Braving the 3-Month Probationary Period

My journey through 85 days of the wrong job, career shame and finding my way through the wilderness.

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I always wondered why there is a 3 month probation period when you start a new job.  I just assumed that it was just a clause for employers to make sure they had the option to let you go if they wanted.  But after my most recent experience, I am learning that the 3 month period is not just for employers, but for the employee, to make sure the new job is a fit for YOU. And the reason I know? I quit my new job just shy of 3 months and never expected the journey I went through.

Let’s back this story up a bit…

In August of 2019, I left a job in the digital publishing field because I had been there for about 2.5 years and I felt like I had outgrown the company, and wanted to find something more challenging.  Don’t get me wrong, my job was fun, pretty interesting and the team was full of ridiculously amazing people. But being the career-focused woman I am, I felt that I had peaked and that the company was not growing at the same pace I was.

I was generally keeping my eyes open for any postings that I thought might be interesting, and along came this role with a home building/development company.  Now, while the majority of my background is administrative, laced with some digital marketing and event planning, I have a passion for home design. This seemed like the perfect in, to the industry.  

I was beyond excited to get an interview immediately after applying and soon after found myself sitting down the President, Operations Manager and the Office Manager I would be replacing. The president was initially a bit cold but warmed up after we had a few laughs, and I was mesmerized by the career she had built herself.  She was a true business badass. She went on about how the business is growing and more projects are coming and that the company, though it may be lean, is a force to be reckoned with.

Not long after the interview,  I was offered the position! Yay! But it actually came with a pay cut, and no benefits… and on top of that, it turns out my badass future mentor, the President, was in the middle of moving her family across the province (state) because she felt it was the best move for her family.  She told me she would commute in every week to still be tied to the business, and it sounded to me like she had everything figured out. After many talks with my husband, he supported any decision I wanted to make and I decided to accept the offer.

On day one, it turns out that my boss, the President, wasn’t in town, and wouldn’t be for at least another week.  I was recently reading this Kevin Kruse article, and now understand that this was a huge red flag.

I met the other 4 staff members and made friendly conversation, but as the day went on, all of them left the office, needing to handle business outside the office. 

I ate lunch by myself and spent the rest of the afternoon in the office alone.

I told myself, “don’t be upset, they are working, it’s a good sign”. My mental positivity was strong at this point.

A few weeks later, they had decided to let go of one of the employees that I was supposed to lead.  And then, the other member of my team went to a part-time, work from home role….. Well if you are keeping up, that leaves 2 people plus me in the office.  Talk about lonely! 

Any time I had a question,  I asked the two remaining coworkers and 98% of the time it was met with a shrug of the shoulder. No one knew really anything other than their specific role. And the President, being 5 hours away was really hard to get ahold of because she was so busy building the business on her end. So I buckled down and told myself, “you can do this, figure it out!”  And figure it out I did. 

With the two employees leaving the company, I now took over those roles, and I shared my interest in design and was somehow now tasked with design-related work.  I was covering 4 different roles in the company along with their tasks and the expectation to know what to do. While I loved some of these tasks, I was finding a bit hard to keep track of everything.  I am usually such an organized person, but I just couldn’t seem to keep on track of one thing, because something else would come up. On top of that, the hours I started putting in were getting to be too much.  I would work through lunch at my desk or stay an extra hour to get the work done, all while not putting it on my timesheet because I was paid salary, and wouldn’t be making the overtime. So I thought it really didn’t matter.  I thought, “my boss, she knows I’m working late, and I’m sure she appreciates it!”

Fast forward a month, and my blind enthusiasm was starting to dwindle. I started leaving the office with a throbbing headache, which 9/10 times turned into a migraine.  I was so lethargic and didn’t want to do anything after work. My husband complained that I was distant and seemed miserable. I stopped going to yoga, which is my sanity and helps keep me grounded. All I wanted to do on the weekends was sleep.  I was gaining weight while not eating a lot.

And then finally a lightbulb went off …I hated my job.

My blind enthusiasm mixed with positive attitude jaded the actual situation.  I was too focused on showing off how great I was to focus on the frustrations and chaos I was dealing with on a daily basis.  Not only was I lonely, and had no team to lead, but I was being taken advantage of when it came to my workload. I had never been trained on anything so my mental capacity was pretty much diminished. I had no support, and no one really gave a shit about me, the person behind the work.  

Once all of this realization hit me, as Brene Brown would say, the Shame Sh*t Storm came. I started feeling like I had failed, that the reason I am upset, must be of my own making. I felt so alone and lost, and that I had made a horrible decision leaving my original job. How could I have thought this would be better?!  This is not what was promised in the interview, how could I have fallen for this?! Shame on me! 

Some things that ran through my head over and over were:

“You got taken!”

“You should have known better”

“You’re stupid, for falling for that”

“Naive, dumb girl”

“Shame on you for making the wrong decision”

“Who do you think you are? Suck it up and deal with it”

The negative self-talk and this attitude continued on for days.  I walked around the grocery store ready to burst into tears because I felt so open and vulnerable.  It was a place I had never been before, and it edged on what I assume was depression. Being someone who has never suffered from mental illness, this was new territory for me.

But, from all the Brene Brown I read (and watch) and learning from my friends who do suffer from mental illness, I took their advice and reached out to loved ones! I leaned on my marriage for support, to my husband who is my rock and poured my heart out. Then I did again it with my mom, then my aunt and then my friends.  And after a few people, I started to actually hear what they were saying.. “It’s ok!”, “ You didn’t make a mistake, it just didn’t turn out how you thought”, “That’s ok, you tried, and it didn’t work”, “That doesn’t make it failure” and then a few people even got on the sassy side with “that’s not what you were promised, it’s their fault” (cue mom’s for the best sassy, protective remarks) I finally started to realize – people in my life actually genuinely care about me and my wellbeing.

A few weeks after this initial light bulb moment, I had a talk with my President about how I was feeling.  We talked at length about it, and she assured me things would change and everything will get sorted. But my gut is told me otherwise. It’s told me that this place is not your home, you will only continue to feel shame and it will take a toll on you.

On day 85 of my employment, I put in my 2-weeks notice…. with no job to go to! Eeeek!! I can’t say that my boss was impressed.. at all. The way she handled the call was really unprofessional and selfish, but all that did was reaffirm my decision to leave.

Since I was 15 years old, I have always had at least 1 job.  It’s a new scary and exciting time for me, but I have the support of my husband, family, and friends.

Do you want to know what my mom said to me when I texted her I put in my notice? She called me to tell me how proud she and my dad are of me for standing up for my worth and putting myself first and that I always land on my feet and I will find the perfect job match.  So then I cried for 5 minutes, hahaha, typical me.

I have felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. My soul and body feel at ease, and that this decision was right.

Getting in the ring with shame is hard! It throws punches I wasn’t expecting, but I continue to fight back with vulnerability. I have days where I am so confided in what the future holds, and then other days I have a good cry at home with my dog because I feel so lost. I am learning that this is ok, that the only person judging me, is me. And That I need to be kind and patient with myself, just as I am with others.

I stood alone in the wilderness, standing up for myself with my heart wide open, and it has been the most awakening experiences of my life. 

I’ll leave you with this. There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary and we’ll doubt our ability to make our way through uncertainty. Someone, somewhere, will say, “Don’t do it. You don’t have what it takes to survive the wilderness.” This is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, “I am the wilderness” 

Brene Brown, Braving the Wilderness

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