The world of work has been changing rapidly, especially since the pandemic began. And for many of us, the old-school career advice we grew up hearing now feels as if it came from another dimension.
Recently, 51-year-old former CEO Denise Conroy made a splash on TikTok when she shared the three career lessons she wishes someone had told her sooner, and her advice really speaks to the way people are currently feeling about work.
In the video, which has been viewed more than 2 million times on TikTok, Denise shares these three lessons:
2.Don't Feel You Owe Your Company Loyalty
3.People Leave Bad Bosses, so Don't Be One
And in the comments, people are sharing how jumping jobs, rethinking loyalty, and leaving bad bosses have helped them in their own careers.
Denise told BuzzFeed that she learned these lessons the hard way, which is why she's sharing her knowledge now. She explained that when she was fresh out of grad school, she worked under a boss named Muriel who seemed great on paper — brilliant mind, lots of experience, and (in theory) plenty to teach a young worker.
Unfortunately, Denise said, "Muriel’s value was lost in her mean and abusive demeanor. She used to yell at me, demean me, and insult my intelligence. I wasn’t special. She treated everyone this way. I worked extra hours and weekends to try to please her, and she just didn’t see me. She took zero interest in my development and relished berating me. Decades later, I can still remember her saying, 'You’re down here, and I need you UP HERE' – obnoxious hand gestures and everything."
Denise continued, "That was when I learned three valuable lessons. First, people don’t leave jobs; they leave bosses. These bosses are usually toxic or don’t see us. In this woman’s case, she was both. I enjoyed my job and was making an impact on an exciting initiative, but I couldn’t tolerate her abuse."
This experience also opened her eyes about the concept of company loyalty. "Second, I learned that jumping jobs is sane and economically rational," she said. "It’s not disloyal. I grew up in a poor family where the notion of loyalty to one’s employer prevailed. But I was so miserable at this job that I started looking after working there only 18 months."
And ultimately, leaving Muriel behind was the best decision for Denise. "I landed another job at a boutique management consulting firm that mostly worked for clients in the metals industry. It was a 30% pay increase, with the opportunity to travel internationally. I took it."
She added, "I’ll never forget giving my resignation to Muriel. The first words out of her mouth were about loyalty and me being a job jumper. Then she tried to scare me, telling me the metals industry was dying. Her last words to me were, 'You’ll be sorry.' That move was pivotal in my career. I was promoted three times at that consulting firm, more than doubled my salary, and got my first experience in boardrooms around the globe."
Denise also wants to encourage younger women not to put up with poor treatment at work. "We women deal with a lot of toxicity and abuse in the workplace," she said. "At some point in your life, you’ll likely be in a toxic work situation. It will be so toxic that you’ll make yourself smaller and smaller to survive, virtually washing away your identity. You’ll agonize about choosing yourself or economic security. It’s a grueling choice. Always have the courage to choose you. That means quitting and betting on your ability to find your next thing. Believe that you can, and you will."
She shared that it's okay to leave a "dream job" if it turns out to be more like a nightmare. Success is about so much more than what your title looks like on paper. She explained, "I worked at HGTV for three years. It was the most toxic place I’ve ever worked. One day, I quit on the spot…no safety net, no backup. I was terrified no one would ever hire me again. It was supposed to be a dream job, so I convinced myself something was wrong with me and I deserved to be harassed and bullied."
She continued, "After a few months of being out of that environment, I discovered who I was again. I found my backbone and reclaimed my soul. A few months later, I landed my first CEO job. Hands down, leaving that toxic environment was the best (and scariest) career move I’ve ever made."
This spirit of putting herself first in her career also motivated Denise to start her own business. "I was part of the Great Resignation — or, as I like to call it, the Great Awakening. I’d been a CEO at my third company for only six months, and I quit to start my own coaching and advisory business. At 50, I was tired of still being the only woman and the youngest in the boardroom. I decided to be the change I wanted to see in the world by propelling more women into positions of power. We’re all familiar with kingmakers. I’m a queenmaker."