating proposals over and over again, then doing endless data entry. I stopped learning and using my brain. It was too easy. Work done six months ago was still on the backburner, despite the company being incredibly new. I had done designs for several projects that were approved, then came in the next week to find one of my bosses doing an entirely new version – an incredible morale killer that makes employees feel like their work was pointless. I assume a similar situation will arise for any projects in limbo once I leave, despite them being previously okayed. At the very least, I finished every project I worked on before leaving the company (except the stalled ones).
At this point, I was already looking for a way out. Days were becoming unbearable and my coworkers all agreed that they were doing the designer’s equivalent to factory work. One boss took a leave for a month, leaving us with the less design-savvy boss that pointed with his middle finger and jabbed at computer screens when suggesting changes, blocking the view of the designer. Gladly, I found a new workplace where I am learning and doing much more. Designers feel less like screwdrivers and more like important parts of the puzzle at the new place.
If you have begun to feel dissatisfaction about your job, maybe it’s time to redo your portfolio (for artists) and résumé and get back out there. Finding a new job can be tough, but I’m sure the hard work will be easier than suffering through your current workday.
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A digital product designer's story of failure, self-empowerment, and redemption. Over the span of two years, Catt Small experienced the highs and lows of product development—all on the same team. She will share ways to improve your persuasion skills, create a better working relationship with your peers, conduct more holistic research, and ultimately create and release a better product.
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