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For the unambitious and jaded
How the office was invented
This, surely, is the eternal plight of all of us office workers. We long to escape. But such is its hold on us, that when we do, we leave a part of ourselves behind - a part we never even knew existed.
I had lunch with a former colleague, a talented hard-working lady. She's a chronic workaholic who's considered a dedicated employee.
As she complained about a co-worker who the team considers a drag on morale for not being like the rest, I couldn't help but sympathize with the resented lady. Years ago when I was part of the rat race I would have joined the lynching of the lazy few who take advantage of the company.
But as my friend and I talked about our daily lives I realized I had made the right choice to exit that hostile environment. In hindsight I wonder how I survived it all those years. And what an embarrassment I must've been to myself. I now understand why I got nasty stares back in the day, I deserved it.
Now I'm one of the unproductive misfits wondering what direction my life should take.
Human resources information and advice is given from the perspective of the employer. So I write this hub with you, the employee, in mind.
Which brings me to the thought in question, what becomes of the unambitious and jaded after they are booted from the company, and possibly the workforce.
Other than religious callings or illegal activities, what's left. There has got to be a niche for a growing group of burnt-out, obsolete workers that no longer measure up.
"If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter – for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself ... Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself."
— Sylvia Plath
Talking to a counselor or taking a course about career development is a good start to give you some direction and focus You will likely be given personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment. From there you will be able to explore career options, and to assess what didn't work for you in the past and why. These days each individual is expected to manage his/her own career, so you could say this is the first step in that direction.
Consider changing your career path There are many programs available to adults full-time and part-time via classroom or internet depending on what's convenient for you and your learning style. You may be eligible for government financial assistance, check their website for more information.
How about a job in a new city or country A new culture or climate might be just the thing for you. It's easier said than done for a lot of people. But if your life permits, it might be one of the most enriching experiences you'll ever have.
Now more than ever you should also get your finances in order If you are in debt, seek credit counseling or debt counseling. Even if you are not in debt, seek financial advice from a Certified Financial Planner to help you manage your money effectively. At minimum, set up a household budget and stick with it.
Finding the right fit is very important in job hunting It is vital to be brutally honest about yourself when seeking the appropriate fit. It means not selling yourself as something you are not. It is a difficult situation to be in because you have bills to pay, mouths to feed. But it is important for your career and your continued success to stay in a job for awhile -- so choose accordingly.
I found some advice for choosing a new job. Answering these 6 key questions may help you decide if the job is a good fit for you:
1. What do I want out of my career?
2. Does the role I am looking at fit my strengths?
3. Will I learn and grow in the role personally and as a professional?
4. Do I respect the leaders and the culture of the company?
5. Where would I go from here if I take this position?
6. What is the worst risk for me if it doesn't work out in this role?
One of the more common reasons for letting someone go is by using that “you don’t fit with our company culture” statement. Sometimes that is a good thing for you; sometimes it is a cop out for the employer.
Here are some issues you might want to be aware of:
• Treat overly friendly people with normal, realistic behaviour and don’t disclose too much about your personal life. Know the difference between associates and friends. Charming people make it easy for you to open up about yourself, but you never know where or when they may use that information to your disadvantage.
• Watch for people who can only see one side of an issue, it might not be the same side as you’re on. Short-sighted colleagues or bosses can make you look bad or incompetent even when you’re not.
• Listen out for peers who badmouth anyone behind their back. What might they be saying about you? Shut down gossipers as soon as they start denigrating someone by changing the topic or walking away.
• Look at criticism as a gift. (After assessing whether it really is you or the criticizer). Ask a criticizer to give you an example of your difficult behaviour, and then act accordingly. It is ok to be wrong. It’s okay Wear elastic around your wrist and every time you resort to your old bothersome ways, snap the elastic on your wrist for a quick behavioural modification reminder.
• Keep a file folder of all your accomplishments and tasks or assignments you volunteer for or contributed to especially those that are over and above your job description. Keep thank you emails and letters from customers and colleagues/bosses on file. When you are having a low self-esteem day, pull out the file and read the wonderful things people had to say about you.
• Pay attention to moody people – colleagues who are quick to argue and defend, and bosses who make arbitrary decisions. Give these people lots of space. You don’t want to not trust people, but you can’t always take behaviour at face value either. People can put on convincing masks in the workplace.
