How to have a working vacation

Work doesn’t have to be a chore. It can actually be fun. Over the past nine months, I was essentially on a “working vacation” — doing a job that paid pretty well and was really easy for me to do, and that had constant opportunities to learn.

In these times of economic hardship and unemployment, it may seem like productive, enjoyable work is well out of reach. It’s not. Here’s how you can work a job that’s more like a vacation than a J-O-B:

  1. Get training in specific skills. Learn a trade. Take classes. Acquire and develop your ability to do something, whether that something is fixing clothes dryers or building web pages or operating tool and die machinery. If your industry is becoming increasingly automated, learn to use the machines that are “taking your place”. Trust me — they’re going to break, and it will take trained people to get them back online.
  2. Hone your skills to the point where they come second-nature. Some people think that having skills or qualifications is enough… that simply having a degree or a certificate is enough to secure their future. I’m not sure what the weather is like on their planet(s), but that’s not been my experience. It’s not just having skills that counts — it’s being able to use them. So, if you have some, work, work, and work some more to attain mastery in your chosen field. Do not rest on your laurels. Make it your mission, your vocation, your calling, to be the best you can be at what you do.
  3. Keep learning, keep growing. That, in itself, is a reward. It makes you feel good. It makes you earn well. It makes you an asset to your employer and your co-workers. The more you learn and the more adept you become, the less your work feels like… work. When you reach a place of mastery in your profession, your calling, your vocation, work becomes worship, and the level of effort decreases dramatically.
  4. Take on more than you think you can handle. This will stretch you and force you to push the limits of your abilities. Really stretch yourself. Push yourself. Do things you don’t think you can, and don’t be afraid to fail. Then, when “regular” jobs come along, they will feel like a breeze. “Average” work will feel like child’s play, compared to the more advanced stuff you’ve done.
  5. Do the dirty work. What a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s not the fun jobs that win you job security, it’s the shitty, crappy, awful, boring, distasteful jobs that nobody else wants to do. When a crappy job comes up, if you have attained a level of mastery in your work, dealing with the stupid, niggling little details will not be such a chore. You’ll be more than up to the task, and your job will be much more secure than people’s who are prima donas, who think that because they have such-and-such qualifications and certifications and degrees, they shouldn’t have to do the “scut work”. Scut work is the stuff of job security, dude. Never turn it down. The people at the top are always looking for folks who can handle the shitty jobs well — and with mastery.

Basically, having a “working vacation” has two parts — ability and attitude.

Optimized, maximized, top-flight ability lets you do difficult things easily and with style.

A positive can-do attitude lets you treat every assignment like the opportunity it is.

Work should not  be a chore, a task to perform at the risk of homelessness. We have to work, we all know that. (And the ones who say otherwise are being silly — or revealing their independent wealth).  But it doesn’t have to be a burden, if you take the right approach.

Mastery, not servitude, is the key. So, take charge of your life, take control of the things you can control — your attitude and your abilities. And don’t let anyone hold you back or tell you anything other than You can do it.

Because you can.

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I may need to find another job…

This is really bumming me out. It just sucks. In another few weeks, I may be looking for another job, uprooting myself from the place I’ve been at for the past eight months, and transitioning into another company, position, and whole new group of people to figure out.

It doesn’t make me happy. And I hate being in this situation, but I have to do what I have to do.

Basically, the place where I’m working now wants me to go to full-time permanent, and my boss say’s they’re under pressure to convert people from contractors to perm. Either that, or get rid of the contractors (which would include me). Now, I have to take that with a grain of salt, because my boss has been known to “shade” the truth to push forward their own agenda(s), so who knows exactly what they’re being told. Bottom line is, they’re pushing to get me to convert to permanent, and it’s really uncomfortable for me. It’s terrible on a number of different levels.

First off, they’re trying to low-ball me. They converted other folks in my group to perm, and those folks are actually very weak and easy to push around, so they agreed to take less money than they could reasonably demand. Part of the problem with these folks is that they’re not the most dedicated workers, they spend a fair amount of time hanging out and doing things other than working, and they are also easily bullied — perhaps in part because they know they’re slacking and they don’t want to rock the boat.

