Posts Tagged ‘job’

Opportunity Inertial Guidance

28 December 2011

Dear J-

It’s nice to believe that I’m ahead of a trend here with the portable Bluetooth keyboard but the truth is that I’ve always liked the idea of a full-size keyboard and a small device. This particular keyboard has been flexible enough to outlive two other devices (Palm Treo 650, whose primary faults were no wi-fi and no native blogging client; Nokia N800 which remedied those flaws but didn’t provide an always-connected solution like the phone does) and I’d been eyeing a keyboard like this ever since I had a PDA over ten years ago. Say what you will about onscreen keyboards but for me, typing in the dark is a lot easier with physical keys and all fingers going.

We are by nature creatures of habit; we find comfortable grooves and wear ruts in the ground treading them back and forth. If it works, we say, why change? Comfort becomes an inertia and the stimulus of change becomes onerous, often inadequate to overcome the same old path over and over. Between seventeen and twenty-eight I had nine different addresses (not counting moves within the same boarding house) and for the last eight I’ve had one, which makes it much easier to find me but I find myself burdened with the weight of things and that same inertia.

I’m sometimes convinced that the new job is a bit of a mirage: blink and I’ll be back at the old one, the same desk I had for five years, the same set of issues, the same familiar faces, the same the same the same. Yesterday I spent an hour wandering around the roof of the plant, where all the HVAC equipment is kept. Just to be free enough of responsibilities — however temporary, that is — and able to take an hour finding footpaths and stairways is marvelous luxury that I can’t adequately describe. I can scarcely believe my good fortune and resolve to be as free and portable as possible to avoiding inertia and always seeking new learning opportunities when I can.

Mike

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Complex Remembering Scheme

2 December 2011

Dear J-

It’s now just down to my last week and I wouldn’t have thought it would have come so quickly but here it is. Me, I’d prefer that nothing change until the very end and that no big deal be made of it but I know they have at least a lunch with my current boss planned and I can’t think of a single awkward thing I’d like to say to him at this point in front of his boss. Worse than that, it’s happening on Fish Taco Friday, my last with Ben and I can’t think of a worse day for it to happen so maybe I’ll ask if Monday next week would work better for them. There’s still nagging residual guilt over disloyalty, after all, and I just don’t know what else I can do to fix that feeling.

It feels like I’ve been down this road before and it’s amazing to think that this is the longest I’ve held a single position at the same desk (which fairly groans under the weight of my debris), five years. I think about my dad who spent thirty years in the same office (with the same filing system as me, too: piles of papers stacked all over, a chair in the corner for me to sit on whenever I visited him) and I wonder if I’ll ever get there or if I’ll ever want to get there. Is stability heaven or hell, in other words, right? Depends on what part of your life you’re talking about.

I’ve gotten comfortable to the point of contempt, almost, in my current job. What I mean is I’ve become resistant to suggestion: am I doing this right? I get defensive and shell-up into a ball of hate: of course I am. How dare you question me. Do you know who I am? And far be it for me to turn into the prima donna that I always knew I could be: it’s not easy but I want to stay hungry and interested and this is the right thing to do right now. I dread the unsettled schedule but I’m confident our family can weather it, though I wonder what happpens on the other side of twenty years from now: broken or better?

Mike

Old Job, New Job

28 November 2011

Dear J-

There will be pleasant days and good times ahead along with new beginnings and lots of learning (oI hope)p. For now I’m in the last two weeks of my old life and mentally gearing myself up to tackle the remainder of the work I have left. I haven’t gotten anything new but I also haven’t done anything worth mentioning last week, either. There’s a bunch of stuff I need to turn over and yet like yesterday, when I was cleaning off and out my desk, I feel a certain reluctance to get going as it seems ultimately futile: what am I gaining, who benefits from me moving on? I do.

I am selfish in this regard: it’s well past time to move on past procurement engineering. Without any false modesty, I’ve shouldered the load for a lot of people for a long time and I’ve been wanting to do something new, something different. So, it’s me. I want. And yes, it is effective to appeal to my sense of guilt over leaving but I think I’m done with that now; when I first started this job a boss ago, I walked in with a sense of terror and efforts to poach me were not subtle; I did stay what I promised was a year out of a sense of loyalty. One year became two and then we were thrown into the new system and we all struggled to get up to speed.

The very specialized work that I do now can be filled (and will be filled) by other guys with more experience and I’m sure they’ll forget whatI do and what I did. That’s a good thing. Make yourself indispensable and you’ll be in demand like I was three years ago. There are too many hours spent balanced towards work in this work-life equation, though, and it’s interesting to note how quickly the sense of appreciation from my management has evaporated ; after glimpses into the upper tiers I’ve been cut off as effectively as if I were gone, but my mind has been stuck here in the old job since August. It’s time to start turning that around.

