It Never Turns Out the Way You Think It Will

I started my new job about a month ago. I was apprehensive about making a change after so many years at my last job. Would it take me too long to learn their systems, processes, and culture? Would I be able to make friends, when my coworkers would be so much younger than me? Would I provide any value and deserve the salary I had negotiated?

After a month, I know the answers to the questions.

No, it wouldn’t take me too long to learn the stuff. I’m learning quickly enough. My boss seems happy with me, and I have lots of ideas. In fact I’m incredibly busy.

The work is fun, too. I enjoy it much more than the work at my last place.

My coworkers are friendly, helpful, motivated, engaged, and smart. The company is small enough that they are still able to tightly control this. Being nice is a major requirement for the job. Little did I know, when asked at the interview what my biggest pet peeve was, that my answer of “People being rude” could not have been improved upon. Every morning when I arrive, the one person who starts earlier than me comes over to chat. He’s a real sweetheart. I always have to send him away after awhile so that I can actually do some work. There are one or two other folks whom I’ve gotten to know better and who could turn into friends in time.

Great! You say. So are you finally happy now? Will you shut up about job-hunting already?

Sadly, even tragically, no. There are some problems after all.

Problem #1, ranked highest because it bothers me greatly on a twice-daily basis, is the fucking commute. My brain isn’t too old to learn Jira, Confluence, Slack, Hubspot, or the company’s own application. But it turns out that my eyes are too old to handle the glare of oncoming traffic in the dark. I leave in the dark and come home in the dark, because if I leave later in the morning it takes longer and the sun sets on my ride home. I know that’s a function of the time of year, but at the moment it’s unbearable.

The journey itself is long. I can’t see because it’s dark and because of the glare, so it’s also scary.  There’s construction and long stretches with no shoulder. It’s also too long for my Chevy Volt; I use up the battery on the way to work, so I’m guzzling gas and I hate that. When I get home, since I don’t have a fast charger, the battery doesn’t fully charge overnight. I can’t afford a fast charger because of

Problem #2. I am hurtling toward poverty, somehow. It’s not just the braces I paid for in full upfront because it was cheaper that way. It’s not missing out on two weeks of income. It’s not having to pay COBRA for four people at a rate of $2200 per month for three months (and thereafter having to pay FULL price for the company’s insurance for three people). It’s not having to pay $21 a day in highway tolls. It’s not having residual debt from the last family trip and paying too much for kids’ activities, and not having bought Christmas presents yet. It’s all of those things. I don’t even know how I suddenly became this poor this fast.

So, I need to start looking again. If I can just find a job that pays health insurance for the entire family, and coverage starts very soon after being hired, and that pays a decent wage, I think I will be OK. It’s the COBRA that’s the biggest killer. That’s why they call it COBRA, duh.

But you hated your last job so much, you say. And you like this one. Can’t you just blah blah blah? No, I can’t. Podcasts will not change the fact that I don’t want to be driving for three hours a day.

Also; I did hate my last job, but part of what was happening was a gradual deterioration of conditions over a long period of time. A continuous series of disappointments and insults, bad decisions from on high, and irritating situations that chafed me too much after years of enduring them. A new job may in fact have all of the same problems, but it would have to be truly horrible for me to hate it in a short period of time. The fact is, I am pretty tolerant and adaptable. I know how to make it work, when it comes to some things. I will survive. There’s some truth to the idea that something can be better just because it’s different.

It is a terrible shame, and I feel profoundly sad when I think about how disappointed those people would be if I quit. But I don’t owe them anything other than to work hard while I’m there (and follow the company policies, etc.). They certainly wouldn’t hesitate to fire me if they had a reason. I sincerely feel I’m heading toward financial ruin or a nervous breakdown, or both.

I get up too early and get home too frazzled. I don’t have enough downtime. Whatever, I don’t have to justify my actions.

One more thing! The car is leased and I will violate my lease terms at this rate of driving more than 60 miles a day. So I’ll have to renegotiate I guess, which will mean it’s more expensive. Bleagh.

 

 

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Livin’ Was Easy

My last day of work was Wednesday, November 1. The week preceding was a blur of lunches, happy hours, and hallway conversations about being shocked to hear I was leaving, questions about where I was going, and pledges to miss me. It all felt sadder than I was expecting.

