What Have I Achieved?

A friend sent me a Creativity Jumpstart notebook a while back. I have not used it as much as I should. I get stuck a lot and it is very useful in helping me find something to write. Today’s post is brought to you by life lately and the following tweet she included in the notebook:

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I can relate to that tweet completely, but, unfortunately, for a good portion of my achieving things, I didn’t have Netflix to get me through. I survived and even before Netflix TV was a big part of my life.

Mine has been a life of thinking that I would be happier if I could just achieve a certain thing.

Going to college was going to make me happier. I was still an awkward social outcast in college.

Graduating and getting a job was going to make me happier. My first job out of grad school was a contract job with no benefits and a terrible boss.

Getting a real job away from that boss was going to make me happier. I ended up back in jail.

Getting out of jail was going to make me happier It took 19 years, but I got out of jail. I was then in a weird, invisible position where no one respected me and I was still the jail guy.

Getting a transfer or a promotion to get an actual title was going to make me happier. What I got was that a title means nothing and I might be more invisible and less respected than I was when I was the jail guy.

I’ve spent years working toward some mythical place that was going to make me happy. I’m still not happy. I’m not happy because my focus on being happy was too career focused. My career was never going to be the source of my happiness.  I’ve been reaching for happiness where happiness was not to be found. I will never move up in my career if I stay who I am and I refuse to be someone else. At least that is what people tell me.

So, if you need me, I will be in front of my TV watching Netflix and dreading leaving the house in the morning.

 

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They Don’t Own You, You Don’t Owe Them

Once upon a time, in an office far, far away(Baltimore) I worked for a terrible person. I was a contract employee and, even if this person wasn’t terrible, would need to find a new job eventually. During this terrible time, I filled in as the librarian at the women’s prison for several months. It had the benefit of not being in the same office as the terrible person and I felt I was actually doing some good. I applied for the open position and the terrible person passed on hiring the person actually doing the job and hired someone else. At this time, I became more active in my job search. At some point, the terrible person found out I was looking for a new job and was furious. She called me in to her office and yelled about how I owed it to her to tell her I was looking so she could start thinking about a replacement for me. I wish I would have had it in me then to tell her why exactly I owed her nothing. I did eventually find a new job, but it was right back to jail. You can read some of that story here.

The above story is brought to you by me hearing about others who are concerned about what people will think if people here they might be looking for a new job. No one should worry about what people think about them looking for a new job. No one owes it to anyone to tell them they are looking for a new job. No one owes it to an employer to not look for new opportunities. What you owe your employer is this – do your best when you are at work. Do the job you are paid to do. That’s it. That’s all you owe them. Same goes for supervisors and coworkers. If you have a good relationship with them and you think they will support you, by all means, let them know, but you don’t need to tell anyone anything you don’t want to tell them. You do owe it to yourself to do what is best for you and your family. That’s it. End of story. This also applies to people who work for me(though I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t want to work for me forever).

There are lyrics to a Bowling for Soup song that apply here:

Follow your heart. Fuck everybody else.

Exploring Career Options

Another Saturday rerun. This one is from a year ago today. Still contemplating these careers.

The World's Common Tater

I am contemplating my next step in life and exploring career options. Below are some careers where I think I might at least get a call back for an interview. It’s still iffy as I don’t seem to have marketable skills.

  1. The guy who scoops up roadkill – Bonuses: Outside work, multiple interesting lunch options, always a need for the position.
  2. Shoveling elephant poop at the zoo – Circus is no longer an option as they have retired the elephants. Too bad. I always wanted to run away with the circus. I might have if it wasn’t for all the damn clowns.
  3. Flagger Force – Outside work, but too much responsibility. Daydream too much and you might cause an accident. I’m not ready for that level of accountability.
  4. Spinning ad signs on the side of the road – Too clumsy and no rhythm. I would fail at this job.
  5. Putting…

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Self Doubt

If you have followed this blog(or my personal Facebook page) you will know that I have long contemplated my future career-wise. I have applied for promotions where I currently work. I have been turned down for promotions where I currently work. I think we are close to 20 times now that I have been turned down for a new job with my current employer. I have applied for multiple jobs at other organizations. I have been offered one job. You can read here about my decision to turn down the job offer. In that post, I talked about upcoming opportunities for change. Those opportunities did not pan out and now I am back to where I was before, contemplating my future.

There is a job opening right now that seems to be a good fit for me. It is a change, but not a major change. I would be doing a job similar to what I’m doing now. The commute would be manageable. It would not mess up my long term plans(I don’t think). It would rest my vacation, but I could deal with that. I’m still hesitating, though, before completing the application. Why? Various reasons. Various questions. Is 50 too old to make a major change like this? Do I really want to start all over at a new place? Do I want to give up the vacation I’ve accrued and start over? And the big one – Am I good enough?

