Career News
October 4, 2021

#WhyWeDoIt - James

#WhyWeDoIt - "I have had tough moments and shed tears a few times in my professional career. In earlier jobs, this ended poorly, but it’s been vastly different at Evonik and built me up to be the best version of myself today. Why have I navigated the tough times differently at Evonik?"

Let’s go back in time.

My first professional job after college was a dream scenario—it was in my hometown, in the industry I wanted, and the right job function. With my past internship experience, I felt confident in my skills and I was enthusiastic to launch my career. The work was fine, but I couldn’t tell where I stood with my manager. We had fun personal conversations, but at other times, our work conversations left me confused and frustrated. As a result, I fell into a vicious cycle of waning confidence, decreased motivation, and low productivity. I restarted my job search and interviewed at other companies, but my management team ended my employment before I could secure a new job. Even though I already made plans to leave, I was devastated that they fired me. I cried and felt like a failure.

In time, I reflected on that experience and slowly healed. I changed my job search tactics to avoid another situation like that. I prioritized interpersonal matters, the team environment, and the manager’s style because I knew how much my colleagues could affect my personal wellbeing. I vowed to lean into feelings of unhappiness rather than minimizing them, which proved successful in later jobs.

After some more years of work and business school, I joined Evonik as an intern. I initially expected to work for a summer, complete my educational credits, and earn my master’s degree, but I’m still here six years later because of the people along the way who developed me and built me up to be who I am today.

Since that internship, I have been in five job positions, had six formal managers, and many more informal mentors here at Evonik. This was the first workplace where people around me proactively developed me. My managers introduced me to their colleagues and key people within the company to position me for future roles. Each manager has asked me how I want to develop my career and what I want to do next. I felt that they believed in me, and as a result, I trusted and respected them. And countless colleagues gave me honest feedback and cheered me on.

I also relied on this trusted network during tough times when I needed it most. I had moments when I was stressed and felt under pressure, and I turned to colleagues who were there to listen to me, comfort me, and help me find solutions. I had moments when I felt that I had failed at my job and found myself in tears again, but unlike my earlier experience, it’s been different here at Evonik. This time, I was in front of my manager having an honest discussion about how I felt I had failed in my job responsibilities. I wasn’t afraid of what they might say or do, heck, I already knew the feeling of my manager firing me. Instead, my manager listened, affirmed my feelings, and we worked together to develop a plan. The difference this time is that I trusted my manager enough to be upfront, honest, and vulnerable in front of them, and my manager trusted my abilities and competencies to work through the issues and do a good job in the end.

I have shed tears and had tough conversations, and today, I am the best version of myself. I am confident in my abilities because my managers and teammates give me fair feedback, challenge me, hold me accountable, and cheer for me. And I am happy because I feel free to be all of me at work, including being vulnerable during the tough times.

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