• Be cautious and patient with naysayers and those who are overly cautious. Acknowledge that their concerns are certainly legitimate, show statistics and show them that their fear is highly improbable.
Understand that people’s perception of you is based on their own reality. Once someone decides you are not their cup of tea, it is extremely difficult to get back into their good books. Be true to yourself, be real and work on your emotional intelligence on a daily basis.
If you were told that you were let go because of "lack of fit", keep this in mind.
Here's the basic scoop: employers are often advised by their legal counsel to state generic reasons when letting members of their staff go. The idea is that the less the employer says to the unfortunate employee when showing them the door, the less likely the about-to-be ex-employee is to have amunition to use should they choose to pursue legal remedies against their former employer. The thing is, 'fit' can mean anything from "we never really liked you much anyway, but if we told you why you'd probably sue us," to "you're making the boss look bad with all that extra productivity and knowledge you've been displaying." Thus you might actually be a top performer and still lack the kind of fit that your employer might be looking for.
"The right fit" seems to be a catch all phrase these days. It could also mean that the needs and expectations of the company have changed. From an employee point of view, your individual needs and expectations of yourself and work may have changed.
At times the full-circle feedback or 360-degree performance appraisals can work against individuals who are not good at playing workplace politics.
According to one article, "Women too nice to get jobs", the workplace is no place for people who are helpful, kind, sympathetic and nurturing. It's another form of not fitting in.
As for me, I'm the queen of job hopping. Obviously I haven't found the right fit. And it makes matters worse when labelled "unambitious" and "jaded".
But I'm still hopeful. Wherever life may take me I will continue to work to live, not live to work.
We live in turbulent times my friends. Everyone is fair game. One day you could be at the top of your game, tomorrow you are a liability to society -- and vice versa. So, be gentle with yourself and others.
Stuff to read
Why you need to find the workplace that works for you http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/career-advice/life-at-work/why-you-need-to-find-the-workplace-that-works-for-you/article4542730/
October 30, 2011 news
Well I finally landed a permanent position. It is in a small family-owned office (which I'm not used to) close to home. To my surprise all my past work experiences -- good and bad -- prepared me for this role. Based on that it seems like a good fit. I have hopes that I'll be there for a while.
It was a fluke how I found out about this company. When I saw a job posting for another job at the company, I sent them my resume just in case they were looking for someone like me. Luck played a huge role because I never heard of this company before. And although I have done the same thing a hundred times -- submitted my resume for unadvertised opportunities -- this time I found the right company.
So my advice is don't give up on yourself. Persistence is the key even when you lose confidence in yourself. Keep an open mind. Because what may seem like a bad situation at the moment may lead you to the path toward your desired destination.
June 2012 reality check
I'm still hanging in there, folks. Yes, some days are better than others. The thought of quitting did cross my mind a few times when I had a bad day. The job is far from ideal. Having a demanding perfectionist manager is quite a challenge to put it nicely. But the pros definitely outweigh the cons. And I've seen worse. So I hope if I keep reminding myself this first thing in the morning and last thing at night, I will get by day by day until life takes me to another opportunity or major milestone.
February 2013 note
Recently a 50-something lady who worked at my company for 14 years was let go. The owner felt she was too resistant to the changes he wanted to make to update his business plan.
I dedicate this moment to Helen and all the Helens out there who are out of work because they no longer fit with the times.
Food for thought
We are bombarded with news headlines like "Tough economy isn't making it easy for Generation Y", "The Unluckiest Generation: What Will Become of Millennials?" and "Ways The Recession Has Completely Changed How Young People View Work".
Why is this troubling? It sounds like the lagging world economy specifically affects Generation Y the most. But it doesn't just equal to arrested development, broken dreams and living at home longer. These are the leaders of tomorrow, the folks who are supposed to follow our footsteps.
I have a hunch that today's economic crunch is far from over. Perhaps this is the way things will be from now on. We will all have to settle for what we can get. We may have to give up on having and owning everything we want. Our current economic and social welfare systems may all diminish over time. It's not just one generation's problem, as long as we are still kicking around on this crazy planet, we are all in the same big boat.
But why? Is government to blame? Or the 1%? Is the good life just for the privileged few and only a dream for the rest of us? What happened?