The last day itself was crazy; I had planned to actually do some work, but could not due to the stream of phone calls, emails, IMs, and visitors. My face hurt from smiling. The president surprised me by appearing in my office and giving me a big hug. He asked more meaningful questions than the HR person at the exit interview. I eventually finished the last few tasks and carried the last load of belongings to the last appointment, which was with my soon-to-be-ex supervisor. I had foolishly purchased a dozen vegan doughnuts at the final lunch, at the new vegan doughnut place. Vegan doughnuts are hard to come by! I might not be in that area for a long time! But they packed them in a pizza box and carrying it was awkward, in combination with the miscellaneous other items.

But eventually, there I was; I had left the building. I couldn’t help but feel a minor wave of panic. Had I made a huge mistake? Would I regret this forever? The Glands’ song Livin’ Was Easy started playing in my mind — I think that song is about a rehab center, but I’m not completely sure — but suddenly it seemed to apply to me.

Sadly, but predictably, I couldn’t feel joy in leaving because I’m not completely sure what I’m doing next. Yes, there is a company that is fully expecting me to show up on the 13th to start work. But there is another company that also might want me to show up, and I am waiting to hear whether the “might” turns into “does.” And if they do, I have to turn down the first company, which feels so bad.

I can tell you what will happen: I will send my regrets email and never hear from them ever again. They won’t send an email saying “Thanks for letting us know.” They will be silent. They will owe and give me nothing, so that whenever I think if them I will feel a twinge.

I should be out of my misery — at least the not-knowing-what-I’m-doing part — some time tomorrow, is the good news.

Obsessive Comparison

I cannot help obsessing about the potential decision ahead of me–between Job A and Job B.

Job A.

  • Might be a lot of fun!
  • I’d be a bigger fish in a smaller pond, markedly so compared to my current position.
  • Might be an actual financial struggle, after the lower salary and paying out of pocket for kids’ and spouse’s medical insurance. It adds up to about $10,000 per year. That’s a lot of cash! Combine that with the lower salary and I’m already down $17K. I wasn’t making the change for financial reasons, but UGH!
  • Likely to be a borderline-unbearable commute
  • Might be a way to get in on the ground floor of a company that will shoot to the top of its class (it seems to be doing great and is gaining momentum)
  • They like me! They really, really like me. This is important because my supervisors at my soon-to-be-ex job have seemed insultingly indifferent for the past few years.  My colleagues are appreciative, but they’re not the ones giving out raises and promotions.
  • Contributions to 401K are small. Compared to current job, it’s another $10K less per year, so now we’re up to $27K less!
  • Plus commute is much more expensive in addition to longer, possibly $4K per year due to tolls and not even counting gas, so now a $31K per year loss.
  • I think I can handle the lower income, but it certainly wasn’t my goal to have to.

Job B.

  • I might not get hired permanently! Then how stupid would I feel? Really, really stupid.
  • I might hate the work! It might be more bureaucracy and unwillingness to do things better, or even think honestly about doing things better, than my current job.
  • It’s a perfectly fine commute. Negligibly farther than my current commute, but, IF I were hired permanently, it would end up being cheaper because they’d pay for parking.
  • IF I were hired permanently, health insurance would be amply covered for me AND my family.
  • If I were hired permanently, salary would increase from current job.
  • While waiting to be hired, I’d be paid a high hourly rate that would cover COBRA, no problem.

I’m also thinking…I am not planning on working another 20 years. It will be 10 more at the lowest possible end of the scale and 15 more at the highest, I hope. So though Job A might end up being more lucrative in the long run, I might not want to stick around for the long run. It would take a couple of years to catch up to where I am now assuming pretty good raises. But we’ve now already cut into the remaining work years. I’m feeling a little old for this adventure. Of course, I accepted it with no Job B in sight, but now that there is a potential alternative…

Plus I am thinking…At my current job, I had a sort of persona. I would say I was pragmatic and inventive, but I wasn’t necessarily cheerful or optimistic. I can’t say I was much of a leader. I have been thinking that, with either Job A or B, I would change my persona. I think it’s much easier to change in a new milieu than in the current situation. But, in order to get ahead, I’d have to be very optimistic, very can-do, very encouraging. I would have to carefully avoid snark. That would be the path toward ascension, I would think.

At Job B, I don’t know yet what persona would be best, but I would obviously be working to figure that out and become it ASAP. I would be whatever would most increase my chances of getting that permanent position and of being valued and rewarded until I retired.

Why did I not do this at my current job, you ask? It has to do in large part with being forced to do things, and being in a powerless position. There was a reorganization and I was plucked from one department and dropped into another with no warning. My title was changed even though I voiced opposition. Bosses changed, policies changed, bad decisions were made. If you start a job and bad decisions are already in place, I think that’s quite different from seeing one after another bad decision unfold. Over the years, many things worsened.