I, on the other hand, am a workaholic, and it is rare that I’m ever not working. I was working on my stuff till 10:00 last night — in part because I love what I do, in part because I need to pace myself over the course of my day and break up my work into smaller, more manageable pieces.

But my boss doesn’t see it that way. All they see are dollar signs, so when my two slacker co-workers took less money, they set a precedent that I’m stuck with — and the bitch of it is, one of the slackers is higher up than me, organizationally, so my boss has to offer me less, which is just awful.

Second of all, no matter how well prepared and how skilled I am, the fact remains that change freaks me out. Completely. I can’t even begin to say, just how stressful it is for me. When I was younger, and before I had sustained all these head injuries (I’ve had at least three over the course of my working life, on top of the 4+ I had when I was a kid, and my ability to handle change has decreased with each one), I could shift between different tasks and different jobs and not worry about it. But now I’m having a really hard time with even the idea of change. It’s making me very, very nervous, very, very uncomfortable… it’s keeping me up at night, and waking me up early… it’s agitating me and putting me into a cycle of fatigue-driven poor decision-making patterns that are worrying me. I want to believe I can handle this, and part of me believes that I can. But the rest of me is extremely uncomfortable with uprooting myself from my routine and hauling myself off to another gig with another bunch of people, another whole opportunity to make an ass of myself, and yet more chances to alienate and irritate people who don’t really know me without meaning to.

Third, my resume has some spotty stuff on it that makes me suspect, so it undermines my confidence and ‘smooth’ presentation at interviews. Over the past 2-3 years, since I was ejected from my Good Job with that Big Company, I’ve had a bunch of different jobs, some of which went south because I couldn’t keep it together. The stress of the jobs, my poor decision-making (which was largely a result of my stress-induced analgesia/soothing-seeking cycle, where I would semi-intentionally put myself  into a highly stressed state, day after day and week after week and month after month, just to feel normal and functional), and the cumulative effects of stress on my system took their toll, and I crashed and burned and didn’t handle my exits very well. I can still smell the bridges burning, in fact, and it’s tough to think about how badly I screwed up those  jobs, not only in terms of leaving, but in terms of having taken them in the first place. They weren’t good fits for me from the start, but did I listen to myself? Oh, no! I was much too hungry for the stress and strain of bad decisions. So, now I have to explain myself to folks, if I go back out into the world. And God forbid, if they contact those people…

Fourth, if I go, then my insurance is probably going to have to change. That means I have to wrap up all my testing pronto and I have to make sure my insurance company is properly billed and all that, before I go.  It puts tremendous pressure on me to finish up something that I don’t want to rush. And it also screws up my partner’s health situation, because they have ongoing health insurance needs that are covered by insurance I have through my present agency, which is telling me there are no jobs out there — which I know for certain is not the case, because the job boards are full to bursting with work I can do. This whole insurance thing is a real problem. It’s not something that the federal government may be able to fix — a whole lot of money would go a long way towards solving it for me, but who knows if/how/when that’s going to happen?

And last but not least, I just don’t want to go looking for another job! After eight months, I’m just now getting settled into my current job, and now they have to go and churn things up by trying to convert me — for less money than I deserve, or can reasonably expect to earn, even in today’s market. I want to settle in and take care of myself, do my TBI rehabilitation, let down my guard for just one minute, and focus on restoring the parts of me that are broken. I need a serious break. And I mean a serious break. I’ve been going and pushing and striving for so long, I’ve forgotten there is anything else in the world, and I was just starting to realize there’s more to life than constantly pushing, constantly going, constantly trying to make up for lost time, lost chances, lost hopes. I want to just have my daily routine, get up and go to work, come home and contemplate my life, be with my beloved, have a nice dinner, spend my weekends hiking in the woods and reading good books and getting together with friends. I don’t want to be — yet again — plunged into the chaos of adjusting to a new place, new people, new routines, new rules. It’s so confusing and stressful for me, and then it sets me off in a downward spiral of problems, problems, and more problems. It’s just so hard, and I don’t want to have to do it!

But if I have to, I will. It won’t be the first time I’ve had to really drive myself to do the right thing, when the right thing was the last thing I wanted to do.

