July 4th, 2008
A revolution just isn’t that easy to pull off when you’re a former white-collar executive turned blue-collar working class stiff. There’s the whole pesky business of finding a new job in a new state, and explaining why your resume is wildly diverse. Media buyer, marketing manager, cook, writer, postal worker, salesperson, career counselor. I’ve handled million dollar budgets and served up hash on a plate. I’ve opened an in-house ad agency and filled penile implants with saline, but my reasons — “following my bliss” and “empirical experimentation” — will likely not go over well with prospective employers.
And unfortunately, the freedom to reinvent ourselves that we enjoyed in the 70’s and 80’s, when employers didn’t pull our complete life histories from the cold ass of a computer, is all but gone. Not only do They know your complete work history (and they are an uppercase entity now that they’ve capitulated to big brotherdom), they also know about that court date you had in 1972, what bills you’re paying (or not), and the middle names of your children.
Given that we’re presently subjects in the human version of Orwell’s Animal Farm, I may not make it as far as an interview. I may end up going door to door in California, offering my services as freelance writer, massage therapist, dog trainer, cook, driver, or house painter. Maybe I’ll end up fake drowning myself in someone’s pool, ala Nick Nolte and “Down and Out in Beverly Hills”, and become some dysfunctional rich couple’s saving grace. Or maybe the fates will find me playing Eldon to someone else’s Murphy Brown.
More realistically, I’ll probably end up working in an office again, doing something office-like, after I press through the jungle of Human Resources and end up in some executive’s office, where I’ll pull out all the standard devices of the unemployed. I’ll nearly burst at the seams with enthusiasm and a can-do attitude. I’ll be perky and positive, and when I’m asked to list my worst trait, I’ll tell them that I’m a people pleaser, or that I often ignore my personal time in favor of work.
Eventually, they’ll get to know the real me, but by then I’ll have impressed them with the only thing that should have counted in the first place – my work. Oh, they might be disappointed with my lack of participation in the company’s social functions, or my unsubtle disdain for the guy who needs to turn a five-minute meeting into an hour long bitchfest, and they might even feel compelled to talk to me about proper company etiquette and attitude, but they won’t have any complaints about my actual work. They’ll only wish that I could do it while acting as real as a Barbie or as pumped up as a Joel Osteen devotee.
I’m not looking forward to any part of the process, but unless I can pry some miracle from the clutches of saints and goddesses, it’s unavoidable. Until then, in a fit of honesty, I’ve written the bullet points of Jane as an employee.
- I hate cliches, especially really stupid ones like “There is no I in team”. No, but there is a me in team, and no us or we – and there is an I in some really great words like bliss, creative, and utopia. Do you really want to get me started?
- I’m irritated by those outdoor scene office posters with some pithy little saying at the bottom like “Success: found in not only what we achieve, but in what we try to achieve”, or “Winners: while most are dreaming of success, winners work hard and achieve it”. Can we please stop confusing an office and fluorescent lights with anything resembling nature? Can we stop using lame quotes as motivation?
- I’m just not that into nepotism. I won’t be particularly nice to that lazy, scattered brain nephew you hired to get your sister off your back. In fact, if he’s shiftless and vacant, and I have to do his work for him – or even if I’m just in proximity to the work he’s left undone – I will pretty much consider him fair game.
- I’m intolerant of all kinds of stupid, including interview questions like “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” or “Tell me about a problem you once had at work and how you handled it”. Every interviewee knows what kind of answers are expected, and we all know better than to give honest answers like “not here” or “I quit working for the asshole”. Why not ask real questions, ones where the answers might really matter? Like, what can you do for us? Will our office posters drive you nuts? What would you do to make my lazy ass nephew quit so I don’t have to fire him and deal with my sister?
- I have a neutral attitude. It shifts towards positive or negative depending on the reality of any given situation. I don’t fake happiness, or annoy people with baseless, chronic complaints. I believe in being genuine, even while getting paid.
- I’m passionate, driven by ideals and new ideas, hard-working, stubborn, independent, creative, funny, empathetic, intelligent, self-motivated, talented, resilient, tough, kind, energetic, and I do my best work with limited directions and minimal interactions – which is why I often work from home.
- I will replace any cheap, weak coffee in your office with the good stuff, and throw away all the styrofoam cups. I rank bad coffee right up there with other work blights, like sports talk, casual Fridays, potlucks, and needless meetings. And styrofoam cups just give me the willies. I shivered a little just typing the word.
Would you hire me? Would you hire yourself after taking an honest inventory of your own strengths and peccadillos?