Mike

Some Magic Morning

17 November 2011

Dear J-

There’s a funny thing about work: when your’e transitioning and the new job seems so far away there’ll be a day you realize that the time you have left isn’t as much as you thought. Even if it seems a bit excessive to have me wait around for four months instead of the typical two weeks I’ve always regarded December as some far-off, mythical date that isn’t going to be here any time soon. With the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow, though, we’ve got just a few weeks left together, the warehouse and I, and there’s any number of things that I haven’t been able to take care of so far that I’ll have to turn over.

I think I just went over my limit on the corporate jargon-o-meter. I’m down to — let’s see — three weeks and today. Each day becomes an ever-increasing percentage of the time left; this week alone has eaten up a good twenty-five percent. I’ll call it a relative dilation of time: as the actual day approaches each individual day seems to creep by faster and faster in some kind of blur. I know that no one has sped up the clock but I also know that there’s been whole days lately where I’ll sit down and eventually find myself by 11:30 wondering. What I’ve done that day. Lunch has been inconsistent too, ranging anywhere from I’m-hungry to what-day-is-it.

When I was younger I used to decry not having seen the sun in Cheney at all: during debate season there was always the tournament at Gonzaga in January where we’d have to get up early enough and return so late that it felt like we were thieves stealing out to do business by the cover of night. The time change always does this to me: instead of delaying the onset of morning but ensuring enough light to bring us home as during Daylight Savings adjusted hours we’re starting to hit the dark-dark zone. I have to keep reminding myself that even that’s not forever, and a month from now is when the solstice hits and we’ll start gettting longer days again. Changes creep up fast on you and before you know it you’re back to something new.

Mike

Tentacle Jitters

2 August 2011

Dear J-

Just like that the day of the interview sneaks up on me and I find myself woefully underprepared, no time left to do any last-minute research or throw together some kind of question package that makes me sound even remotely intelligent. Having interviewed (on a panel) five people within the last few months has given me some insight into how the process works but I’m not going to claim to be a master of the art. Let’s see: I have to print out that system description and read it over, that will help; I will put together a list of questions that I want to ask to make sure the job is the right fit for me; print out a few copies of my resume — unfortunately I don’t have fancy paper; write down a few story notes ahead of time so I have some idea what it is I do on a day-to-day basis.

The last thing I have on my mind is telling my boss, and how to break it to him. It isn’t a huge concern but it is tickling the back of my mind like an unpleasant itch. There’s the residual guilt of looking for another job — and having gotten this far! — without telling him but as I’ve discussed with others there’s no obligation to do so. It feels overly mercenary to say it but the only thing I owe is notice. Everyone tells me that I’ve paid my dues as a procurement engineer and that I deserve to flip over to the other side but I need to be able to believe that in order to make this happen. What we need and what we deserve are two different things sometimes, right? Yet it isn’t my job to find someone who will backfill my spot: leave that up to my boss and make sure he’s aware of that pressing need, though if he’s able to hire for all his open spots I shouldn’t be missed.

Ready or not it’s going to happen in another few hours — scrambling to make up excuses, leaving early to change and drive over, the actual interview which I’ve adopted a curiously casual attitude regarding, and then un-doing it all and getting back to work in time to pack up and go home. Priorities; I pretend to have them but it feels like when it comes right down to it I’m only looking out for myself today. Given that I never have the chance to do so, though, I’m not surprised that it feels so awkward and strange to be taking the time for myself. So when I ask if I’m ready for the interview it’s more a question of if I’m ready to air my faults to other people, if they’ll accept me, if I’m willing to put myself first — just for a few hours — and if I feel okay with that selfish feeling. I think so. I know.

Mike

Sustainable Effort

31 March 2011

Dear J-

Knowing me there’s a ton of stuff left unfone at the office this week. You can either blame it on TV, the habits of my generation, or the nature of the work but I fear I’m completely ruined for anything that requires sustained concentration. My attention now splits to whatever task was just given to me. If you try to ask me when that backlogged item is going to ne done you might as well ask me to reinvent the wheel. Plus I’m going to be nasty about it anyway so why even bother, right? I feel like I just came back from a break and I’m already ready for another.

Good things happen to those who wait. The meek shall inherit the earth. Slow and steady wins the race. The company I work for has been named in a lawsuit alleging that a manager gettting fired was retaliation for him standing up for employees who’d been working too many hours. I think of the aphorisms we’re told growing up and wonder sometimes if they’re just lip service in light of the pending suit. I know what my experience is and I can’t say what actually happened as I was neither witness nor party to the actions that transpired but wonder if the timing has anything to do with Fukushima Dai-Ichi and wanting to believe that there’s something rotten.

If you do your job well are you supposed to be invisible or is your name on everyone’s mind when they think of your department? It’s a question of publicity, I suppose. What do you want out of work? What benefits you? I kept telling myself that I was sticking around to keep learning but I wonder if I wasn’t unconsciously taking on miserable jobs so other people didn’t have to go through the same. Geez, that sounds arrogant. Truth be told I listened to the people who told me I was indispensable when in fact anyone can be replaced. Maybe I kept taking time off to test that assertion. Life goes on. The work goes on. If you wrap your sense of self-worth into your job, though, you’re already behind the 8-ball.

