A Grateful Heart

Gratitude, Kindness, Mental Health
09/30/16 - Anna Thomas

As I reflect on the past few weeks of this new job, I am left with an unbelievably grateful heart.

My four years in consulting was a huge challenge for me; I wasn’t allowed to grow in the areas that I desperately wanted to grow in, and I found myself at the complete mercy of bureaucracy, politics, and the bottom line dictating how my day to day life played out. These dynamics led to me sometimes wallowing in self pity and hosting an ungrateful heart a lot, which was the most troubling part for me. I wanted to be constantly grateful, because I had a ton to be grateful for, but struggled hard to get past certain things, feeling like I wasn’t meeting my total potential and really questioning “why” I was there to begin with. I knew going into the job that it was the “right” first step for me right out of college, but little did I know the real reason as to WHY it was so absolutely necessary for me in ways that are now humbling and mind-blowing. Looking back, I wish I had the maturity to remember that the best growth in life happens when things are uncomfortable or aren’t going how we want, and that learning happens in ways outside of how we think it should happen.

At the start of consulting, everything that could go wrong would go wrong. I found myself in this scenario the first year where I wasn’t growing professionally, and there was nothing I could do but wait and hope leaders would provide growth opportunities for me, or leave. What was going on?! How could this be happening?! My professional self confidence was shot. Never had I felt so helpless or incapable, and frankly was starting to freak out about the fact that I wasn’t being given what I was promised, an amazing career and immeasurable learning at a top tier firm. The clock was ticking! I had always told myself I’d only stay in consulting for 3 – 4 years, learn as much as humanly possible, and then bounce to a job/organization that really needed the business expertise and help. I had a conversation with my professor senior year of college asking him to hold me accountable to this goal, and to call me out if he ever saw me faltering or getting googly eyed at all the promise I knew professional consulting would bring. Not wanting to quit after one bad year, I decided to wait it out and see what came along, and thankfully was able to get staffed on a few good projects and catch up on learning and ramping up. The political challenges didn’t necessarily stop, but learning in the world that I was working in started to finally take place, and incredible people came alongside me to teach me and help grow me as a consultant.

During those down times and “business cycles”, the only thing I could (or would) do was read. Voraciously read. Sit in my cubicle and read every news article I could get my hands on, continue building a critical analysis, and get way more into public radio, podcasts, and small media outlets thanks to the guidance of that same college professor who turned mentor. During this time he went from mentor to family to sometimes being a person that I wasn’t too happy with, because as we all know, being challenged in the areas you think you’re right on isn’t always fun, but so worth it in the end. I kept looking at people like him and my parents wondering how and where I went wrong. Everyone was doing their calling in life but me! *insert violin music here*

This past summer, I had the immense privilege of traveling to Ecuador in support of my friend and former colleague’s brand new company. I took a hard look at my life and figured out ways that I was holding myself back from embarking on risks and dreams that seemed unattainable and impossible. I got to a place where I finally validated myself for who I am, not what I “should” be, and really let go and rely on/strengthen my faith to help get me to where I wanted to be. Little did I know that the day I landed back in Chicago from Ecuador, life at work would finally force me to make the decision of saying “okay, it is officially time to leave, and wherever I end up, I know I gave it my all and tried my best. God, puhhhhleaaaaase help me.” That same day I immediately reached out to literally everyone I knew (lol, that whole “power of your network” is SO real) and the circle of love and support that surrounded me over the next two weeks of insane uncertainty, helped carry me through a very challenging time. There are most definitely angels among us. That same mentor of mine put up an anonymous FB status describing who I am and what I’m all about, and as they say, the rest is history.

I now get to work for a mission driven start up that is revolutionizing the way journalism is done. Hearken was founded by an incredibly brilliant and compassionate (former public radio!) woman, whom I get to talk to and work with everyday. She is the definition of what a CEO should be. She is also the epitome of the type of leader I hope to one day be; believing in every single member of our team, investing in us, listening to us, and enabling us to be the best we can be. At my old company, I fought really hard to try and get into Corporate Responsibility and grow my way through bringing about new ideas to our industry. At this new company, I learned yesterday that I get to start and design a Corporate Responsibility program from scratch. I’m incredibly humbled as I reflect upon my past life and job, knowing it was exactly where I needed to be, because it is what led to this. And THIS, is everything I never knew I dreamed of.

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Anna Thomas

Anna is a lover of life, people, and the curious world around us. She is a former management consultant now working in the tech start up world.

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