Laying low, letting the dust settle

snow covered buildingsIt’s snowing again. Or rather, still snowing. So, I’m going to work from home today. Take it easy. Focus on my work. Keep things simple.

I’ve spent the last few weeks clearing out a lot of extra clutter from my life. A lot of old projects were hanging around that were going nowhere. If something hasn’t gotten anywhere in 6 months, I need to learn to let it go. A lot of those old projects were years old — some of them older than 10 years.

Time to let it go. Just accept that they’re not going to happen, and they were never going to happen, in the first place, because I was following a “success template” that works for others, not me.

Frankly, a lot of the “recipes” for success that are out there seem completely foreign to me. They’re all about money and power and influence, which is the default First World mode, I suppose. But it’s just not for me. Personally, I’d rather focus on doing good work and being supported in doing that, without having to do all the marketing mental mojo that goes on.

As we’ve seen in the news, lately, online marketing can really be a problem… especially when it’s used to trick people into doing what you want them to do. Leveraging the weaknesses of human nature… deceiving… manipulating… I’ve been in that world, and it doesn’t sit right with me.

Anyway, it’s time to hunker down, watch the snow fall, and get some work done. I have a quiet day to myself, today. I think I missed a late work appointment I had last night — completely spaced out and forgot about it. So, today, I need to make up for that as best I can.

It’s another day. Life goes on.

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Sitting tight and getting my priorities straight

So, I got the job offer last week. Friday, while I was running errands, the recruiter called me and let me know that the company wanted to bring me on as a contractor first, then potentially hire me permanently.

And it gave me pause. It was actually happening. I was actually being presented with a job opportunity that I’d pursued, that had actually gone well, interviewing-wise, and was about to deliver exactly what I was looking for, career-wise.

Except…

The commute would have been about an hour each way. That is a huge discourager, because I already have fatigue issues, without risking my neck on a commute into some of the worst traffic in the area. No thank you.

I wouldn’t be able to work remotely whenever I want. That’s another huge problem, because sometimes I can’t make it through the day without a 20-minute nap. And the idea of having to drive in, every single day (except on those occasions when I have an appointment), drag my a** through the entire week, and then deal with evening traffic in terrible rush hour conditions… Yah. No.

I have no guarantee of what the ultimate terms of employment would be. I don’t know what salary they’d offer me, exactly, and I don’t know what benefits they’d have, what the vacation policy would be, what kind of accommodations I could get to keep functional… As much as they made it sound like I was practically guaranteed a permanent spot, there’s no guarantee of that, and I’m just not prepared to take that chance.

They’re not paying me what I’m worth. The recruiter was very cavalier about telling me the parent company typically doesn’t pay the full market rate, and I’m sick and tired of being told that. The thing is, over the years, one position after another like that has set me back. Because everytime you start to negotiate salary, they start from where you are currently. And that puts me at an immediate disadvantage. I’m sick of playing that game and losing, over and over.

When I did the math, the whole deal just looked worse and worse. I’d need to cover my own insurance for 6 months, my commuting costs would go up, and lifestyle issues just canceled out any benefit I’d get from the technical boost. It just didn’t pan out. If anything, it would have been a step back, which is something I’ve done far too often in my career.

For the past 10 years, I’ve had to make accommodations for my employers and grant them concessions because of my TBI issues. I’ve had to pass on really great jobs, because they demanded too much. Or I had to leave okay jobs because my health was suffering and I was shorting out. But at last, I’m working at a place where I can build my own accommodations into my job, and I’m a “known quantity” in the ecosystem.

So, it’s really not so bad, after all.

And I’m staying put. I’m better off at this company and exploring job options within its vast corporate complex, than venturing out in to the rest of the world, where everything is a big question mark.

That’s one thing I’ve figured out in the past few days.

