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The Unrealized Hope of the Millennial Generation

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I’m no spring chicken anymore. I mean, I’m not a youngster, but in the workplace, I have almost 25 years under my  belt. Those of us who have been working for that long have seen changes come and go in corporate America–mostly go–but few changes have seemed as optimistic as the promise of “A New Way of Life” as demanded by today’s up and coming Millennials.

What a disappointment that’s been.

I saw an article today on LinkedIn praising the work ethic of the millennial and the first thing that came to mind was, “Well that sort of flies in the face of their demands now doesn’t it?”

For the last few years we’ve heard all about how millennials won’t be slaves to the workplace like boomers and GenXers and how they will demand flexibility and a new breed of “benefits.”

I must confess, I’ve yet to see anything change. In fact, I’m working MORE hours now, for a slower rate of return on my earnings, than I have at any point in the last 25 years (minus my days in the military).

Maybe I’m working for the wrong companies. Truth be told, a healthy number of the “young” people who have started working where I work, spend less than a year there. So maybe I need to join the Clampetts in California and try and get work with some cool, socially conscious startup–if they’ll have me.

Or maybe it’s like the old saying about being a liberal until you get older…and millennials are finally starting to realize that nothing is free, not even that hybrid car they’re so fond of, nor are all of those hip restaurants tucked away in the corner of some cozy NY City alley.

I had high hopes for this up and coming generation and their Brave New World of flexibility and high income, but once again, it looks like success will come from good old plodding, boring, hard work.

It’s time to get movin…

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It’s interesting, I think, that nearly 10 years ago, the company I worked for closed up shop and I was left looking for a new job. Largely out of boredom, I began writing online for fun and a lot of it was picked up and published–usually in obscure newsletters and e-zines.

This morning I received a call that my position with my company is being terminated. I have a month to find a new position within my company, or I’m out. What’s interesting, is that I once again find myself turning to the Internet to talk about it.

Things are much different this time around. For one, this time I leave with years of solid work behind me and having worked for a very well-known company. I also have my degree now–something I didn’t have the first time around. So, while I’m understandably stressed over it, it’s not so bad really.

Truth be told, I hated what I was doing. About three months ago, I was moved into a new group. My job went from being a creative person, to being a project manager. Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a very logical and orderly person. Knowing this, you’d think that my brain would love the order that project management brings.

Not so! There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

So perhaps this is just the change I needed, to make the move that I needed to make. We’ll see.

Picture Phone Phriday!

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The guy who sits in the cube behind me is a nice guy. In fact, we share a lot in common. He works out a lot (he’s bigger than me); he’s good looking, he enjoys conspiratory gossip about people with whom we’re forced to work, and he eats protein shakes like there’s no tomorrow.

I like the guy. He’s nice.

He’s also gay.

While he wasn’t at his desk the other day, I took this picture of his desktop. It’s blurry, but hey, I was in a hurry:

02-25-09_0920

I’m pretty sure these aren’t his brothers, and I’m also pretty sure that if I, as a heterosexual male, were to flagrantly use a desktop picture depicting several women trying to look cool and sexy, that I would get taken to HR.

Kinda like the pre-op transsexual who cleans our bathrooms at work, without concern that he/she is creeping out the occupants, I just sometimes wonder, “Where’s the fairness?”

When will the gay segment of our society start enjoying the same restrictions and punishments that we hetero’s enjoy?

I’m just sayin’…

“Good luck with your layoffs, all right? I hope your firings go really well.”

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image I’m not sure which activity I find most distasteful this time of year–taxes, or my annual review at work.

I guess at least with taxes, I can determine when I do it and how much of its crap I’m willing to put up with at any given time.

Not so with personal reviews.

Both CareerMom and I have reviews at the same time each year, so I would imagine that it’s nearly the same for other companies. For my company, imagine that there’s this big pool of cash (or not so big, depending) that they have to divy out in the form of bonuses. There’s also a scale running from…I dunno…like 4, 3, 2, 2+, 1, or something like that. I don’t claim to understand it; all’s I know is the closer to “1” you get, the better you are and supposedly, the more money you get. (psst…I happen to think it’s all a bunch of crap. I mean, if the company as a whole, has posted sucky numbers, then how can you give anyone an excellent rating?)

For two years now, I have gotten a “2,” which my company defines as:

Solid Contributor
Consistently meets job responsibilities; is reliable in doing job; demonstrates appropriate levels of knowledge, skill, effectiveness and initiative.

