You Don’t Have To Blow Up Your Career To Be Heard.

I’m jumping on the bandwagon of Talia Jane, the young professional who, for all intents and purposes, just sabotaged her career and/or future prospects. This post includes some of the more egregious aspects of her letter to Yelp! CEO Jeremy Stoppelman as well as information on where she went wrong.

Talia Jane wrote an open letter on Medium.com where she outlines all her disappointments and frustrations that she experiences while also working for Yelp. I feel her pain, we probably all do, we’ve all been there. At the ripe old age of 25 she isn’t having the career she expected (here is where I hold back on the sarcasm).  Of course she is a young lady just starting out in the world of professional work. She has big plans and made some choices, including moving to a prohibitively expensive apartment to be closer to her dad. She has every right to want to live near her father, naturally, I can’t judge that.

She makes some valid points, too. For example she points out that her exceptional de-escalation skills are going unappreciated and unrecognized. The reality is, companies either do right or not by their employees and employees either like it or not, stay or not. What happens next can be a variety of things and requires carefully planned strategy and execution. She rightly points out that turnover at the lower levels is quite high, likely because of this lack of appreciation. Those of us in the consulting world recognize that a small amount invested in training goes a lot further than the cost of high turnover. In addition, recognition goes a long way in building loyalty, employee engagement, and overall success. I would venture to guess this lack of appreciation (perceived or real) is part of what made her choose not to address these problems with her superiors, even though her chosen method had a more final impact. She’s been fired from Yelp! and it’s unlikely anything that could have been changed will be changed now.

Another major problem with her letter, she failed to distinguish what was her responsibility and what is Yelp’s. She points to all the struggles other coworkers have, aside from just herself, in managing expenses, etc. Well, welcome to adulthood. This section of her letter does not get me all teary eyed. In fact, I sat there reading this with incredulity. Who starts a GoFundMe page to pay the rent when they have a job? Did the apartment burn down? No. Did the person get robbed and lose everything? Was their identity stolen and their bank account wiped out? No. Essentially, we’re talking about young people starting out in the world ill prepared for the requirements and refusing to shift course while insisting that publicly venting frustrations to the CEO will somehow correct the problem of the decisions they’ve made. This is not a good demonstration of adulthood or professionalism; something Talia clearly wants to achieve and should be able to, at some point, with proper planning and strategy.

Here’s the whopper though. She failed to recognize that just putting in time (whether one year or ten years) is not what gets you promoted to any position. She mistakenly believed this was somehow the fault or responsibility of the CEO. She took no steps, professionally, to be heard or  be seen by important decision makers. Instead she wrote a letter, chock full of ideas, directly to the CEO of Eat24. When it went ignored she offered the CEO of Yelp! – her employer – the opportunity to repurpose the suggestions. YIKES!

She also claims that she is already using Twitter to do some of the things she wanted to do at Yelp. However, if she’s already using Twitter to do the things she wants to do, she could either highlight that fact to her superiors or, stop doing it.  After all, why would they pay her for something she’s doing for free? That’s business, that’s how it works. For her part, she failed to understand what it means to leverage her talents. If her Twitter feed was really good (I have no reason to believe it isn’t) she completely blew an opportunity to use it to her advantage. I hope she at least learned something from this experience in particular.

Finally, very typical of a 25 year old (of any generation) is understanding what choices she has.  The open letter goes on to point out all the trials and tribulations she faces on a daily basis. Not one of these things is the responsibility of Jeremy Stoppelman. Every one of them was the result of a choice she made, that she could change at any time. I chalk this one up to maturity and lack of self awareness/emotional intelligence.

I could go on (and in fact have) that the generation of “everyone gets a trophy just for showing up” did nothing to the teach that generation that you have to actually perform on the job if you want to go anywhere in your career. But I have no evidence that she experienced those kinds of unearned rewards in her young life. I can say she certainly has no insight into career development or career management. Regardless of the fact that she was an English major -something others have pointed to as a reason for her problems, i.e. it didn’t prepare her for a corporate career among other critiques – most of her complaints, while valid, were hers alone to manage and remedy in a professional manner and unrelated to her formal education. Instead, she chose to throw, what appears to this established professional, a tantrum on the internet, where millions of people can see it, in order to shame her CEO over general standard business practices and somehow link them to her choices and outcomes based on those choices. Had this been something more serious, such as an office culture problem, racism or sexism, or criminal behavior ignored or gone unchecked, then she might have a lot more people on her side.

For now, she’s an internet hero to those who would love nothing more than to hold other’s accountable for their poor decisions, but certainly not to those who would hire her and pay her. She’s set herself back a little professionally, I believe. Nothing she can’t overcome, particularly because she’s young.

But let this be a cautionary tale of what not to do when you are not just new to a job but new to your career. If the organization doesn’t recognize your good work, and doesn’t offer the opportunity to discuss your future, it’s time to start planning your exit – not suicide by internet. That said, I hope Medium.com hires her for a permanent and paid gig. Although her letter was a disaster in terms of her professional opportunities with Yelp! it also highlighted her exceptional writing skills. Now all Talia needs is some actual professional development.

Dolores DeGiacomo is the founder of Power Up! Consulting. Dolores focuses on helping professionals master success oriented behavior patterns. She speaks at events, works in corporate environments as well as with individuals and entrepreneurs. Dolores is also the co-author of the upcoming book “The Ultimate #Career Pocket Guide” (April 2016).