Looking at the want ads

Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you my friend
Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again
When the demon is at your door
In the morning it won’t be there no more
Any major dude will tell you
–Steely Dan

Right now it feels like I’ve been watching the slow motion disintegration of everything I’ve ever worked for in my professional life. Am I over-dramatizing? Normally I would say yes to that, but in this case I really don’t think I am. Well, maybe a little, but this is one of those times where I am willing to cut myself some slack about it. Besides, being dramatic is one of my charms. I’m a Dramatic Winter, I’m told.

Seriously. Someone told me that once. I think it was a color thing.

Anyway.

On Friday, my job will officially end. The nearly year long process of “reorganization” at work will be over for me.

For people who have changed jobs on a regular basis, maybe that isn’t scary. Me? I’ve worked for the same company since 1990. Yes. God was still in his teens at the time.

Over the years, I’ve had five radically different jobs, so it’s not like I’m totally adverse to changing things up, but it has been while accumulating vacation and other benefits from the same company. A company I thought I loved and have always assumed I would retire from.

Why have I spent so long at one company? Lots of reasons. My Dad told me I’d never be able to hold down a job, so I did.  The vacation time is fantastic after 28 years. I’ve got an actual pension. I love the company, or did until recently. I liked the workplace culture, or did until now. They were willing to let me learn new things as often as I wanted to take them on, so every 5 years or so I got to have a totally different job and learn a whole new set of skills.

It has been a huge blow to my ego, and I’m not even going to try to pretend that it hasn’t. It is very hard to pretend that all is well when all really isn’t.

Am I being reorg-ed out of the company because I am terrible at my job? No. I have never had a less than fantastic review in my 28 years with the company. I’ve worked my way from being a secretary in the hospital to being the lead of a team in the IT department. I don’t suck at my job. Quite the contrary–my boss loves me.

Is it age discrimination? I’d love to blame it on that, but I don’t think it’s age discrimination or wanting to get rid of a high salary. There are multiple VPs in our department who would be far more likely to be targeted as far as salaries are concerned.

Surely, I keep being told, my experience is so valuable to the company that another team in the department will be thrilled to hire me!  I’m smart, I learn faster than almost anyone, I’ve got a demonstrated track record of taking on new jobs and doing well in them. And yet…I’ve applied for three other jobs in the department and have not been hired for any of them.

In the spirit of full disclosure, in one case it was mostly my own fault that I didn’t get the job. My interview was horrific, and I lack the cheerleader-like personality required for the position although most everything in my background would indicate I’m an excellent candidate.

In the other two cases? It’s more complicated, but I think it really came down to my not communicating well enough why I was a better candidate. In one case, I think they just liked someone else better. The manager chose me, but his team preferred someone else.

All of the people on my team have moved into other positions, which is wonderful. Seriously wonderful. Really. The only thing that gives me pause is that they are all less experienced than I am, so why am I the one with this pesky future unemployment issue? Why have I been an unappealing candidate in my own department on teams which I have the skills to work in?

When I’m not totally fixated on how much I must suck,  I like to think that I can be objective about myself, and I’ve given it a lot of thought.

I think that it’s at least partly a failure to schmooze.

Didn’t I know I was supposed to schmooze? All the cool kids are into networking and relationship building! Why didn’t I schmooze like I was supposed to? Why did I think I could do it all myself?

Well, I’m an introvert for one thing. Talking to people is hard for me. Not that I am unfriendly or hard to be around, but chatting is not my default setting, particularly if I don’t have a need to clarify information in order to get my work done. I’m at work to work. Instead of schmoozing, I’m doing my job.

Do I enjoy chatting with coworkers on occasion? Absolutely. Do I seek them out when something is unclear? Yes. But just talking to people for the sake of building a relationship? I admit that I let that fall to the side. In retrospect, that was clearly an error.

Why is that? Am I a moron who is unaware of the fundamental importance of networking? No. I am a moron who willfully set it aside.

In a past work team, there was one person I worked with who did nothing but schmooze. Nicest person in the world. Fantastic story teller. Wonderful family. He essentially did no useful work though.  Those of us who were more prone to working ended up picking up a lot of slack.  That led to an overcorrection on my part. I freely admit that I place more value on doing good work than on being an amiable raconteur. The amiable raconteur from my previous team is still employed.  That should have been a clue to my department’s values.

I felt like my work should be enough, and I was wrong. I needed to be good at my job and also talk to people enough that they realize that my work is good. Share success stories and failures. Share ideas. Make myself visible.

Or maybe I am less smart and talented than I always thought I was. Maybe I am hugely deluded about my own intelligence. Maybe I should re-read the 28 years of written evidence that many other people would confirm  that I am smart, talented and great to work with…

So now what?

First, I need to get over feeling like a dumbass. It’s hard to be out interviewing when you feel like a dumbass. In an interview you have to be self-confident. Maybe that will come, but at the moment I feel a bit like I haven’t got a single marketable skill.

Maybe I’ll have to finally figure out what I want to be when I grow up, too.

 

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