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I worked at Edelman full-time (More than 3 years)
Gained double the experience in half the time (since I worked the hourly equivalent of two jobs!), had the opportunity to represent high-profile clients I wouldn't have gotten to represent elsewhere, was able to utilize the vast resources of a global company, and realized how strong and resilient I really am to be able to survive under immense pressure and stress. Oh, and free soda, coffee and frequently catered meals so that you rarely feel a need to leave the office or stop working -- even for a moment!
It took me awhile, but I finally figured out how to erase the fake, positive review that company HR had me put up during my tenure so that I could replace it with my actual experience. I had no doubt when I started that the environment would be fast-paced and competitive. I was prepared to work hard, and in fact did so well that my first two years that I was consistently praised, given spot bonuses and thought of as a rising star taking the place by storm. I landed new business, mentored peers and was put on the most aggressive, high-profile accounts. However there is "an Edelman way", and once you stray from that, even in thought, you're done. There is a systematic and calculated approach to getting you out -- to either make you feel so low and doubt yourself that you quit out of sheer frustration, or to endlessly criticize things that had never been a problem before so they can make the case for firing you. How does one stray from the Edelman way? Start working less than 75 hours a week. Express a conflict of interest with an account. Show interest in starting a family of your own. Talk to your manager about transferring to another office. Become disliked by one of the cliquish, soulless people who has worked there for many years and whose opinion holds way too much power. You can still be doing a great job, but do ANYTHING that illustrates you no longer conform 100% to the Edelman mold and you are toast. Group think is everything, and once you stray, you're the odd man out. I didn't anticipate the extent to which managers and senior staff will go to manipulate you, put you down and make you feel absolutely crazy. Girls crying in the bathroom or at their desks, people dismissed or quitting, suddenly gone with no explanation, the forced happy hours to mimic a positive work culture instead of actually creating one, threats, judgment and so much more. I lost sleep over this job. I could never work enough. I was told that I was on track to be promoted at any moment. But every time a review came around, there was always a reason why I wasn't ready. That's the part that makes you feel crazy -- the positive reinforcement to build you up and dangle the golden carrot of a raise and title change in front of you every month on end, only to be told at the pivotal moment that you did not measure up against some new criteria you never knew existed. The only way to succeed is to give everything to this job: your time, your talent, your creativity, your personal life, your family dinners, your plans to have children, your friendships, your health. Give it everything you've got and you'll still will have work to do. The people who succeed there are not people to admire; not people who make you say "wow they've got it together. Look at how great they are. I want to be just like them!" These are people who cut others down for their own personal gain, people who tell you you're doing a great job to your face, then go to your manager to complain about you, people who binge drink at every party and every weekend because they have no other coping skills, people who sit at their desks and literally eat their hair or bite their nails until they bleed because their anxiety is at that level, people who rarely eat a meal and survive on the receptionist's candy dish because God forbid they take a lunch. A successful Edelemployee is a sad, sad person. Not someone you want to be. In order to be successful at this place, you will eventually compromise all the qualities you value about yourself and become a person you don't even recognize. Just look at the people who have been there 8 years, 10 years or longer (if they exist) -- they are some of the meanest people you'll ever meet. Unless you're a client, and then they're so very, very nice.
Advice to Management
You won't listen, so why bother?