TBI Benefit #27 – An increased refund from the IRS

I got a surprising letter today – actually it came yesterday, but I was napping and resting most of the day, so someone in my household brought the mail in, opened it up, and left it for me on the kitchen counter. Lo and behold, the refund I’d calculated for my 2007 taxes (I filed for an extension and did an estimate, which was conservative — I took all the deductions I could legally take, according to TurboTax, and along the way, when I found some other deductions I was pretty sure I could take, but wasn’t 100% certain, I just didn’t include them. Now the IRS is telling me that they owe me a bigger refund — probably by a couple hundred dollars, since I don’t have my tax returns in front of me.

You don’t hear that every day!

My strategy of claiming less deductions than I suspected I was owed paid off… for now. I actually found some other earnings that I’d completely missed when I filed my estimated taxes, so my refund may actually be lower, but the habit of being more conservative and less hasty worked out for me. Playing it safe, with the understanding that I could be completely wrong in my math, soothes me and gives me something to fall back on. In any case, my thinking about things tends to get fuzzy and I tend to lose my train of thought, so I don’t dwell too intensely on tax anxiety.

I guess my attitude towards taxes is very different from most folks’ — I believe in paying them and paying my fair share. Yes, there are a lot of places my tax monies go that I don’t agree with, but all in all, the tax burden here is far less than in many European countries, PLUS I get a whole lot more freedom here, than anywhere else, so I figure it all evens out. I pay my way. TBI or no, I pay my way.

I like my roads paved and plowed. I like having elected officials. I like the fact that children of poor people have access to milk and cheese and other WIC resources. I’m not one to judge others for “gaming the system” — too many people do it in too many ways for me to get started on that, and it just confuses me. Our governmental system, say what you will, makes it possible for us to live in an amazing country that people are literally dying to get into.

Yes, I pay my taxes.

Paying taxes for me, is actually an important symbolic thing. Sure, I slip up sometimes and have to file for extensions. And sometimes I’ve messed up and even missed the extension deadline. But I do pay up, because being able to participate and contribute to this country is not something I take for granted. I’m a very different person from most folks, and my abilities are varied and my disabilities are often hidden, so the times when I can participate as a “normal” person… pitch in and help out… do my fair share… help make a difference, in however small a way… well, I take that opportunity.

I think a lot of “neurotypical” people take things for granted that mean so much to so many of us who are on the margins — by chance, trick of fate, or horrible accident. I think people tend to take for granted the ability to go out and get a job, the ability to participate in casual conversations, the ability to meet other people and be active in their communities. I think that a lot of regular people just assume that things are done a certain way — you get up in the morning, shower, dress, go off to work, put in your hours, then come home, pay some bills, watch some television, and go to bed… and do it all again, the next day. On the weekends, there are sports games and activities… movies and get-togethers… travel and leisure pastimes that many, many other people are doing… take the boat out on the lake… go skiing or surfing or skateboarding or sailing or hiking or play a ballgame of some kind.

But for someone like me with a history of tbi’s, none of those things are foregone conclusions, and they rarely go as smoothly as regular think they do (or should).

Getting up in the morning can be a challenge, as I’m rarely fully rested, and I tend to wake up either too early (most of the time), or too late. Showering can be a complicated thing, as I often can’t keep track if I’ve soaped up and rinsed off, shampooed my hair, or how long I’ve been under the water. And my lightheadedness and vertigo can make just standing in the shower a really nerve-wracking exercise.

Dressing for work can set me off, because I tend to forget what I’ve worn earlier in the week, and unless I have my clothing all lined up in chronological order, I can easily end up wearing the same thing twice in two days. Plus, if I’m really out of it, with vertigo or sensory issues, I can walk around for most of the morning with my shirt buttoned all wrong or my fly open. (I once went through a whole animated job interview, standing at a whiteboard, sketching out possible solutions to problems posed to me… with my fly open… which is NOT the kind of impression I wanted to make! I still got the job, but jeez, how embarrassing!)