Mike

Self Awesome

15 December 2010

Dear J-

If you read Kirk Tuck — and there’s no reason you should, come to think of it — you’d know that mixed in with all the doubts about whether striking it out on your own is the right thing to do or not is the confidence you need in yourself.  There are those, like me, who need the stability and relative security of a 9-to-5 at a big company and will put up with all the low-grade frustrations of bureaucracy and petty office politics as compensation.  You really have to believe in yourself and your talent in order to succeed in your own business, doubly so in a creative field like photography where Kirk is.

I got called in while at work today for a random drug screening*, which requires me to walk for five minutes or so to another building where they’ve now posted large photographs of site workers.  I happened to watch them set up some of the shots in the warehouse, where I usually work, and it was gratifying to see people I know and especially exciting to see how good they looked in the shots — these photographers know what they’re doing.

I suppose part of job satisfaction is knowing your competence level; if you’re always treading water frantically trying not to drown then you’re not going to have much fun.  On the other hand there is such a thing (as in hockey) as keeping your head up:  admiring the last report/pass/email you sent after it’s gone is as useful as closing the gate after the horse bolts.  Better to know you can, and that you’re awesome at it (with no false modesties here; everyone is the best in at least one aspect of their job) — you need it to get through the day.

Mike

* They have a specific, rigid procedure for the screening:  you have to empty out your pockets before you go into the stall, you’re not allowed to flush, you have a time limit, and if you’re really unlucky (and they suspect you of shenanigans), you get to urinate in front of a same-sex lab specialist in order to keep you from adulterating the specimen.

Repel Boarders

4 August 2010

Dear J-

It feels like there’s nothing but work some days; today’s drive back featured unrelenting traffic making our usual forty-five minutes stretch into ninety. I sometimes think that we ought to live closer to work but I know that would only spell out longer hours. When I was at Worldcom we had no problems with me turning in regular twelve hour days.

At one point another guy came up to me to note that at his first job he too would rattle off overtime without a look back, sizing up only in retrospect. Now for me any attempt to induce me to stay longer than the allotted eight hours is met with the same cheer I would give a pickpocket: you want what out of me? Attitudes change, but more importantly there’s better things to do with my time.

Rationally I know that I could stay longer, but there’s always more work than hands available. One of my bosses described the job as a workaholic’s dream, and always something new each day. He didn’t lie, but I wonder sometimes whether that was meant to appeal or repel.

Mike

Day 11: Back Down

5 April 2010

Dear J-

The day was filled with practical matters: ethics and diversity, facilitiated by a couple of corporate folks; although I’ve been through the courses before (the content isn’t a huge surprise) this was spun from a management point of view, and like everything else I’ve been learning, it’s not the easiest approach to it. At one point the facilitator had to stop our role-play pointing out just how overwhelmed I was acting in the capacity of manager/supervisor trying to calm down an employee with performance issues and resentment.

After the weekend and the attendant concentrated craziness (the theraputic powers of a bounce house in burning off energy and keeping us all sane can not be stated too strongly), it was actually somewhat relaxing to head back out on the road (only one stall this morning) and head off to training. Although I’m still not convinced that I’m the sane one in the family, it’s still curious that only after what seems like a million hours (really, nothing more than four) are we able to relax a bit.

Of the thousand reasons to go to work the last reason should be escaping the house. And after Friday I was looking forward to today in terms of finding out more about the future; I keep thinking that I’m growing up and assuming more responsibilitis (at home or work) but those are nothing but frightening. Yet I keep saying that I love a challenge; if I back down now, what will I turn out to be?

Mike

Desk Fail

2 October 2009

Dear J-

I’m almost giddy at the thought of sleeping in — everything is relative — tomorrow.  Of course, cramming a whole weekend into a day has its own risks as well; between the vacuuming and trying to attack a tourist attraction we’ll have our hands full the next few hours.  I’m starting to settle in to the increased hours, but I’m already starting to feel the hours start to catch up to me as well.

When we shifted to long hours in Sacramento it seemed like the right thing to do; we were buried in work from a new system and we had recovery in sight — work x number of hours for y days and we’ll be caught up.  Very simple, as Professor Layton would tell you; we somehow still made money because customers with working telephony services are happy customers who pay bills.  It doesn’t feel that way again; between getting older (i.e. hopefully less naive) and no real progress with getting un-buried (my old boss was fond of saying that the job was a workaholic’s wet dream; my old boss had quite a way with often inappropriate words), I go and feel important for roughly five seconds before it comes crashing down on me, how much I goldbrick the work.

America teaches the value of hard work is, well, that it’s hard work.  It’s worth doing well; try your best, so on and so forth.  And it’s doubly true that my name comes up a lot — this is a good sign:  I’m doing something! — and it’s a bad one too:  I’m doing it wrong!  Again!  If there wasn’t a strong proscription against taking photographs at work, I’d post my desk with a massive FAIL stamped across it.

Mike