This job search is proving quite enlightening. As painful as all the insecurity is…
Will I be able to learn what I need to know? Will I be able to impress the people I need to impress? Will I be able to earn what I need to earn? Will I be making a bad decision? Will the company I go with be able to stay afloat? Will I be able to have insurance? Will I be able to have a life? What will become of me?
I am learning a lot about myself and my limits. It is incredibly difficult to stay cool at work, while I’m working on my exit. Everything feels like it’s in limbo, and the whole situation seems surreal. I don’t have a lot of margin for error, and it’s incredibly stressful to be in this situation. On top of it, I’ve been pretty hard on myself for “getting myself into this situation” because I feel like I’ve gotten myself into this tight spot, and it’s all my fault that I can’t make a success out of this situation, the way I’m expected to.
What an impossible scenario I’ve created for myself. I’m being way too hard on myself, and my ego has completely taken over with thinking that I’m the sole creator of this situation, when nothing could be farther from the truth. The real truth is that I’ve been making the best of a wretched situation for a long, long time — about a year longer than I expected to be able to. And I’ve accomplished things that nobody thought could be accomplished, despite outright sabotage by my bosses for the past two years.
Ha ha. I’ve succeeded anyway.
Yeah, it’s not all that bad, and I need to get over myself and stop telling myself that it’s all “my bad” that things suck bilgewater. Things suck bilgewater all across the board, without any help on my part. I’m free to go anytime, and so is everyone else. If they choose to stay in the situation where they are, that’s their choice… and there you go. It’s all a matter of choice. It always has been, and it always will be.
I’m a big believer in taking responsibility for your circumstances, and doing everything in your power to direct your own life in ways that are true to you and your vision and your talents. I stepped into this job, a little over two years ago, hoping to bring my talents and vision to the job. I succeeded to some extent, and the changes I’ve effected have permanently altered the organization. There are higher expectations now, and higher standards in some respects. We have a better infrastructure in place than ever before, and long-standing problems have gotten solved.
Yet at the same time, that improvement has gone completely unnoticed by the folks in charge, despite my drawing attention to it and documenting it and educating folks about it. The folks in charge are all about short-term quarterly results and being able to show “growth” in small increments, which is directly opposed by own point of view, which takes a longer view of things — when you take some extra time to fix things that are broken (and have been broken for a long time), you will speed things up for the future. The best part of it all, is that you’ll never realize that there is a whole system behind what you’re doing — it will work silently and invisibly, as it should.
But then the people who make their livings off fixing things won’t be able to log any progress.
And we can’t have that.
So clearly, if the organization doesn’t share my outlook there’s not much point in me staying there. And I have to remember that there are other places that do share my beliefs. I’ve worked in some in the past. This current place is an anomaly for me — probably because I am not working in a predominantly technical division. They do the sales and marketing and customer relationship stuff, not the technology stuff. And I’m definitely a fish out of water, flopping around on the bank of the stream, gasping for air.
Time to go… time to go…
And look up from my little workspace to see what else is out there, what else is available that really moves me. The simple fact of my life is that, in order to excel at things, I need to focus in on it so intently that it becomes a transcendent experience for me. And I haven’t had that for over a year. I need to be able to completely immerse myself in my work, and the present environment prohibits that – in fact, it’s designed to prohibit it. In order to build up skill in anything, you have to put in a lot of hours and a lot of hard work. You have to try things and fail and look for workarounds. You have to really kick it, and be able to sustain your passion for what you do, day in and day out.
I — and everyone else in this world — cannot truly succeed without sustained effort, and sustained effort requires a ton of passion. Not just the kind of passion that comes up in the moment, but passion that lasts through it all — through the boring times and the exciting times… the kind of passion that keeps you up at night, that wakes you up early in the morning, and fuels you when all seems lost. I love the work I do, when I’m allowed to do it, and it’s that love that keeps me going, that keeps me learning, that keeps me sharp and engaged. It’s not the trophies and the prizes and the recognition. It’s not the outside-in rewards that drive me. It’s the inside-out passion that makes it all worth it, day in and day out.
In looking around at all my job options, I’ve come across a lot of jobs that offer external trappings — prestigious positions at top corporations who are leaders in their field. I’ve come across a lot of opportunities that look great on the outside. The companies that offer them promise rewards, benefits, and the chance to associate yourself with leading-edge industry powerhouses. And then I look at the company reviews on places like Glassdoor and Hallway, and I find different stories being told by people actually inside the companies.
And I have to stop and take a step back. I have to reconsider my orientation. Because it is so easy for me to be seduced into thinking that those powerhouses are the key to my future — prestige being the biggest draw. The only thing is, the things I look for are not mainly the external trappings. It’s the conditions that people work in, the technical focus, the infrastructure, the quality of staff. It’s the innermost working of the company that I need to look at and value — far above the outside reputation that’s made by sales and marketing and branding folks.
Frankly, it worries me when a company is so focused on it “brand” and there are serious holes in the internal infrastructure. It’s classic smoke and mirrors stuff, and I have to be really careful that I don’t fall for that, because it is so seductive and so attractive.
So, what do I really love, above all else?
- Working with passionate people who love their work and want to make the right decisions for the right reasons, not because it’s politically expedient, or because everybody else is doing it.
- Working at a company with a solid technical foundation and that values and understands the importance of its infrastructure enough to invest significant resources in building and maintaining it.
- Working with people who understand and value technical standards and make the effort to stick by ’em.
- Being able to immerse myself so profoundly in my work, that everything else ceases to exist for a few hours each day.
- Having a good balance between what I love to do, what I have to do, and what I can’t help doing… and making room for my whole life, not just grinding out the hours because it’s the cool and tough thing to do, and losing my whole life to a single employer, doing a single thing that is only for that employer. I have so many other interests in my life – why would I sacrifice them all for a paycheck? There are other ways to do this, people. Many other ways.
There are other things, of course, but these are the Big Five that I look for. These are the things that Really Matter Most to me. They are the things I’m just not going to compromise on. I’m just not. They’re also the things that I tend to get seduced away from, by things like prestige and power and what-not. Ultimately, the only power we really have is over our own lives, and the illusion that we can have power over the rest of life or the rest of the world… well, that’s just an illusion.
So, as painful as the insecurity can be, as awkward and difficult as it is, to be in limbo, this is good work for me to be doing — to be taking a long, hard look at my life and being forced to consider what it is I want to do with my life. I need balance and the energy to pursue other activities and interests outside the 9-to-5. I need to find work I love with all my heart, that I can be continuously challenged with. And I need to work in a group that is all on the same page, not just flailing around, covering their asses and not being responsive or responsible to others. I need to find other people who love their work with all their hearts and who are willing to dive deep into a mutual effort to build things that make a difference in the world.
It’s not too much to ask, right? 😉
Actually, I think it’s not. It can happen. I just need to keep looking and keep holding out for what I am looking for, and not cave in the face of professional seduction.
What I want is what I need, and I simply can’t settle for anything less.