Going to work has its own share of hazards, as bright sunlight is hard for me to handle, and even with sunglasses on, the shifting contrasts of light and shadows play tricks on my eyes. And when I’m tired, there’s always the hazard of road rage… or misjudging a situation. One morning, not long ago, when I was tired and angry while driving to work, I almost ran in to someone who wasn’t obeying the right-of-way rules — just because I refused (on principle) to budge. They were driving right into my path, but I had the right of way, so I motored on like a bull-headed idiot, and I almost got hit — just because “I was in the right” and they weren’t following the rules. On principle, I was correct and I had every right to drive through. But principle won’t pay for car repairs, and I only have one car I can reliably drive to work, so “standing my ground” was a really dumb thing to do. Plus, thinking back, if they had hit me, considering the place that I was in, that morning, I probably would have gotten in a fist fight with them, and I might very well have been arrested.  I was in a really bad place, and I consider myself (and the other person) to have been literally spared by divine grace. If it were up to me, I would have landed in really hot water!

At work, depending on my state of mind and body, I can either have good days or bad days. But it often takes a lot of effort for me to function at a “normal” level. Nobody I work with knows I’ve had TBI’s, and I’m not about to tell them. I hold my own and I do my piece, but it’s a real chore sometimes, just to get going. I have massive issues with initiating, with concentrating, with following through. I have huge interpersonal issues that I do a pretty good job of keeping quiet about — things like rage and hostility and anger and mood swings. On the surface, I try to stay impassive, but under the surface, it’s often a seething swirl of confusion and mixed emotions that are as high as they are varied.

Heading home in the evening, after a long day, I just try to listen to the radio and keep chilled out. I have to work harder at paying attention to traffic when I’m headed home, so that keeps my mind off interpersonal aggressions and whatnot.

At home in the evenings, I’m just so wiped out, so often, I can’t even look at anything that needs to be handled. I’m so exhausted… it’s all I can do, to eat supper and flop down in front of a movie. Now and then, I’ll manage to do things I’m supposed to do, but they often get pushed off till the weekends.

I have to say, in th past, I tended to just push through and not give myself a break and just ignore the fact that I was exhausted all the time. I didn’t pay any attention to myself, and I didn’t take care of myself. I didn’t like the fact that I was tired all the time, so I refused to admit it, and I just pushed through with doing whatever I felt needed to be done.

That was fine for my productivity, but the net result was that I was an impossible person to live with. I was unresponsive, most of the time, moody and volatile to the people closest to me, non-communicative and prone to temper outbursts and meltdowns, and the kind of person whose intense volatility made everyone around me walk on eggshells all day. Yes, I appeared to be productive. Yes, I was getting things done. But I was just a machine — a shell of a person whose only solace was that I was making good money and keeping up appearances. Inside, though, I was wracked with pain and sorrow and exhaustion and hurt and anger and rage and confusion.

Now, I think know I’m much better off. I’m less “productive,” and it takes me forever to get things done or process ideas and conversation, but I’m now communicating with the people who live with me far more than I did in decades… I’m now sleeping more and taking care of myself better than I ever did… and I’m actually aware of what’s going on around me, which is more than I can say for the person I was, just three years ago.

Weekends… well, I won’t even go into them. Mine are very low-key, for the most part, and I do so poorly with crowds and frenetic activity, most popular activities (like the ones I mentioned above) do NOT appeal to me. I spend most of my time gearing up to do basic things – like take the trash to the dump or go food shopping or go to the library or clean something. I spend a lot of time spacing out and not doing much of anything. And by the time Sunday night comes around, I often feel pretty deficient about not having gotten much done.

Daily life for someone with a TBI is often far from simple, and it’s often anything but straightforward. Sometimes it takes a monumental effort, to just approximate “normal.” I accept that as part of my life… just something I need to deal with… and I try not to dwell on it too much, lest it demoralize me and hold me back.

Given all the “normal” things that tend to be so complicated and difficult for me, if there’s something relatively simple and straightforward I can do to participate and contribute to the common good — like pay taxes — I’ll gladly do it.

It’s a small price to pay to be part of something as amazing as the United States of America.

Things are looking up on the job front!

Things are really looking up! I’ve been away from this blog for a really long time… about eight months, in fact. And it’s been a really busy eight months.

