Lessons Learned From My First Real Job In 12 Years

I’m just finishing up my second week working full-time at BambooHR, a company that loves and lives company culture and serving people.  I am pinching myself wondering if this is really real, and when will it end.

To say I was jaded because of my past experience at my last real job, getting laid off due to politics and kingdoms and self-protection (of others) and horrible culture and irresponsible leadership is an understatement. Over the years I have posted thoughts about not being hireable, not trusting companies to manage your career, etc.

I still 1,000% believe in personal career management. That can’t change because in today’s world no one will do it except you.

But I also have renewed faith that there is a place out there that you can love, and there is a job out there that can be just right for you.

Not too long ago (a year or two) I had a conversation with my friend, Robert Merrill (a Utah Sr. Tech Recruiter) if I could ever get a job again. I asked him what I could possibly do. I felt like my skills were not appreciated, that I was getting too old, that I hadn’t stayed up with relevant things in the workspace, etc. I had created an ecclectic background and didn’t even know what tasks I would do.  He said “Jason, clearly you are a product manager!”  Ah yes, of course, that I was. I had been doing it my whole career, and especially (not necessarily that well) with JibberJobber!

When it was time to throw my resume out there I was picky about the companies I wanted to work at (and contribute to). They, apparently, were picky, too. I got rejection after rejection. At least this time I got into the first or second interview before a rejection, but still, having someone say NO is a blow to the ego. You get enough blows and then you are in the corner, in a fetal position, whimpering, and hopeless.

I was getting to the point where I was getting rejected enough that I questioned whether I really had the chops to be a product manager (all the while, I was the product manager for JibberJobber). Companies where I would be a great fit because of my industry knowledge and subject matter expertise were overlooking me. Some said no, others would ignore me (except at meetups, where we were best friends. Ouch).

By the time I found the Program Manager job at BambooHR I had to adjust what I was looking for. Maybe product manager wasn’t for me? Maybe that was a pipe dream? Maybe I was too old? Maybe I hadn’t done the right certifications to really be one?  And… my heavens, this company is not three miles away. I would have a real commute (yuck).

But from the minute I got the reply from the hiring manager, through the interviews, all the way to my first day there, it was like a dream. Everything fell into place, my experience and background were not only appreciated, they were made for this job. This was a hand-in-glove perfect fit. What they wanted was a very unique skillset and I just happened to have created it over the last 12+ years.

Looking back I can see how important it was for me to start my own (huge) project: JibberJobber. It was critical that I built the team, created the strategy, and put together a vision for moving forward. It was critical that after the creation and startup and ideation stage I stuck with it for 12 years. One question I got in my interview was “You obviously like to strategize and create things… when it’s time to execute will you be happy, or will you go off looking for the next thing to create?” Me: “I’ve stuck with JibberJobber, in execution mode, for over a decade.”

I can see how important it was for me to write my first (and second and third) book(s). Did I say important? How about critical. It was critical that I wrote my first book. This made me a published author, with a “best seller” status. It led me down the path to write other books (which were relative flops). It opened up a new world for me and set me apart from people who always wanted to write a book. I was someone who actually finished it… I was a doer, a finisher.

From that stemmed the super important role of being a paid professional speaker. I spoke at conferences, schools, companies, association meetings, and job clubs. I did keynotes and workshops. This experience taught me about a whole new world, both the business side of being a speaker and the tactics and techniques that speakers employ (but hopefully not the annoying ones).

This lead to doing online webinars, which led to do 30 courses for Pluralsight. Courses for Pluralsight…! THIRTY! It was a hard four-year run and by the end I needed some time off (but I wanted to get another ten more in the library, and ultimately have 56 (to beat out one other guy :p). Alas, it wasn’t my decision to stop, but it was a refreshing change.  I am a freaking Pluralsight author. That is hard to become nowadays (timing is everything, isn’t it?).

This role at BambooHR was looking for someone who had entrepreneurial experience, with product management (from start to finish), project management experience, and experience with books, ebooks, webinars, podcasts, professional speaking, course creation, etc.

I look at what I’m doing now and realize that this job was made for me. It was waiting for me. And I was made for it, and I was waiting for it.

“Everything happens for a purpose,” they say.

Going through the everything is HARD. For someone like me, impatient and wanting to be in control, it’s extra hard. But looking back I can see how everything I did has fallen into place and helped me get here.

If you haven’t read, I’m still running JibberJobber. My team has stepped up to the plate and is doing a great job… so no worries about the future of JibberJobber.

My message to you is that you need to keep working. A rejection might be a blessing… many rejections might help you recraft and restrategize and refocus.

I have been saying for years that you need to substantiate yourself. That’s what I’ve done (kind of without knowing it, I just thought I was hustling). But here I am, substantiated, and now contributing in a dream job (while getting to keep my dream company :p).