“Job gives me a headache!”
Hello, Ronnie Ann. First let me say that I’ve found your advice to be so insanely helpful. Thank you for that. And now I need your help again because my job gives me a headache. Literally. Here’s my story.
I’m 27-years old and I work in the movie business, currently at a company that has a deal with Disney. The last company I worked for laid the entire creative department off, and I landed this gig two days later.
I thought I was doing pretty good. Cut to six months later at this new job, and I’m beside myself with what to do. Over the past six months, I had to move the entire company. We moved agencies. And I’m in charge of everything from administrative duties, to tech issues, to reading and covering scripts. Basically I’m a one woman show.
Why her job gives her a headache
My problem is, I can never do it “just right” for my boss. Today, for instance, within just one hour, I had to finish coverage on a book, connect a conference call with five people, set eight pitch mtgs. I also had to confirm her cat’s vet appointment, assemble three writer’s lists for her afternoon meeting AND make sure she had all her reading for the weekend.
To make matters worse, we discussed vacation. When I took this job, I was told I would get 2 weeks off in August. I have family all on the East Coast, so this was a big positive. Today, when I started talking about when we’d take off, she looked at me like I was CRAZY. Ans she said I got 10 days max. When I start to counter argue that, she says things like “when I was an assistant that’s what I did.”
Promises not kept. What next?
Maybe that isn’t that big of a deal, but I feel like if she’s reneged on that promise, what else will she go back on. Promotion? Eventual raise?
I’m at a loss what to do. I’ve been suffering migraines, insomnia, and other issues since taking this job, and I’m at a loss what my next step should be.
Sorry for the long, prattling email, but job gives me a headache — literally. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
My response to E:
First … I wish I could come over and give you a big hug. I almost got a headache reading all you’re dealing with! And I know I am not alone in being able to relate to how you’re feeling.
I happen to have worked in a few different jobs within the entertainment industry, although not in Hollywood. But I did work for a Super Agent while we were negotiating a film deal with Rysher and several other major studios at the time. And I know that the industry demands long hours. Also it expects you to pay your dues in the early stages of your career. And then keep paying.
Jobs where vacations seem mythical
So when you tell me your job gives you a headache, it doesn’t surprise me much. In fact, even in other industries nowadays, people are being pushed to the limit. And vacation is almost a dirty word.
But, especially in entertainment, there are hundreds (maybe thousands) lined up for every job someone thinks is too much for them. So the deck is not stacked in favor of the employee. And I know that does not feel fair. And, in your case, may be beyond tolerable.
Did you get terms in writing?
Although I think I know the answer … did you get any of your deal in writing? Do you have a statement of work, contract, offer letter, or even e-mail that promises you 2 weeks in August on top of OTHER vacation? Have you already taken any of the 10 business days (2 weeks) she’s talking about? Can you at least negotiate one week in August?
If you are doing all that you say and this is a busy time for the office, I can understand why she won’t let you take both weeks together. And maybe you’ll need to think about looking at this a different way: the time you put in now (even if it isn’t what anyone would call optimal working conditions) is the investment you’re making in your future.
Once you pay your dues, you will hopefully get yourself to better jobs — ones that don’t give you a headache. Or at least that’s one possible way to look at it.
What’s in it for you — besides headache?
What really bothers me is the toll this is taking on you physically. When you tell me your “job gives me a headache” I worry. Are you an employee or slave? Are you learning tons of things that will help you move ahead, or are you just helping move her ahead?
And are you meeting people and making a good name for yourself in a way that reflects well on you? Or are you mostly seen as her helper? In other words, if you do decide to stick with her and pay your dues, will it get you to your next step? Or will you just be spinning your wheels.
It doesn’t matter if your company has a deal with Disney if you aren’t building your own career. And if you are feeling this way now and get no reassurance from her — and if a good one-on-one talk with her yields no change — then maybe you do need to look elsewhere.
Consider maybe why she had the opening in the first place? And why you’re doing the job of 2 or 3 people? Did the last person walk out? (Maybe not. Just a shot in the dark.)
So at the very least …
I’d have a good heart-to-heart with her. With your mind fixed on finding a win-win solution if at all possible. Think about what you would need from her to make this job worth staying in. And what could kinds of things could change “my job gives me a headache” to “my job feels good … busy … but good.”
Even if you have to give up vacation … is there some corresponding give on her part? A raise? A bonus? A part-time assistant for you? And starting now, if you haven’t already done this, look at what else is out there. Just in case — although if this is the career you truly want, I hope you can make it work.
Haunted by your words (and headache)
You wrote “migraines, insomnia, and other issues since taking this job, and I’m at a loss what my next step should be.” Now everyone has to decide for themselves. But I can tell you that in my vast experience, no job — or industry — is worth you feeling that way. And there are a LOT of people like her and jobs like that in show biz.
So if even a small part of you is thinking that maybe all the glamor isn’t so much fun on the inside, you might also want to give yourself the chance to think about other options. Is there anything else you love that might offer your mind and body a bit more balance? Or, if you do want to stay in entertainment, are there other industry jobs that can do that for you?
Take deep breaths (in & out)
And give yourself permission to quit if you have to. No matter what. Headaches and other symptoms are often the result of inner conflict, such as “I want to do this” or “I think I want to do this” at the same time as “This is causing me pain.” THAT’S a huge headache. (Not to mention the effects of constant stress and lack of sleep.)
But taking some deep breaths now and committing to yourself that you will find a GOOD solution whatever it may be, should help you start to release some of that built up conflict. Fear not … there is a way to make things better for yourself, E!
Hope some of these thoughts help. If not, please write back and we can try to zero in on the real question/issue.
I wish you the best of luck in figuring this out for yourself!
~ Ronnie Ann
Update: E wrote me privately and told me she decided to give her boss notice and look elsewhere. She told me she realized no job — not even a glamorous industry job — is worth her health and well-being. And she feels better already. 🙂
Great decision, E. Good luck!
[Article updated in 2020]
About the author…
Ronnie Ann, founder of Work To the Wise and Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development, as well as her many adventures as a serial job seeker.
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