My First Big Girl Job Was a Financial Nightmare
I started to feel uncomfortable in my own workplace
I’m sure quite recently you’ve all heard of the marvelous story regarding the “F*ck off Fund”. A f*ck off fund is a fun play on the financial advisors’ recommended emergency fund that will prepare you for any potential job loss, sudden debts, or that awful boyfriend you’ve been putting up with. It’s there for you when a sticky situation comes up in your personal life, just like an emergency fund is, but it’s also there to protect you as a female above all else. Whether you’re in a relationship or have a career – both of these things can drastically affect your financial situation.
Most females who are in serious relationships are using shared bank accounts, splitting rent and are often supporting/being supported by their partner. Whether your relationship is perfect or not, the risks are still there. What happens when your significant other decides he’s over it, and bails on you with no notice? What happens if he becomes malicious – and you need to find a way out? Are you going to be financially stable on your own?
My personal story is related to my first job out of university. You know, the one where we are so excited to get started we’ll basically take any job at any pay because we can’t believe we will finally have an income instead of a loan? Yeah, mine was definitely something like that.
The Reason I Wish I Had a F*ck Off Fund
It was 2013. I had just graduated from university and I was frantically trying to find my first ever big girl job. I was applying for anything that was remotely related to my degree. I was young and hungry to start moving on with my life after being in school for nearly 5 years. Who wouldn’t be?
Four months after my graduation date, I finally heard back from one company. They asked me to come in for an interview and I knew this was going to be it. I went in, did my power stance in the women’s washroom, and walked in acting like I knew everything there was to know about the industry and my role within their organization.
The general manager lead the interview. He was witty, seemed passionate, and was very intrigued by everything I had to share regarding changes I was eager to make. It worked. Not only had I convinced them, but I had convinced myself.
At just 23 years old I had landed my first job as head of an entire department. Of course I took the first salary offer sent my way (because I was never educated on how to approach this type of situation) and I signed the contract without batting an eye. I was thrilled beyond belief.
But that thrill was short and sweet when my first day involved no training, no support, and no idea what I had gotten myself into.
From Bad to Worse
I was struggling to understand the ins and outs of the industry while blazing a trail in my own department, all the while being asked to cut budgets everywhere possible. I began to feel overwhelmed. I was living in an apartment I knew I couldn’t afford, barely making minimum payments on my debt leftover from university, and was constantly fearful that I wouldn’t be able to buy groceries each month.
I knew that this job was the only thing keeping me from losing everything. It was difficult and the hours were long, meaning I was no longer able to work part-time as a server. This left me with even less income, resulting in even more debt and stress.
These are obvious examples relating to how a debt-free lifestyle and an emergency fund could have saved me from all of my problems. I would have been free to leave the job, find a way to create a healthier lifestyle and get back on my feet. But, I didn’t have that... and it wasn’t getting better.
I’m sure you remember the witty, passionate, aforementioned general manager. Me too. In fact, I’ll never forget him. Although, I wish I could. On top of feeling suffocated by my debt, I then started to feel suffocated by my boss.
The Beginning of the End
Before successful completion of my probationary period, I started to receive inappropriate text messages at all hours of the night from said boss. It was unexpected and I didn’t know what to do. Scared to tell anyone because I was fearful I may lose my job without warning or pay, I kept these things to myself.
The messages were often inquiring about lavish vacations he wanted to take me on, talking about how much he had drank that night, and of course, the much more explicit messages I'll keep to myself.
Soon after, I started to feel uncomfortable in my own workplace and (to this day) question the real justification behind my hiring for this position. It reached the point where I needed to take action and upon passing my probationary period I started to gain more confidence in myself.
That night, I drafted a two-page letter to the president of the company – attached photos of the text messages, and had decided upon my resignation.
The next morning, I looked at my credit card bill.
A credit card bill I couldn’t pay without this job.
A credit card bill that was terrorizing every aspect of my life.
So I stayed. In debt, in fear, and in frustration.
Months later, still struggling, we participated in a work retreat. We were asked to voice our true opinions about the company, our working relationships, and beyond. It was outrageous to assume that one is going to be honest in a room full of their colleagues and superiors. But I was.
As it was my turn to speak, I cried (as any true professional would). In front of everyone, I told them the following:
“I was excited to be here, to start my first ever job, to experience new things, and to learn. And I haven't experienced any of that. Other than a lack of support and joy."
Some jaws dropped, yet others didn't seem shocked at all. From that weekend forward, I was lucky enough to build new relationships with other co-workers, who encouraged me to share my situation and interoffice dilemma.
With their support, I quit a short two weeks later, worked to receive an athletic scholarship and returned to school for the third time. At that point in my life, school and sports were the only things I could see making myself happy. I worked part time in the corporate accounting department before the school-year started, and began the next part of my life.
A new part of my life that got me to where I am today - able to control my working life because I am in control of my financial one.
For an entire year after leaving my previous career, I still received inappropriate messages, sometimes threatening. I experienced a workplace environment no one should ever have to face simply because I was not financially prepared or educated on ways to handle these situations.
Holding debt, fearing a job loss, and experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace are some of the worst feelings I’ve ever felt. And I will never let myself feel that way again.
Now what are you waiting for? Start saving.
Have you ever experienced something similar? Let me know in the comments.