Doesn’t sound too bad right? Considering the next step is someone who:

Goes above and beyond job responsibilities; outperforms most peers; finds ways to grow scope and impact

…I can live with it. But I think what grates me though, is that I’m the only person who does what I do in my entire wing of the company. So, even if I were only skating by, which I’m not, there’s no one around who is qualified to say whether or not my work is up to par with others doing my same job. And considering these ratings are looked at when you apply for another position in the company, it’s kinda a big deal.

Anyway, a rather curious outcome of my review recently was that my Director stated, The only negative I have about you, is that you’re not assertive enough.”

*I’ll wait for all of the snorting and guffawing to die down before continuing…*

Yes folks, I apparently let people walk all over me.

A colleague of mine postulated that in fact, I was assertive, just not in the right way, no doubt referring to an outburst I had year before last after being transferred to my 6th manager in 12 month’s time. But no, there’s been no such outburst this year and if I’m honest, my Director might be right. I have been quieter this year, but only because I have gotten so tired of beating my head against the wall trying to get things done, that I just sort of shut down.

In my manager’s advice to me, he told me I shouldn’t let people of a lower band (our jobs are given “bands” based on pay scales and duties) dictate to me what I can and can’t do. I’ll agree with that, except there’s a flaw in his advice. He, as a Director, is privy to other people’s bands; I am not. All I can go by is a person’s title, and here at my company, a person can pretty much give him or herself whatever title they please. So it’s hard to know if little Suzy Blowhard is a band 10, or a band 6.

But this all has me considering new job titles for the new year. Feel free to vote on your favorite:

  • Super-duper Writer Man
  • Editor of all things relating to stuff my company sells
  • Manager of everything I touch
  • The guy who just wants to do his job and go home
  • Head Word Czar
  • suggestions?

(P.S. Yes, I know. I am VERY grateful I have a job at all, much less one that pays bonuses. In fact, this is my first company, in nearly 17 years of work, that does.)

TTFN – and Happy 4th!

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Out of office 

I’m pretty sure that I, and nearly 2/3 of America, will get nothing done at work today. That is, if 2/3 of America is actually AT work today, which I’m doubting considering the traffic this morning. And the only reason I’m at work today, rather than kicking back working from home, is because some nimrod scheduled a meeting from 1-2 p.m. today to talk about some collateral I’m supposed to write that will only get lost in the big corporate shuffle and quite possibly never be seen by a customer, much less an executive who will read it and say, “Holy crap! Who wrote this? It’s pure genius!”

(that’s the scenario I play out in my head each time I write something that actually gets printed and/or published)

Which led me to the fact that in addition to not really having any work to do today, I also don’t have much to write about. Upcoming weekend will consist of three exhausting days of trying to keep the boys from whining, interrupted with fireworks at 9:30 (waay past their bedtime and cutting severely into my own “down time”). This, I’m sure, is right in line with just about everyone else’s plans, so why bother with the details right?

But Allison over at “That’s What She Blogged” changed her header image to a bunch of books and it got me to thinking about a series I finally finished and thought I’d pass along.

If you like Fantasy books at all, you simply must check out Terry Goodkind’s, “Sword of Truth” series. There are about 8 (ok, 11) books in all, and most are very long. It’s about a simple woodsman, who turns out to be the savior of the world (sound familiar?). There’s a lot of magic, and a lot of logic, and a LOT of really great characters spanning the series. It is, by far, one of the most original Fantasy series I’ve read in a long time. Goodkind has taken the best of the old Fantasy genre, stripped out what a lot of newer writers seem to think you must have for a good plotline (primarily lots of detailed war strategy) and come up with something that will stir you and make you actually care about the characters and perhaps think a bit along the way.

It won’t take you long to realize that what Goodkind has created here is his “perfect world”, which in actuality is our REAL world, only perfected in his image (which I must say, would be nice, but will never happen). As such, he does get a bit preachy here and there, but it comes with the territory. Hey, when I’ve sold jillions of books, I’ll write pretty much what I darn-well please too! If you lived near me, I’d lend you the books, but since you don’t, you’re out of luck, but all the major chains carry them.

So that’s my spiel for the day. I don’t know if I’ll actually find time to blog again before next week, so if not, I hope you all have a fun and safe 4th of July!

