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Whatever ‘Suits’ You

Whatever ‘Suits’ You
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Photo courtesy of USA Network

BY LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL

“Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.”

I remembered this saying by the much-quoted author Robert Tew, when I watched “Jessica Pearson” (Gina Torres) – or as I call her: the most distinctively dressed executive on television – say good-bye on the mid-season six finale of Suits.

The law firm is in dire straits, or as Jessica put it: “The ship’s sunk.” She diverts her attention from the grind of trying to win new business to successfully defend a death-row inmate. This reminds her that helping people is what made her want to become a lawyer in the first place.

She suddenly sees that she has a choice to make: “Do I have it in me to pull [the firm] back up from the bottom of the ocean?” Or pack up and start a new chapter in her life?

Jessica opts for the latter and will move to Chicago with Malone, the man she loves.

The storyline reminded me of when I found myself in a similar situation. Although I was never the name-on-the-door honcho like Pearson (as in Pearson, Specter, Litt), I was a writer at the third largest ad agency in the world. I was bucking for a well-deserved promotion when the bottom fell out of my group.

The new EVP of Creative Services gave our main account to another section, which meant that my Creative Director was on the cusp of getting fired. Rumor had it that those of us who reported to him would be placed on other accounts. And we all know how reliable office gossip is. Half of my co-workers got the ax. I was one of the few who was going to be given the opportunity to “audition” for different group heads to see if there were any takers.

I had worked there for three years. My employee file had letters written by my boss about the contributions I made to our various accounts; and I was one of the few people in the group allowed in front of our clients. And there I was, putting on my tap shoes and getting ready to dance as fast as I could.

Like the fictional TV lawyer, I saw a choice: I could stay on the ship and look for a life raft to jump into (while also looking for another job outside the company) or make a real change.

I did the pro/con list and realized that the only thing in my pro column was that I enjoyed doing the creative work. However, I hated meetings that always turned into a long day’s journey because someone thought their point was so brilliant, they felt the need to make it twice. I love to travel, but hated to do so on business. And I also found it frustrating when I ended up being partnered with the advertising-hating art director, who, when he/she was picking up a marker, acted as though it was a shovel needed to dig a ditch — evidenced by the substandard finished product.

I too opted for the latter and decided to stay at home and take care of my baby, as well as freelance. The change made all the difference. I got to experience advertising with fresh eyes, only doing the creative work, with all the other stuff down to a bare minimum; plus, I got to spend more time with my child.

I realized that I was also giving up certain things, such as the potential for more prestigious job titles and increased earning power. But I was positive that the job I was walking away from was no longer serving me; and willing to take the risk that what I was walking toward would help me grow and hopefully make me happier. I’m grateful that I had the choice.

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Lorraine Duffy Merkl
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels BACK TO WORK SHE GOES and FAT CHICK, for which a movie version is in the works.