Movin’ Up, Movin’ Out: Part I.

by Susan Jackson


You know when you’re in the same job for a while and you get burned out—but you don’t even know it? A couple of months ago, that was me.


For the past five years, I had been working as a copywriter for a successful, fast-growing ad agency in Cincinnati. Long enough to move up through the ranks, receive moderate salary increases, and gain more exposure to the interactive, consumer-packaged-goods ad biz than I ever imagined. During my esteemed tenure, I concepted and wrote websites for products that help people poop better. Sometimes, I thought up contests and prizes for the best diarrhea stories. Yeah, that’s right. Diarrhea stories.


But it wasn’t all poop. I also helped whet appetites for healthy (but delicious!) frozen meals and microwave popcorn via much-beloved banner ads—all while you innocently surfed the web for a recipe or coupon. Clever, huh? I explained minute (but key!) differences between one type of dental floss and another, so that when you rushed to the website product page, your worries about which floss best deep-cleans your teeth could be put to rest. Clearly, I thought of my work as more of a public service than advertising.


Anyone who’s lived the glamorous agency life knows the hours suck. Especially when work pours in and you’re understaffed. I definitely put in my share of last-minute late nights, weekend work, “second shift” weeknight overflow—none of which I minded (too much) before I had a kid. Two years ago, my perspective changed with the birth of my daughter. Every minute I spent working overtime (for no extra pay or time off, of course) meant precious time away from her.


My coworkers made up for a lot of the cons, I must admit. They cracked me up on an hourly basis. So many smart, funny people, so much comic material to work with—my too-loud laugh often rippled through the cubicles. Sometimes at the end of a workday, my abs actually ached from belly laughs. (Of course, that also may say something about the state of my flabby, weak abs.)


So if I was so burned out on selling everything from coffee to cold medicine with newer, cooler, more interactive websites and banner ads, why wasn’t I job-hunting?


Maybe because it felt safer to stay where I was. After all, the company was ranked as a “best place to work.” I had a flexible schedule, decent benefits, close friends and cool coworkers, and a firm grasp on how to do my job well. Why risk getting an even worse job at a worse company, or becoming more vulnerable to lay-offs as the economy is tanking? I didn’t think about any of this consciously, but I’m sure it lurked in the back of my mind.


Then came a surprising jolt to my comfortably numb situation. I got a call from a highly-regarded company looking to interview me for a plumb job.