When I last posted, I was in the process of looking for a job. Or had I just started a contract? I think I was on the cusp of re-entering the workforce, trying to get my ducks in a row, trying to make sure that my resume was in fact a work of fact (and not fiction ;), just working like crazy, trying to keep my head on straight and not freak out, realizing that my brain has changed and is not going to return to how it was anytime soon… if ever… and realizing that my brain actually had changed numerous times, over the course of my life, and a lot of the assumptions I fondly held about myself might have been “off” — if not flat-out wrong.

It was a lot to process, considering I also had to keep my head above water, find a job, pay the mortgage, and try to maintain some semblance of normalcy in my life. It was a lot! But then, when I really sat down and thought about it, I had been wrangling with these types of challenges almost my entire life… I just didn’t realize it, till the end of 2007. And once I realized it, and I took a long, hard look at how well I’ve actually done in life, well, that made things a little bit easier.

A little bit…

But some things still were pretty much of a challenge for me, and since I’m given the option between laughing and crying, I think I’ll see if I can keep my sense of humor as I recount what’s been going on for most of the past year.

In January (I’m pretty sure), I started a web developer contract position at a major multinational technology company that has its headquarters cleverly built into the side of a hillside with a commanding view of the rolling countryside below it, about 20 minutes from my home. It was actually a really great gig, as the money was pretty good, the hours were flexible, and it’s the kind of work I’ve been doing since 1996, so it’s almost second nature to me. Actually, it is second nature to me.

(Note to those who think that computer programming is “beyond” the ability of a TBI survivor: Computer programming/web development is perhaps the best employment I could possibly find because A) it’s very binary, as in, you either get it right or you get it wrong — either what you type in works, or it doesn’t, B) the only person who ever needs to know how badly you screw up, is the computer, and it will never call you idiot! imbecile! stupid! space case! (at least to your face ;), so you always have time to fix your errors before some human comes along and notices your screw-up, and C) this line of work tends to be heavily project managed, at least in corporate environments, so I always have someone looking over my shoulder who can help keep me on track).

But back to our regularly-scheduled programming…

Anyway, I had this great gig going on at a huge company in a huge building with a huge employee population, and I was working on projects that were being used in countries like Latin America and Europe, and I was making pretty good money. The only problem was, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to my stressors, and I wasn’t getting enough rest, and my “issues” started to kick in. I found myself becoming increasingly stressed over my work — there was some takeover bid being considered, and people were nervous about their jobs, and the environment was actually too big for me — the space itself was cavernous and I found it disorienting to walk down hallways that were not only BIG, but were also very sterile and, well, hard. I have certain sensory issues that make me really sensitive to sounds and light, and the actual sound of walking down those corridors… the echoing in my ears, was actually a stressor.

Plus, I was having communication issues… having trouble understanding what I needed from the work situation — what worked for me, what didn’t. I wasn’t able to articulate very well about the things that got to me, like not having a properly configured computer that was hooked into the main system the way it should be (I was essentially doing network work on a “standalone” computer, so I never knew if my work would come out right). And the guy I was working with was also not very communicative. I could never tell if I was doing an okay job or not, and I didn’t know how to ask in a way that didn’t sound stupid to me. I tend to be the kind of person who doesn’t like to call attention to themself, anyway, so I didn’t want to highlight the fact that I felt like I was falling behind in my work. I didn’t want to give anyone the wrong impression and seem like I didn’t have confidence in my own abilities. If I did that, I was afraid I’d set off the alarms and people would start to look for problems with my work, and then I’d lose what little control I had over my situation.

Well, long story short, I actually did lose control of the situation, and by the end of the 2-1/2 months I was there, I had successfully alienated my recruiter who’d placed me there — no, alienated is not the right word — more like, infuriated, pissed off and completely distanced (I can still smell the bridge burning behind me) — had pushed everyone in the group away from me, and I’d gone off to a permanent position that suffered a similar fate to the one I had just left.

Yes, I went from the frying pan into the fire, but this time, in March, I was driving twice as far and dealing with a company that was a fraction of the size of the one I’d just ejected out of.