Maybe the reason I’ve been turned down for so many jobs where I work is that they know me and know that I’m not good enough. Maybe I’ve been fooling myself all these years and I’m not actually good at what I do. Maybe they see all of my faults and they all add up to someone who would not succeed at these jobs. Maybe I’m better off staying where I am. What if I go somewhere else and they realize all of this and then I end up with no job? Maybe I should have stayed in my old position where I was basically invisible and it was less likely people would realize all of this. Maybe it’s time to admit to myself that it’s not them, it’s me and I should stop wasting my time.

I should approach the job thing like high school me approached dating. You can avoid all the inevitable rejection by not trying at all.

Awkward Tater’s Conference Report

Last week I wrote about being awkward and attending conference. I am now back from the conference and thought I would report back on how I did with the social aspect.

When I arrived at the conference and headed into the keynote speaker, I hovered a bit while talking to someone I knew while waiting to see who was arriving and where they were sitting. I use the same strategy when I attend our all day staff development day for work. It’s always a mistake to sit and just go with the luck of the draw with who sits next to you. I can be a disaster. I did resist the impulse to go sit with the people from my library system, but it didn’t matter as I didn’t really talk to the handful of people who sat at my table. After the keynote, I attended the welcome reception. I found my friend from my branch and mostly talked to her and her husband, but I did venture over to talk to the conference chair who I know from working on the committee in the past. I did not succeed in mingling more than that.

The next morning I was up early to work the registration table. It gives me the opportunity to see everyone as they check in, but not an opportunity to really talk to people.  I did have a short conversation with a couple of the people working with me and found a new coffee place to try while in town. Most of the rest of the day was spent in sessions and didn’t leave a lot of time to talk to people. I did chat with someone I know from previous conferences while in line at the bar and someone I have talked to via email about a project I’m working on. My pub quiz team was full of people I already knew.

Not much to say about the last day. Someone I worked with on a statewide committee years ago happened to sit at my table at the closing keynote and we said hello. That was about it.

I didn’t talk to anyone who could have any impact on my career. There were several CEO’s there, but never the opportunity to say more than hello as we walked past each other. I did better about talking to people I met before but didn’t really make an effort to meet new people. I have an even bigger challenge with this next month when I go to a national conference in DC.  It will be harder to only talk to people with whom I already have a connection. It’s either reach out or stay quiet.

Awkward Tater Goes to Conference

I leave tomorrow for a conference for work. This is the conference I’ve gone to every year for a long time. I spent years on the planning committee for the conference. I used to be the guy in charge of writing the pub quiz every year until I gave it up when I had other official duties and lost it forever. I’m still an active member of the steering committee for one of the divisions. I hope to be back on the conference committee next year. All of the above means that I will know plenty of people at the conference. You would think that would make it easier for me to mix and mingle at the social events. If you think that, you would be wrong. I am still a socially awkward introvert and it’s still not cool.

I’ve never been good at the social part of the conference. I’m terrible at using the conference as a networking opportunity. I did better at the conference I attended in the fall. I introduced myself to the new CEOs of two local library systems. I ate breakfast at a table with someone from Utah and contacted her later for information we had discussed. Maybe I can carry that over to this conference. It would be especially useful as I am getting closer to actively seeking employment elsewhere. It would be nice if people on the interview panels remembered me as the guy they met and liked and not the weird guy who stands quietly in the corner at the reception. It’s never good to be the weird guy standing quietly alone in the corner. It would also be nice for leaders at my current place of work to see that I am known and liked by others in the profession. Maybe it will make them care more about the possibility of losing me. I doubt it, but a man can dream.

So, tomorrow when the keynote is over and the welcome reception starts, I will make an effort to not just grab some food and look for people I know. I will make an effort to meet new people without being weird and awkward about it. I will do the same at the other social activities. Look for my post next week where I will talk about my failure to do this.

Changing Goals

More on the topic of goals today. I was asked yesterday about goals and specifically asked if a certain job was my goal. It would have served me in the short term to just say yes, that is my career goal. Did I do that? Of course not. My problem over the years is that I am apparently unable to play the game that needs to be played to get ahead. The thing to do there was to say yes, my career goal is to be X, please hire me to do X. And yes, that is a current career goal. I would like to do X. I would be good at X. I don’t think there should be any question that I would be good at X. But is that my end goal? I really don’t know. Maybe. Maybe I get hired to do X and I’m very happy doing X and I want to do X for the rest of my work life. But the thing is, goals change. Life changes.