Going into a new job, I have lost a lot of idealism and gained some wisdom. I am really not interested in starting my own business at this point; and thus, I am subject to the judgment of others. At my current job, the poor judgment became overwhelming and that’s why I am here now, with three days left.

Going into a new job, I would have an entirely different attitude. I’d love to be idealistic again, but it hurts when idealism is abandoned for profit or anything less noble. I’m not saying I’ll be cynical, but I’m not as naiive.

Job B interview is on Tuesday and of course all this pondering may be for naught.

 

 

 

Tainted

Having won the uphill job-search battle, even though handicapped by my age, pickiness, and the scarcity of acceptable jobs, I should now be happy, right?  I found a new job. A good job! In the most important respects, a good job. In some of the less important respects, an OK job. You would think I would be delighted! But no, alas. There’s always a problem. In fact, there are two.

Problem 1: They want me to sign a noncompete agreement, and it is too stringent. I can’t sign it as is. I will ask them to change it, but I don’t know what will happen. So I don’t 100% feel as if I really have the job, since employment is contingent on me signing this thing.

Problem 2: After I accepted the job, I actually did attempt to shut off Dice, CareerBuilder, LinkedIn Jobs, Monster, ZipRecruiter, SimplyHired, GlassDoor, The Ladders…you get the picture. I’m sick to death of the barrage of emails and calls, mostly for jobs that are entirely unsuitable, and now I don’t have to get them! However, apparently my information was stored in databases that I had no access to. The calls keep coming, and one came from the kind of recruiter I hate to dismiss. He was friendly, he was polite, he was articulate. He sounded like someone who would have good jobs. And damn if he didn’t have a position at a place where I’ve particularly, specifically wanted to work for a long time. They didn’t have the right job while I was hunting, but this just opened. Let’s call it Job B. I am qualified for Job B; in fact, I have to say that I’m uniquely qualified.

Stacking up Job B against the job I just accepted, Job A, Job B outperforms Job A, except in one tiny respect.

                        Job A              Job B

Salary               Worse           Better

Benefits            Worse           Better

Commute          Worse          Better

Work                  —                  —               (no way to tell at this time)

Permanence   Better          Worse

 

Yes, Job B is contract to hire, and Job A is permanent.

That means that I could, theoretically, get hired as a contractor at Job B and then not be hired permanently, and I’d be unemployed after 6 months.

That also means that I would have to tell the terribly nice people at Job A, who are excited that I will be joining them and who are eagerly waiting for me to start, that I won’t be joining them after all. They will have to re-contact their rejected candidates, and I will have been a huge, disappointing waste of time for them. And I will never be offered employment there ever again, even if Job B is a bomb.

I told the well-spoken recruiter to go ahead and submit my resume, thinking that if Job B wasn’t interested, then the problem was solved. However, they want to interview me. Of course they do! Didn’t I mention I’m uniquely qualified?

I was honest with the recruiter about the ridiculously short time frame they have. Because once it’s time to start Job A, if I haven’t received and accepted an offer from Job B, I’m starting Job A. It’s one thing to back out before I start, but showing up and receiving training and an ID and all that and then quitting  is another thing entirely, and that I won’t do.

The interview is next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, I should be happily anticipating Job A, but instead I am thinking about how easy it would be to hop on the el and visit my pals from my soon-to-be ex-job, and about the ridiculously excellent benefits, and about the way shorter commute, and about the fact that Job B is actually a financial step up and Job A is not.

And I’m also feeling like a major jerk, as if I accepted a marriage proposal but am fantasizing about some other guy.

Stay tuned!

 

Lame Duck Time

I gave notice last Wednesday, and I’m now in the strange, strange phase of winding things down at my job.

On Friday I stood before my bookshelf in my office, trying to decide what to bring home, and I started to tear up a little. It wasn’t that any of the books carried any emotional resonance; it was just that they were attached to events that had occurred over the years, and thus were part of my life. I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic.

