update: my boss makes me wear her clothes, eat her food, and say I’m grateful for my job

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose boss made her wear the boss’s clothes, eat the boss’s food, and say she was grateful for her job? The first update was here, and here’s the latest.

Last I sent, I had just quit my job with the horrible boss in order to pursue freelance gigs. I’d been having enough freelance success while employed that I thought I could resign, achieve my Adobe certification within 3 months, and hit the ground running for a new job. That was early 2020 so… as my plan did not anticipate a pandemic, it didn’t quite shake out the way I’d hoped.

I limped on through 2020/2021, surviving on freelance work and a very lucrative translating opportunity that fell into my lap. (Think Latin or Ancient Greek, which I studied in college.) However, as much as I loved being a freelancer, with the ability to set my own schedule and allow myself to travel, I started to get nervous about the impending end of my translation gig. I definitely needed to up my freelance work intake or find gainful employment elsewhere. Also, I went back to assist Horrible Boss a few times, and kept in touch over email, but as the pandemic progressed my mental health took a downward turn, so I cut her off. Probably the best decision I’ve ever made.

So, I had settled on applying to full time jobs. I brushed up my resume (with help from your site) and started looking. I was actually about to email you separately about how to list a job in which you don’t want the recruiter to contact your former employer. I have plenty of wonderful freelance clients, who I have asked to give me references and they’ve all enthusiastically agreed. However, I was worried about the stealth reference check and I want to ensure my former boss is not contacted. I did not want to leave the job with Horrible Boss completely off my resume, because it showed some discernible progress in my skills, proves I can work in an office environment, etc. However, months before I quit that job, Boss told me (almost gleefully) about how she torpedoed a former employee’s next job reference. (For what it’s worth, the former employee was a college intern who was expected to work the day after Christmas. When the employee said no and quit, Boss trashed her on every reference call she received. Which, as I said, was a tale she almost told me giddily. I understand sometimes employees need to work holidays but… her reaction seems Dickesian Villanesque.)

Well, I was in the midst of contemplating this quandary when my partner was able to purchase a house! (Yay!). I’d done some real estate photography editing previously, but never shot it myself, so I asked my partner if I could go use his house as practice. Partner called his agent, the agent asked for my number and called me 10 minutes later. Apparently the agent had been doing all the photography for the firm but was a.) sick of it and b.). about to leave on his honeymoon for a month, so they needed someone fast.

So yeah, I did a test run with them, they loved my work, and now I’m a contract employee for their real estate firm. Honestly, the best of both worlds for me! I’m getting enough shoots a week to alleviate financial anxiety, but still maintaining enough flexibility to manage my time how I like. I didn’t realize work like this was possible. Even if it wasn’t, I had multiple relatives/friends comment on how after I quit that job my general attitude seemed significantly improved, and I FEEL it too. Thank you so much Alison to you and your readers for making it clear how NOT normal that job was, how I could and should deserve better, and should not put up with being treated like that. (Also, I ran the numbers from my tax returns, and for all Boss’s pontifications about how great a job that was, I still made way less money than I did bartending.)

I still wish old Boss the best, just glad I’m not involved in her life orbit anymore.

Once again thank you and your readers. Would never have the courage to leave that situation without your support.