A little self-introspection can be a dangerous thing

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earningpot.jpg

Every day at work, I climb aboard the elevators and for four floors, I get to look at myself in the reflection off the highly polished brass elevator doors. Depending on which elevator I ride, I get a different, and often bizarre reflection thanks to the distortion in the grain of the metal—kinda like a funhouse mirror. 

 

But almost every day as I’m standing there looking at myself, I wonder, “How will people perceive me today?” At 34 years of age, I find myself pretty much in the same spot, professionally, that I was in before I went back to college. Oh, I make good money, but do I demand respect from my co-workers? I don’t feel that I do-and I blame my reflection for that.

 

I have a young face. I’m not tall. I keep my hair fairly short. I don’t have a deep voice. I exercise and stay in good shape. I don’t wear suits or stuffy button-down shirts all the time, eschewing them for chinos and golf shirts whenever possible. All in all, I have a youthful look—a look that isn’t terribly well-respected at my age and at the level that I feel I should be at professionally after having worked in the corporate world for 13 years. In fact, the only thing about my appearance that gives away my true age, is my gray hair, which I keep in check with some carefully applied gel that gives my hair a wet look and does a good job at hiding the gray. 

 

But some days, I’d give all that up just to have people approach me with respect for who I am and the experience I bring to the table, rather than just as some young guy who they can probably get to help them out. I’d like to have people look “UP” to me when they talk rather than looking down at me because they tower over me. It’s true, tall men are generally more successful in the corporate world, as are men with deeper voices. 

 

I think what it comes down to is that I’m just not taken seriously, and that bothers me. True, I don’t walk around the office with a frown on my face and a look that says, “I’m too busy to be bothered. Go away!” but that doesn’t mean I’m not smart and capable. 

 

So where is this coming from? I think it’s a mixed bag of things going on right now, including my need to find a new job before my current one is phased out; my wife interviewing for a new job where any bump in salary will put her close to doubling mine, etc… 

Am I too young for a mid-life crisis? Maybe it’s a pre-mid-life self-pity marathon and I just need to suck it up and move on. 

Self pity is more fun.

I’m sorry, what’s your job title?

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Mona Lisa - Complete!

I normally shy away from blog postings about my job because, well, we all hate our jobs and who wants to hear about my particular dislikes? But this time, I’m going to go out on a limb for a few minutes so you’ll have to bear with me (or click off my site…).

 

Last Friday, near the end of what had been a perfectly acceptable lead up to the weekend, I discovered that someone had taken it upon herself to usurp my responsibilities on a particular writing project and finish it herself. And in doing so, she had to contact the original requestor of the project and work with her. The project was on hold because I, having tired of the requestor changing her mind on things, quite frankly asked her to revisit the original messaging she had given me, from which I devise my story, and to come up with her final wording and then resubmit the changes to me before I moved forward and (dare I say) wasted any more time. 

 

For a number of reasons, this person going around me to move the project forward annoyed—nay—ticked me off. For one, it’s not her job to do this. Secondly, the original requestor is new to her job and I was trying to teach her the process rather than just “doing” it for her. And lastly, but most importantly, having someone else finish a writing project you start is a bit like some rank amateur trying to paint eyebrows on the Mona Lisa. I’ll explain.

 

When I was an engineer, it was nothing for one person to begin one job and for another to finish it. Working with foreign countries and different time zones made this a simple fact of life. However, writing is an art form. And while some may argue that what I write is far from being artistic, it is still my creation. It includes my vision for the piece and includes the sum total of all of my knowledge on the matter at hand. 

 

When someone else comes in and makes changes to my art, they do it without any insight into what has gone into creating the piece. In short, they are a bull in a china shop (I use this comparison despite the television show “Mythbusters” having disproved the idea that a bull in a china shop is actually woefully destructive). 

 

And so, like a mother protecting her child, I approached this person about what she had done to my project and it turned into a full-fledged finger pointing, which was not satisfactorily solved and which I stewed about all weekend. Now there are times that, given enough time to think about something you’ve said or done, you end up regretting your reaction; however, in this instance, I can honestly say that I’d react the same way again if need be…because I’m stubborn…and steadfastly convinced of the righteousness of my outrage.

 

I have a meeting this afternoon to discuss this, and other outstanding departmental issues and if the outcome of this meeting is anything short of spectacular, well, I’ll finally have the motivation to tell this great big opportunity to stick it!