I have all these things in my office:

  • A heavy metal paperweight with the words “Dwell in possibility” embossed on it, given to me by L
  • A maraca given to me by E
  • A key chain that looks like a little man, and a very strange metal five-pointed star with chains hanging off it, both from India, given to me by K
  • A blue glass spiral Christmas ornament, given to me by F
  • A pin saying “Kind” that I got at a rally near work that I attended
  • A pin that says “Obama” in Hebrew given to me by an old man in the supermarket near work
  • A shiny gold metal card with Hindu prayers printed on it, given to me by an orange-clad monk near work
  • A kaleidoscope with my company’s logo

It’s too painful to throw them away. Instead I will bring a shoe box to work and pack whatever fits. I’ll put it in the basement. One day, I’ll open the box and remember all the crazy times. I have half a mind to print out pictures of my favorite people from the intranet, because I won’t be able to remember later. But that seems too weird; almost obsessive.

In the end, I wasn’t too much of a wimp to quit and try something new. But I am too much of a wimp to tell the truth at the yet-to-be-scheduled exit interview. I’m not one to burn bridges. There would be no point in complaining about anything; nothing would change. Nothing ever changes there.

 

 

 

The Amazing Morphing Chicken

I chickened out and decided I couldn’t afford to take the job. I sent the email to the company president, not turning the offer down, but essentially saying I was going to have to. And then I spent the evening awash in sorrow. I didn’t talk about it and I did my normal activities, but I was grieving. I was actually astonished at how deeply and purely sad I felt.

The next day, while I was at work, my husband called me to ask whether I’d taken into account a certain fairly high biweekly expense, which would mostly go away with the new job. As it happens, I hadn’t; somehow, the expense had seemed exempt from consideration. But when added into the mix, the difference in salary became much better. Not gone, mind you, but better.

My husband felt bad for me and doesn’t want me to be sad. He wanted to find a way to make it work for me. Knowing this, I immediately sent another email to the company president saying, maybe I can do it after all…if it’s not too late. I was sorry to have abandoned my position of power for one of groveling, at least that’s what it felt like. But, it also felt like I was giving up my chance to escape, and that felt even worse.

Absolutely, the offer is still on the table, he responded. Is that an acceptance? The husband and I spent a few hours feverishly recalculating, looking up turnpike tolls and alternate routes, remembering past recurring expenses that, somehow, had not crippled us though they were high. In the end, there was no way to know for sure whether it would work. But in the end, I un-chickened out and accepted.

I gave notice today, and that was strange. In one conference call, my announcement was met with dead silence for an uncomfortably long time.  Many people I told in person stood there with their mouths hanging open. Of course, others were like, “Congratulations, good luck!” Not fazed.

I still haven’t spoken to the person who is most responsible for my feeling like I needed to leave. To be fair, there are many factors, many situations, many issues. But one person made several bad calls that affected me in a very personal and negative way. I am not one to burn bridges, so I will need to reign myself in and keep it light when I talk to him (which will be on Friday). “I’m ready for a new challenge!” But he’s not stupid. He knows.

Clang Clang Go the Jail Guitar Doors

I was so excited today, I started writing a resignation letter. Luckily, I didn’t actually give notice.

The to-be, or I guess would-be boss sent me an email to notify me that an offer would be coming from the company president, modified based on our discussion last week. In other words, I successfully negotiated! They were upping the salary and/or the vacation!

I checked my email every 5 or 6 seconds, until the letter came. It was cordial and enthusiastic. They were increasing both the salary AND the vacation! Hallelujah! But wait…what does this part mean?

They pay 100% of the employee’s healthcare benefits. Fabulous. What about the employee’s family? I wrote for confirmation, and the answer was: Bupkes. Can I pay for family benefits? Why certainly. We’ll get back to you with the amount.

Tick…Tick….

It turned out to be $1100 a month for them. Like, $1300-some a year out of my pay, which, even with the negotiated increase, was less than before. I should mention that my current work pays almost all of the healthcare.  So in other words, about a $20K pay cut. That is, unfortunately, not workable.

Eyes swimming with tears, I drafted morose letter to the president professing my sincere, emphatic desire to work for the company. My admiration of their culture. My certainty that it’s a great fit. And my little, financial problem that remains despite their generous increase in offer.

So far, I have heard nothing back, but what I expect to receive is a letter regretfully withdrawing the offer or at least not modifying it.  I mean, they really like me, I really like them, but they don’t know me, and I’m sure they don’t want me to be one of the highest paid employees, sight unseen. I think that’s what would be happening.

So, back to the drawing board. I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to cutting off the flow of calls and emails from recruiters, and not spending so much time on job hunting. And I was looking forward to an adventure, and to being happier! But I didn’t realize that it would have been an adventure in foreclosure and bankruptcy; not what I had in mind.

There is still the tiniest flicker of hope while I wait for a reply, but it’s best not to cultivate it.

To be continued…