I took a job doing more heavy-duty development work with a little start-up that made big promises and sounded like a great thing… like a cyber-tribe of sorts, with a close-knit group of people who liked to play as hard as they worked. And my decision to sign on with them was both ill-informed and ill-advised. I mean, I asked all the right questions… I even wrote them down ahead of time and checked them off on my list. But the answers I got did not “correlate with the truth” — in other words, they told me what they thought I wanted to hear, and I took the bait, hook, line and sinker.

That tale is a sad and tragic one — even more sad and tragic than my ill-fated stint at the MegaCompany. The long drive fatigued me, but the frenzied pace and the lack of structure is what really took its toll on me. Plus, it turned out that the technology they built was NOT as ready for prime-time as they said it was. It was, to my systematic and logic-seeking mind, a total friggin’ nightmare.

And I really screwed up with my exit from there, too. I wasn’t able to keep up with things that were happening around me, I ended up making stupid comments and drifting way off base in meetings, I wasn’t able to concentrate, I wasn’t able to deal. Plus, the building was situated in a place that was very remote — I couldn’t get away from the office without considerable effort, and I just got so turned around and freaked out… it was very sad. And I started having serious issues with memory and logic and being able to interact with other people. By the time I left there, I’d really alienated everyone in the place, and my excuse that I was leaving for health reasons (which was quite true, tho’ not the entire truth) barely got me out the door without being attacked by the CEO and the President, who both had a terrible reputation for tempers and verbal abuse. It’s not that I couldn’t have survived their vitriol, but what worries me is what I might have said in return. I have a real skill for going off on people and venting inappropriately.

It was bad enough that I had to bail on them after three months. I didn’t want a full-on TBI-exacerbated confrontation on my conscience, too.

So, I did the humiliating but necessary thing — I made excuses and snuck out the back door. ’nuff said about that adventure. For now, anyway… there are lots of juicy tidbits that are very educational in hindsight, so I’ll write about them later.

Anyway, somewhat demoralized and downtrodden, I started another job a little over three months ago with another multinational corporation, doing web development work. The team I’m working with is small and close-knit, and between the ADHD and other personality quirks and old sports head injuries, we all manage to reach agreements about how to deal with each other well. So far, so good. They know there’s something “different” about me, but they don’t hold it against me. And frankly, there’s plenty about them that’s different, too, so I’m in my element.

For now…

When I look back on my work history, I have to say it’s a little disconcerting to see how short a time I’ve spent at so many companies. The longest I’ve ever been in any one group, is 2-3 years. I include my 9-year stint at a multinational corporation in that, since I jumped around a bit, and I moved from group to group — I was in 5 different groups in the 9 years I was there, having made a deliberate decision to move on, myself. So, while my resume says “Such-and-such-A-Company” (1997-2005), the fact of the matter is, I had five different jobs there, in five different groups:

1. 1997-1999 — web developer

2. 1999-2000 — software engineer (yes, it’s different from being a web developer)

3. 2000-20002 — technology integrator

4. 2002-8/2005 — software engineer/architect

5. 8/2005-12/2005 — technical writer

And because all these were done at the same company, they don’t “count” as career shiftlessness. So, I can get away with it and camouflage my issues and still look great in the process. Which is great for my resume and career.

The only problem is that now I’m out on my own and I’m not doing this at the same company, so my resume is starting to look a little more sketchy. Which isn’t good for applying for financing, and it isn’t good for finding other jobs.

Fortunately, for the time being, I’m in a good place at a good company that’s in the healthcare industry, so there’s not bound to be any decline in business anytime soon.

And despite the fact that the last two attempts I made at finding and keeping gainful employment were sad chapters in the book of my life, the fact is, I didn’t get fired, I left on terms that were my own, and although I truly regret the fallout and consequences to the people I “bailed on”, the fact is, no animals were harmed in my experiment, and everyone is still standing. So, it’s not a
total loss, and I did learn a lot! (I simply must write about this later!)

Things are indeed looking up!

But the next job interview did go well

The second interview I had with the next recruiter went completely differently, and so much better, it was like night and day. Everything that went wrong, the first time out, went right the second time… in part because of things I did differently, in part because of how the recruiter was handling things.

As a result, I came away from the interview not only energized and excited, but actually willing to work with this guy. And I had a lot more confidence that he’d actually find me work.