The other thing I’ve figured out, is that I need to quit worrying about developing commercially viable products on the side. I’ve tried to “monetize” my blog, I’ve started websites, I’ve launched initiatives, I’ve written eBooks, I’ve dug into all sorts of entrepreneurial modes of working and thinking. I’ve been pretty focused on doing that for over 10 years, because I didn’t feel like I could really function in the 9-5 business environment as it existed. The long commute. The long hours. The rigid rules and office politics. It just sucks the life out of me.

I was right. I can’t function in those conditions. But the solution is not to strike out on my own to make my own way in the world, launch startups, forge a new path through the jungle, etc. Rather, it’s to find a decent steady job situation that gives me the stability, insurance, paid time off, and flexibility in hours that allow me to function at my best.  To have the best of all worlds. And quit worrying about all that work-for-myself intensity that I’ve been wrapped up in since 2006.

I’ve found a situation that works for me now. Who knows how long it will last, because supposedly they’re laying off a lot of people. But the part of the company I’m in, isn’t one of the ones where there’s a huge amount of redundancy. And anyway, getting laid off would involve a package of some kind, so that will be helpful.

But whatever. Bottom line is, I’m taking the pressure off myself and ditching the whole go-it-alone mindset. I realize it’s taken a lot out of me, to constantly be pushing myself on my side projects, and it’s consumed a lot of my time that I could be spending on things like blogging here and just enjoying my life. Catching up on my reading. Actually thinking about stuff at my leisure. I used to do that, before I got caught up in the whole entrepreneurial craze, and I miss it. I want to just relax, for once. More than anything, I need to wean myself from the whole stress thing, give myself time to breathe, and develop the habit of just living well.

Writing what I can here. Minding my own business. Taking care of my home and my health. Getting strong and healthy for the long haul. ‘Cause in the end, nobody’s really going to take care of me like I can. Nobody else knows what I need, like I do. And I’m done with chasing castles in the sky.

I’ve got my own realm here on the good earth.

And there’s plenty to occupy me here.

Second interview, second thoughts

handshakeI had an in-person interview for a new job on Friday.

All in all, it went well, I think. We seemed to connect well, and it’s the kind of work I want to get back into. I pulled together an updated portfolio of my work in a big hurry on Sunday morning. I had a lot to do, this past weekend — including an all-day event on Saturday and a ton of yard work and other chores on Sunday — so I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked.

But I got it all together within a few hours on Sunday, and I’m fairly happy with the end product. It also lit a fire under me to really pull together a good portfolio of my work. That’s the one thing I’ve been missing, all these years. To be honest, I never actually needed it before, because at the level I was operating at, and based on the companies I’d worked for, everybody just knew I could do the job, hands down.

Now things are different, though. We’ve got all kinds of people making all kinds of claims about what they can and can’t do, and the job market is glutted with posers. So, a portfolio is the first and last line of defense for both job seekers and employers.

Even if the job doesn’t work out — and I suspect it won’t, because I believe they have an open work space floor plan, and that doesn’t work for me. I’m a really “visual thinker” and rely on the part of my brain that processes imagery to do my job. So, if my line of sight is not blocked and I’m constantly being visually interrupted, I can’t do my work.

I learned that lesson loud and clear years ago. And I’m not going back to any environment that’s even remotely “open workspace”.

I’m also not a huge fan of long-ish commutes. My commute right now is pretty good, and the route also includes a number of stores, so I can shop on my way to and from work, without disrupting the rest of my schedule. That matters. It makes a huge logistical difference in my life.

I also can’t work full-time in an office. I need to work from home at least two days a week. I might need a nap, and I need to be at home for that.  Additionally, not having to drive my car every single day makes a big difference in my fatigue levels, as well as the cost of fuel.

Plus, the company wants me to come on as a contractor first, then get hired. I’m not sure I’m okay with that. It leaves a lot to chance, and while they may say they’re stable and supported by their parent corporation, I’ve been around long enough to know how quickly that can change.

