Women Workin': The Challenge for Millennial Women in the Workplace, Holly Jones

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My name is Holly (Hulett) Jones and I live in Portland, OR with my Husband Colin and our labradoodle, George. I work for a footwear brand in Portland, specializing in Retail Marketing. Along with an incredible team of creatives, I work on window displays, in-store presentation, and special events for our stores across the country. I spend most of my days working with vendors, building directives for new product displays, planning events, and traveling around to our stores to make all of the above come to life.

Being a "Business Woman" is not a label I often think about outside of checking a little tick box while filing my taxes. Honestly, I never meant to be here, it wasn't my dream growing up or what I studied in school. But through internships and my first couple jobs after college, I found myself with a skill set in marketing and the motivation to grow those skills into a career. Boiled down to its most simple form, I work because I want to be a person who leaves the world around me a little better than I found it, and to do so in a creative and organized method. Business and specifically marketing isn’t what I set out to do, but what I have found through it is an internal motivation to bring order and intentionality to the messiness of life that drives me forward in every new work endeavor and relationship I have the privilege to foster day in and day out.

I think as a culture we are often taught to measure success by what we do, or who we work for, or chasing the next rung on the ladder rather than focusing on how we can use work as a vehicle to grow and develop our character, and how to apply the principles of Jesus in our everyday world.

In my healthiest moments, I’ve found a balance in working hard to create, organize, and build relationships with the people around me while pursuing a common goal in the workplace. All of this while still growing my relationships outside of work with my husband, family, friends, and myself. I actually have a spreadsheet for every aspect of life to help me create and maintain order, budgeting, house bills, grocery shopping, volunteering, trip planning...you get the idea. Even though the thought of spreadsheeting your life (yes, I made spreadsheet a verb) probably seems stressful to some, it’s how my tireless mind finds peace and functions best. In my more unhealthy moments, I’m scrambling to maintain the illusion of a perfect life and keep all the plates spinning. I can feel like a pressure-cooker on the verge of blowing a gasket thinking life isn’t fair, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do, and breathing out a prayer of desperation that looks a lot like, “please don’t give me the opportunity to open my mouth because I’m not sure I have the will-power to control whatever comes out”.

I find that the reason I get to these points has a lot more to do with the disordering of the priorities in my life and the pressure to “do more” rather than letting some things fall off. I think I do this because I’m competing against the most perfect version of myself that my imagination can muster up in columns and rows. I believe these moments happen when I’m unwilling to surrender anything on my list of to-do’s to make space for what is most fruitful in that day (week, month, year).

I think the shattering of the perfected "millennial dream" is a real challenge facing working women today.

We don't do enough as women to encourage each other in the battle of the mind, and the internal tug-of-war of surrendering desires for the pursuit of others, and the notion that "having it all" really is a hoax that leads to these pressure-cooker scenarios. Instead, we idealize the lives of our friends and influencers on social media, believing that a picture captured in a perfectly filtered and composed still shot on Instagram is a glimpse into their real life experience of a perfectly balanced life of work, relationships, family, and self care that requires no sacrifice and creates zero stress. Or maybe that is just me.

My own heartbreak is this, I love working full-time, but I also have a recurring mid-week crisis envying my friends who can afford more hours in their day to pursue other passions that we share. I love travelling for work, but my heart also aches every time my friends get together for dinner while I’m across the country eating take-out in my hotel room alone at 11pm, watching low-budget reality tv because nothing else is on and I can’t sleep because i’m jet-lagged. I love the work-life balance that my boss and company encourages, but I still long for the freedom to choose what I want to do rather than what I have to do on any given afternoon. I want to have a family one day but I’m scared to death of what that will mean for my career and for our kids.

Is it possible to do both well without having to choose?

Life requires sacrifice, it's just a fact. Our work is to discern which sacrifices produce fruit in our lives and which ones, quite frankly, lead to a mental breakdown. The world often seems so binary to me when it doesn’t have to be, like you have to choose one path or the other, career or family, health or relationships, etc. etc. and it can get so confusing in the midst of living that out in the day-to-day. I don’t have an answer for it and I don’t always choose wisely, but I imagine I’m not alone in the struggle.

Through the plot twists and choices I’ve made on my own professional journey, I have come across some nuggets of wisdom and have developed others from my own experience, all of which I try my best to order my work life after:

  1. Your title doesn’t make you more important than someone else.

  2. How you treat the people around you matters more than the output of your work.

  3. Where and how you spend your money matters more than how much of it you earn.

  4. Pick your battles. Discern the ones that are yours to fight, and fight them tirelessly.

  5. The glass ceiling is real. If you’re a woman in the workplace, at times you will have to fight harder, speak louder, and dress better to earn the respect you already deserve. See #4.

  6. Tending to your health is a gift, not a burden to toil over. Find the exercise, diet, skin care and vitamin regimens, and sleeping patterns that make you feel most strong, alive, and ready to take on each new day. And more importantly, don’t beat yourself up when you miss the mark.

  7. Celebrate the small victories. The end of a project, a small raise, or even just making it through a tough week of work.

  8. Be comfortable admitting failure, it just makes you more human.

  9. Read The Road Back To You by Suzanne Stabile and Ian Crohn.

  10. Go to counseling.

I’ve come to view time as the most precious commodity this life doles out, and the way we order our days requires both the open-handedness to sacrifice when its required, and the fierce commitment to hold on to what matters most. I think the wisdom and fruit that comes from our labor is wrapped up somewhere in those grey spaces in between the sacrifice and the holding on. In everything though, I am truly grateful. Grateful for my life in Portland, the community we have alongside us, and the opportunity to pursue life in the grey, striving to leave the world around me a little better than I found it.