Here’s what made the difference:

  1. The first big difference had to do with the working style of the recruiter. The guy actually took his time talking with me and getting to know me and my working style and understanding what my priorities are.
  2. The second, was that he actually followed up with me in a timely manner, kept in touch, and confirmed everything in writing. He confirmed not only by email, but also by phone, which was huge. And it helped.
  3. I got there on time — 20 minutes ahead of time, actually. That gave me time to get my act together, find a bathroom to make sure I wasn’t completely falling apart, and get to the office with 10 minutes to spare. I showed up relaxed and calm and in command of myself.
  4. We actually had an office to sit in — private, behind closed doors, where I could just settle in and talk, without worrying about others listening.
  5. The guy actually told me about himself and we had a lot in common, including that technology is a second career for each of us — both of us had been out in the world as bohemian artiste types for years, before we got pulled into technology.
  6. The guy actually knew about the kind of work I do. Unlike the recent college grads I spoke with last week, he could actually hold a conversation about the kind of work I do, ask intelligent questions and get an actual “read” on what it is I do for a living.
  7. The conversation didn’t take too long, and it didn’t get cut too short. It took almost exactly an hour, and it ended up with me feeling confident in myself and in the recruiter, and feeling hopeful about my future, which is a lot more than I can say for my experience last week.

I suppose in all fairness to the folks last week, I wasn’t particularly well prepared for the meeting. It was my “first time out” in many, many years… after having been hunkered down at a permanent job with the same company for nearly a decade. It’s a little like leaving a doomed, long-term marriage that you tried to salvage, year after year, only to find it collapsing around you… and then getting back into the dating scene. It’s very much like it, in fact.

So, my first foray into the world of recruiters was bound to be a rocky one. And I suspect that I chose those folks last week as my “test run” so I wouldn’t completely screw up a connection with people I actually cared about.

That’s something I’m constantly wary of — screwing things up with people I care about. I tend to “fall behind” and not pick up important clues and cues in how people act/think/behave, and then I say/do the wrong thing which really pisses them off. And if the people I piss off are people I care about, I descend into a morass of self-recrimination and blame.

I just don’t want to have to do that anymore. I need to protect my relationships with the people and connections who mean most to me, not just “wing it” and hope they’ll understand.

So, all in all, I think I’ve handled this job search business brilliantly. Doing a test run with people I don’t have an investment in. Figuring out what went wrong the first time, before my second time “out”. Making sure I follow up and am very clear about everything. And just holding my sh*t…

Yes, this week was much better than last week.

Bottom line is, I need to really pick and choose the people I work with. I also need

Now it’s starting to sink in… avoiding the trap of extremes

I’m starting to get really bummed out about that job interview yesterday. It really set me back, in a way. Or did I set me back? One of the issues I have with the TBI is “intrusive thoughts” — the constant replaying of scenes from an event (or series of events) that I don’t feel like I have resolved properly. I keep thinking back to all those individual instances where I might have said, done, or thought something different than I did, and therefore salvaged the interview.

Or could I have, given the environment I was in? I think it was a lost cause, from the moment I showed up (late).

I have to be careful that I don’t fall into the trap of extremes — either blaming others for my shortcomings, or blaming myself for things beyond my control

On the one hand, I’m tempted to blame the firm for their environment that wasn’t conducive to me being clear. I have to be careful of that thinking pattern, as I tend to find fault with others, when actually their way of doing business is probably quite common (which is why so many boutique recruiting firms pitch themselves as not a bullpen filled with anonymous headhunters). I have a tendency to start blaming everyone except myself for what went wrong.

On the other hand, after I give things more thought, I’m usually tempted to beat myself up for what I didn’t do right. In this case, for not speaking up on my own behalf, not confirming the time and date with the firm, and – frankly – not walking out, when I saw the bullpen they had going. I tend to ride myself pretty hard, once I figure out what went wrong, blaming myself, in place of the others.

A guilt and blame/shame fest, all around.

But there are other interviews and other firms and other jobs. If I’m going to get back in the game and do my utter best, I need to avoid this trap of extremes, be really easy on myself, and just take things as they come. And learn from each experience.

Learning from each experience salvages otherwise hopeless causes. It redeems even the most wretched blunders. Learning is everything. At least I can do that!

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