Anyway, I haven’t heard back from the recruiter yet. Who knows what will come of it… But if it doesn’t pan out, that will be a relief, too, because I won’t have to make any more changes for a while. I can sit out the holidays and take my time off… and not worry about anything other than a few little projects I have going on.

That, and building out my portfolio.

Who knows what will happen? It’s impossible to say. But whatever happens, it’ll work. I’ll make sure it does.

Back in the saddle again… and again… and again…

binary code - lines of 0s and 1s
Slowly but surely, my ability to learn to code has returned

That old Aerosmith song is playing in my mind, this morning. I’ve been working on my programming skills, over the past week, and amazingly enough, I’m actually able to make sense of things.

This is a huge change, compared to where I was 10 years ago.  Even 5 years ago, I had real struggles with maintaining my attention long enough on anything to learn it. I would get so tired, cognitively, that I couldn’t continue with my learning. And I’d just drop it. I’d learn a bit, then I’d just wander off and forget I’d even started learning something.

Memory is a weird thing, sometimes. I can be so immersed in something… then I’ll get distracted and go do something else, and I’ll completely forget that I was working on anything else.

This is something I definitely need to work on. Because it happens to me at work, as well as at play. I lose track of projects I’m working on, at my day-job. And then I fall behind, and it’s a problem. I get turned around and end up behind the 8-ball, which is a terrible situation to be in for me.

I want to stay on top of things and keep current. But somehow I always get lost in the shuffle. I get distracted. I get tired. My brain starts to shut down on me, even while I’m on auto-pilot, just getting through my days by rote repetition.

So, since I know about this, I need to do something about this.

That goes for my job situation, as well as my own personal situation. In my current job, I need to keep up with what I’ve got going on, so I can just get it done and move on. I don’t want to be with this company past the end of the year. I just want to get out of there, and I need to make a career change back to doing programming again. I’ve come to realize that dealing with people all day in a capacity as a project/program manager is NOT for me. It’s been a good experience, but it’s not for me. I need a break from people and their messed-up emotions. I really want to work with machines. They’re very clear. And they don’t play head-games with me.

Plus, I can listen to music all day if I’m coding. I can’t do that, if I’m doing the people-thing. I need to work in a space where I can see immediate results of what I do. I’ve missed being a developer, and I realize now — once and for all — that this is what I’m meant to do. Not manage shit. Not run projects and programs. Screw that. I just want to build things. Make things happen. Forget the rest. I know where I belong, and it’s not in the position where I’m at now.

So, I’m using my time and frustration wisely. I’m building stuff in my free time. I’m doing tutorials, watching instruction videos while I ride my exercise bike in the morning, I’m building stuff I’ve been wanting to build, but haven’t yet gotten around to it. I’ve got some great ideas, and now I just need to work my way through them. I have another 5-1/2 months till I plan to move on, so I’ll spend time each month working on the core skills I need, building cool stuff that I can show to others, and eventually get myself to place where I’m as confident of my abilities as I need to be, to move on.

There’s a lot going on with me that’s pretty exciting, and I’m looking forward to getting up and running in earnest. I’ll start putting my work out there, as it develops, and see what comes of it. It’s pretty fascinating, really, so this will be fun.

I could use a little fun, for a change.

And this time, I’m not letting myself get sidetracked by distractions. I’m on a mission.

Onward…

Ah… the job.

It’s personal assessment time at work, these days – end of quarter (4th quarter 2016), and end of year for 2016 in general. I have to get my quarterly recap in by the end of the day today. I also have to do my goals for this coming quarter. And my end of year is due by the end of this month.

Pressure… This should focus me.

Fortunately, it’s Friday, so probably nobody’s going to be at the office, so it will be quiet.

I’ll put on some music and start writing, and see what comes of it.

On days like today, I don’t mind my job at all. I’ve started listening to motivational and educational audio while I’m driving to work. I’ve found some good podcasts, as well as some good audiobooks.

I should have done this years ago, but for some reason, I couldn’t get my act together.