Maybe my wife gets a new job and we have to move. Doesn’t matter what my career goal was, now my career goal is to find a decent job in the new location. Maybe I win the lottery. Nw my career goal is to quit in a way that will not alert people that I won the lottery. Maybe I’m so good at my job I’m offered the chance to move to a higher level job and it is something that excites me. Now my career goal has moved up the ladder. Maybe I get a notification that a job I didn’t even know existed is open and it is the perfect situation for me. It would be hard to have that goal if I didn’t even know it could be a goal.

So, I guess my goal is to stay aware of opportunities, take chances and go for those opportunities when they arise and to know which opportunity is the right one for me.

The One Where Tater Makes a Decision

If you are a regular reader of this blog, I’m sorry, but also, you know that I wrote recently about some “not resolutions” for this year. One of those involved making a change in my day-to-day life. In this post, I will talk about why my first major decision of 2019 was to opt not to make a major change in my day to day life.

I have talked before about how I feel that God has spoken to me in various ways, sometimes with a song. Early this month I had a very strong feeling that I was being told that this is the year that everything changes. I’m going to think positive and assume that these would be positive changes and that this is not just wishful thinking on my part. Last week, I was in Florida with my family. Thursday, we took a day off from the parks and relaxed at the resort. Thursday morning, I went to the tennis courts with my son. Standing on the courts in my summer clothes in January with no stress in my life, I felt more at peace with life than I have in a long time. After tennis, we spent the rest of the day relaxing at the pool. It was during this time, that I received the call that interrupted the peace. It was a call from a place where I had interviewed before Christmas. It was a job offer. A very generous job offer.

At first glance, it seemed like this is what I wanted. It was a chance to make a change in my daily life. It was a chance to make a change in my daily life and make more money. It would definitely make this the year that everything changed. It was hard to focus on talking to the HR person about everything while on vacation so I asked if I could be back in touch after I returned. I had a few more days to decide if this is what I really wanted. I tried to focus more on enjoying my time with my family than dwelling on the offer, but it would sneak into my head whenever I had a chance to relax. Eventually, it would be decision time.

Ultimately, it came down to this question: Is the short-term gain of more money and removing myself from a bad situation more important than my long-term goal of retiring when I hit my 30 years(6 more years). Also in the long term thinking – is it worth resetting where I stand with vacation hours, probably doubling(or more) my commute and going to the one place in the state where I know no one? Eventually, I had to admit that blowing up my long term plan for a short term gain would not be smart and I opted to stay put for now. There are some opportunities for change coming that would not mess up my long term goals and would not result in major changes in location. If those don’t pan out, there are plenty of places I could go that would keep my long term goals intact. I just need to be patient and not make a rash decision.

I can get back to that feeling of peace sooner rather than later if I can be patient and wait for the right place to jump.

Some Dumb Tuesday Tater Thoughts on Sports and Work

This season in football I’ve heard the following:

You can’t bench Joe Flacco. He’s a Super Bowl MVP!

You can’t fire John Harbaugh. He won a Super Bowl!

I can’t believe the Packers fired Mike McCarthy! He won a Super Bowl! You don’t do that to a Super Bowl winning coach!

Imagine if this was real life. I can’t imagine anyone thinking that my place of work could never fire me because I won an award a while back.

They can’t fire Tater! He won an Out of the Box Award once! You don’t do that to someone who won a bonus award!

I imagine if I had become mediocre to bad at my job the fact I won an award once would not shield me from being let go. I also can’t imagine anyone would actually care if they did. How did professional sports become a place where past wins shield you from current failures? You are hired to win games. If you can’t win games, you shouldn’t have your job. That’s just the way it is.

Other ways sports business would be weird in my life:

X Library System has traded Tater to Z Library System for a box of bookends, a cart with a bad wheel and an incompetent intern. We’re not sure who got the best deal.

The bigger branches could become the majors and the smaller branches the minor leagues. Librarians are moved up and down based on performance. I’m pretty sure I would be exiled to the far reaches of the minors forever.

Just some dumb Tuesday Tater thoughts.

When One Door Closes

We’ve all heard the expression “When one door closes, another opens” In my experience, that has not been the case.

In my experience, all the doors are closed all of the time.  In that case, there is the saying that when a door closes, a window opens. Unfortunately, in my case, the windows typically have bars on them. For me, for 19 years, they were literal bars.

In some cases, when the one door closes and another opens, that open door is a trap and you should avoid it. Sometimes closed doors are protecting you from something worse on the other side. Unfortunately, you probably won’t know it was a trap until you are on the other side and the door has closed behind you.

Doors can be a tricky thing. You can spend years looking for that open door, wondering why the doors aren’t opening for you without realizing that perhaps the doors are protecting you from what’s on the other side.

So, be careful. Every knock on the door isn’t opportunity. Sometimes a closed door is a good thing.