Now I’ve got it together, though, so that’s fine. It’s a good way to start the year — and it also helps me get clear about my goals and objectives.

It’s actually more than a job for me. It’s my life. And my life is pretty good, I have to say.

As ever… onward.

Once again, I remember why I tend to favor contract work

abstract checklist with Xes beside the lines
A list of all the things I like about my job, right now — not a lot.

When I take contracts to work, instead of doing the permanent full-time thing, I have some actual control over my destiny. I also get compensated fairly for what I do, and I don’t have this blurred line of “exempt” status, which ropes me into working overtime and never being properly compensated for my work.

I can’t even count the number of times when I was “perm” that I pulled out all the stops to fix stuff other people had broken, really put myself through hell, and expected that my contribution would be recognized. But no. They just treated all the work like it was a normal thing for people to do, and they moved on. The promotions never came. The special consideration never came. Not even a bonus, for my over-and-above-the-call-of-duty work.

So, why bother? Seriously. I can make more money contracting, and since I don’t have any kids to put through college and my spouse is covered by their own insurance, I’m not bound to a permanent job for the benefits. I need the money more. And I need my freedom. The permanent full-time thing is a scam that works in the favor of employers, not the minions.

They can have it. They can keep it.

It’s time to break out of this annoying little mythology about “job security” and get on with making some serious coin. Yes, I need to pay for my own insurance. But if I land the right work, I can totally cover it. And I’ll be free to come and go as I please.

I looked at my savings over the weekend. By the end of this week, I actually will have four months’ worth of living expenses in the bank. Sweet. That means I have some leeway — not to quit work entirely, but to take a little time off between assignments. And also pursue some of my own interests on the side.

Please – please – please – let me get laid off this week AND get a severance package. So I can get on with my life. Contracting. Making the big bucks. And not roped into a life of indentured servitude, stuck with the spoiled fruits of other people’s screw-ups.

I’m really sick of this sh*t.

Okay, this is weird.

There is a chance I may get laid off next Thursday. I don’t know what that means.

I just found out there are layoffs planned for my company… it’s in the news. This comes at the same time as being ordered by my boss (in a bcc email) to turn in my end-of-quarter goals report by next Thursday – a week earlier than usual… as well as them calling a team meeting on Thursday afternoon (which is also the end of a pay period).

Correlation does not imply causation, and of course this is an uncertain time, all around, so I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but there is a chance it might happen.

I imagine I will have insurance coverage for the short term afterwards – at least till the end of the month – but I don’t know.

But things are up in the air.

I just don’t know what this means.

I’ve been hoping for this, to be honest. But now that it looks possible, I’m less enthusiastic.

Oh, well. I needed to update my resume and LinkedIn profile, anyway. So, I guess that decides what I’ll be doing this weekend.

Onward.

The magic of tin foil handcuffs

open handcuffs with broken lniks between them
They only look like handcuffs from a distance

Today is looking pretty sweet. I’m flying solo today, as my spouse has a business trip. I’ll help them get themself packed and out the door, then I’ll have the whole day to myself. To putter. work around the yard. Do some reading (because I can). Sleep. Sleep a lot.

I can also take care of some traditional Sunday activities today. And do a little bit of work-work, since over the past few days I got caught up in some “flash” projects with work and didn’t keep to my established plans. Now I need to do a little bit to get myself back on track, so Monday isn’t such a pain in the neck.

Things at work are looking up – for me, at least. My boss indicated that my position is safe for the next three years, at least. There’s a small (and by that, I mean, only a few days’ worth of pay) honorarium that they’re paying out each year over the coming three years. It “vests” during that time. The amount they’re offering is laughable, but it is a gesture of intention to make at least some attempt to keep me.

The really good news about this is that not only do they want to keep me, but they’re not offering me so much money that I’ll go out of my way to stay. I really need to be making at least 15% more than I am — especially as my spouse is unable to work, and while they haven’t filed for Social Security disability benefits, I looked into it, and if they did, they’d be getting a few hundred dollars a month, max. They’ve had lifelong issues with employment, and much of their work was done under the table, so they haven’t exactly socked a lot away for retirement. I’m not sure they’ve ever given retirement any thought.

In any case, I am more and more the primary breadwinner in this household, even if my spouse is out doing work like today. They are having a lot of trouble walking and moving around, which limits them. And they are getting a little tired of all the busy-ness that goes into their work.  So, they’ve been scaling back, over the past year or two. And I suspect they will even more, in the future.

That means I have to make some serious money. Like real money. And that means I can’t afford to stay at this job for the long term. Plus, when the merger is totally complete before the end of this year, there’s no guarantee that our compensation will stay the same. That’s all the more reason to start looking in the fall.

I’ve been taking it easy, this summer, just thinking about stuff, “rambling” through my head, thinking about what I want to do with myself and what I want to do next. I need to build out a handful of different resumes, because I can do a variety of things. And I need to start  reconnecting with recruiters. I have a few in mind who are good contacts, and I’ll be reaching out to them over the coming weeks and months.

I don’t want to start anything before October, really. I need my summer OFF — something I haven’t had in five years. For four years, I was completely consumed by summer projects that had me working overtime from April till September (that sucked). After I left that job, I thought I’d get a break, but I went into a situation that was even worse – the sheer volume of work was crushing. And I couldn’t go on a full vacation at all. I actually had to work during the week when my spouse and I had a week at a beach house. I was home for three days during that week, while they were at the beach.

Yeah, that sucked even worse than my situation before.

Basically, I want to use all my abilities and skills and experience, and not have to suffer from anyone else’s foolishness and poor habits of thought and action. If other people can’t plan and follow through properly, why should I suffer? I shouldn’t. And I’m tired of feeling like I’m paying the price for other people’s laziness and ineptitude.

So, yeah… I’m getting more motivated to look around. And the fact that my employer is not offering me anything even close to golden handcuffs — more like tin foil handcuffs — gives me total freedom to choose something else.

And choose, I shall. I have time to be a lot more focused and deliberate about this next move — to look around and find a situation I want, rather than sitting back and waiting for others to find me. This is quite different than things have been in the past, when my main strategy was to build a fantastic resume that attracted people. It was my “chumming” strategy, where I put out “bait” in my resume that I knew would attract the headhunter “sharks”… who would then go out and find me work.

That was great for a long time, and it’s really my go-to strategy. But I’d now like to take a more active, pro-active role in my job searches, and go out and find companies I actually want to work for.

So, in preparation, I need to do the following:

  1. Create several different versions of my resume, each highlighting different aspects of my skills and experience.
  2. Scout around the areas I can reach by train. I really want to start taking the train, rather than being stuck in traffic, and I have access to two different commuter lines, which means, I have twice the potential area for good jobs. PLUS, one of the commuter lines ends up right in the middle of a regional innovation district, which — hello — is good news for me, since I need to be with innovators.
  3. Figure out how much I can ask for, salary-wise. I’ve always played it safe, because of my insecurity around my cognitive-behavioral issues. I also didn’t want to stress myself out terribly with heavy-duty negotiations over salary. And that’s worked. I haven’t had to walk away from any negotiations, and I haven’t flipped out from the stress of it. I’m in a much better, much more secure place, now, and I think I can handle that important piece of the puzzle now.
  4. Connect with recruiters.
  5. Connect with old colleagues who say they like their jobs, and see if there are opportunities there.
  6. Get my references in order. It’s only been about a year, since I last contact everyone, so, they’re still “warm”.
  7. Be smart about it. Don’t fall in love with how things look on the surface, because everybody’s hiding something, and no situation is 100% ideal. Even if it starts out that way, it won’t stay that way for long. So, don’t get all whoop-dee-doop over how perfect stuff is. Get ready for change.

It’s a lot to do… Fortunately, I have all of August and September to get my act together. If I break it down into manageable pieces and pace myself, I can do this. I can totally do this. I’ve never done it quite as thoroughly as this before, but I’m feeling pretty strong about my abilities, these days, so why not give it a whirl?

Why not, indeed?

Onward!

Q3 Goals done – Yes! Bring it on.

hand holding pen, checking off lists on a checklist
Got that covered

I just got notified that my boss approved my Q3 goals. Woot!

That’s done. Now I can just live my life and do what I please, come what may.

I’ve been spending some time really digging into the “corners” of my past year at this job. Next week is my 1-year anniversary, so now’s a good time to do a retrospective and see what all I’ve accomplished… and figure out if that’s what I want to do with myself in the future.

I need to brush up on my resume this weekend, just to have it in good working order, in case I’m let go next week. And yes, I’m very nonchalant about it, because it’s a distinct possibility, and I have NO idea what’s going to become of me.

BUT I am confident of my ability to find another position. I’ve come to realize, through dealing with many other people, that I have skills and abilities that are assets to any organization. After years and years and years of not thinking I’m a “people person” — because I would lose track of conversations, get confused, not feel like I was keeping up, and I was a total blithering idiot — I now realize that I can hold an intelligent conversation with other people, if I just pace myself differently and interact with them more, in the course of our conversation.

I’ve also become a LOT less self-conscious, thanks to working with a neuropsych on a weekly basis. Just having someone there who’s intelligent and experienced and isn’t going to judge me for being weird — because they know what my limitations are, and they understand the nature of them — is a huge help. I practice conversing in those sessions. There are other benefits, of course, but it’s mostly the conversation practice that I need and benefit from.

So, I feel like I’m really well-positioned for whatever happens next at work. I suspect, if anything, they’ll keep me around but slot me into a different role, because the thing I do now has changed a lot, since I started, and it’s sidelined me and not made the best use of my abilities. Whatever. I’m happy to live a life of simulated productivity, just like everyone else. For all their talk about how “slammed” they are, they spend an awful lot of time on Facebook and watching videos 😉

So, today is all about doing a retrospective on my last year, as well as working on the handful of things I’ve got going for a handful of people at work. It’s fine. It’s Friday. Everyone is working from home, pretty much. And so am I.

So am I.

Less than two weeks left at this company

Just floating along...
Just floating along…

So, it seems the merger is speeding up, and I may be working for a different company in another two weeks. How strange.

The lucky thing is, I will have a little over a year logged at the existing company, so I won’t look like a “jumper” when the company name changes on my resume in such a short time. I need to have at least a year in at a place, so I don’t look like a “flight risk” later on.

So, unless I get laid off in the next week, that will happen.

And that’s good.

Things are really strange at work. Nobody’s really doing anything work-related. At least, not obviously. They’re doing online crossword puzzles, checking Facebook, answering personal email, walking around out in the far parking lot while they’re talking on the phone (maybe to recruiters), or just hanging out. It’s like everyone is just on hold, until the final word goes through.

As for me, I’m trying to accomplish one concrete thing a day — today I put together a plan of action to help some co-workers who need to do a certain task on a regular basis. Tomorrow I will concentrate on finishing up my goals for the coming quarter. Wednesday, I have meetings all day. Thursday I’m volunteering in the morning and then going to work in the afternoon, when I will run some reports and send out some announcements to people. Friday, I will do my retrospective on the week and figure out what I’m doing next week.

So, that’s figured out, and that’s fine.

All in all, it feels like a weird limbo-ish bubble at work. People are upset that the company they have loved for years and years is going away. Others are shrugging their shoulders, because this is what happens, these days. I think a lot of older folks on the brink of retirement are panicking a little, for fear they’ll be let go before they can just retire. As for me, I’m watching everything just kind of roll by.

Only time will tell how this all works out.

Only time will tell.

So, onward.