A reluctant office lady who still gets zits, but already has gray hair.

Pushing Buttons and Painting the Ceiling, Pt. 1

So yesterday was one of the worst days I’ve had at this job yet.

If you’ve read my About This Girl page, you know that I work in the online education industry.  I worked for 6 years at a big-name for-profit college company, but left when they started laying people off and freezing raises, because I wanted to leave on my own terms.  Also, my job as a ‘team lead’ was incredibly stressful, and I felt like the time was right.

My new job is at a cyber-school and I took a substantial pay cut to take it, but at the time, it seemed like the best choice and that I was making an investment in a more stable career.

Well, it turns out I was pretty wrong.  My new company is low-budget, pretty unstable, and it’s managed/owned by someone who is probably very intelligent, but not particularly tech-savvy and not particularly business-minded.  Also, he’s kind of a jerk who treats everyone as though they have no idea how to do their own job.  I have a lot of feelings and opinions about him, but I’ll abbreviate them in the interest of time.

My particular position is administrative, mostly.  I have some lofty title that may lead you to believe that I have more responsibility/authority than I do, but I’m basically responsible for pushing buttons all day.  There are a few variations on this:

-Some days are busy and I have to push more buttons than usual.

-Sometimes, there are priorities and I have to push the buttons in a different order.

-Sometimes, I’m not given all of the information that I need, so I have to deduce which buttons to push.

-Sometimes, for reasons outside of my control, I’m unable to push the buttons due to tech problems, so I have to explain this to various people inside and outside of the company.

-Also, unfortunately, sometimes I push the wrong buttons and I have to apologize thoroughly and sincerely to everyone involved.

At first, I was really mad when I found out how data-entry-focused this job was, especially because I wasn’t exactly wonderful at it.  I started at the busiest time of year, and I made typos, because I’ve never had a job like that before.  I felt really self-righteous, telling everyone who asked that I used to MANAGE people with jobs like this, and that I felt totally bamboozled by the interview process.

Eventually, it slowed down, and I realized that I have quite a bit of downtime, which I should probably appreciate, after living an all-job-all-the-time lifestyle for about two years.  I’m still looking for a new job, but not as actively, and, like I’ve mentioned, I’m still trying to come up with a game plan for how to change my situation.

Then, about 2 weeks ago, one of the managers here came down and said that one of his employees had given her 2-weeks notice and that he would need my help in her absence.  It sounded sort of occasional and casual, but the new responsibilities involve performing quality assurance (QA) checks on our online courses.  Since QA can be a bit of a resume buzzword (and I’m looking for more skills!), I was actually pretty excited about this possibility, because I want to make myself a more marketable candidate.

A member of his team gave me a half-hour training session, but she didn’t really tell me the scope or regularity of the responsibilities and I just sort of pushed it to the side, since the button-pushing demands of my own job had escalated and I really didn’t have time to do anything extra.

This all seemed fine, and I was still pretty gung-ho about the new work until yesterday, when the stereotypical hothead small business owner called all of us into a meeting and basically said that I’m accountable for the QA of all of the courses, effective immediately.  And it didn’t even seem like it would be effective immediately, as much as it sounded like it was already effective, as though if he found errors in any course, I would be personally accountable.   As if this wasn’t infuriating enough, he proceeded to say several times to me in his standard-issue condescending tone, “Do…you…understand??  This is important.”  The manager whose team is actually responsible for the content of the courses said nothing to indicate that I hadn’t really started doing these quality assurance checks or that the training I received was nowhere near thorough enough to be fully accountable.  He just sat there quietly while I was instructed by the owner that I have 2 jobs now.   For the same shitty pay.

This meeting put me behind schedule, but instead of working from home last night (for free!), I decided that I had already dedicated enough hours of my day to this guy and his crappy company, so I decided to paint the kitchen ceiling, because I needed to do something where I could control the outcome.

(To be continued…)

 

P.S.

When I think of the insane owner, I think of this scene from A League of their Own, not because he makes me cry (he doesn’t) or because he yells in my face (he doesn’t), but because sometimes I feel like asking him if anyone ever told him he looks like a penis with a little hat on.  There’s no crying in cyber-school, after all.

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House Plan

I know I’ve been talking about coming up with a job plan, and I have sadly no updates on that, but I have come up with a house plan!

A few weeks ago while I was working from home because of my leaky roof, I found my dream house on craigslist.  Let me tell you about its glory!

It had 4 bedrooms, one of which was a huge finished attic. (So much room for activities!) It had new hardwood floors, a dishwasher, a double sink (this is very important to Elissa, but I’m indifferent to the number of sinks because THERE’S A DISHWASHER, WHO NEEDS A SINK EVER AGAIN?), a first-floor half bath, a new furnace, a nice patio, 3 parking spots.  Let me tell you, this house was A+ and I spent a good 2 hrs walking around my own house trying to inventory all the things I would need to do to (in my non-real-estate-educated head) sell it in a hurry.  I was going all HGTV in my head and theorizing the best way to stage my house. This was it. I was going to sell the house and move to…the other side of my own neighborhood, and there was no way I’d ever be convinced otherwise. 

 

Of course, Elissa was at work during all of this and was completely unaware that I had found the home where we will grow old together.

Also, I wasn’t really looking for a house, because E’s in grad school and I’m looking for a new job, and everything’s just a little too unclear right now to go around getting a new mortgage.  Additionally, because of the (totally reasonable, in my head) price of this house, I would need both of us to be on the mortgage, which is probably a grand idea for our next house (I have all kinds of opinions on this subject!), but we should probably at least be engaged-to-be-gay-married before then.  Why buy the cow, put a ring on it, etc.

Oh, also, we don’t have tons of savings right now for inspections, closing costs, etc.  When E came home and joined me in basking in Our Forever House’s splendor, she reminded me that approximately 60% of the houses in our neighborhood/this city were built the exact same way, and there will probably be one available to us when we are ready, but we just aren’t yet.  She was right, and I’ve spent the past 2 weeks making peace with the idea that someone else is going to live in Our Forever House instead of us.  I’ll probably still drive by it now and then on my way to Aldi, though, because you don’t need a new mortgage to be a stalker.

 

So my new plan is this:  

  1. Refinance!  Another portion of my work-from-home day was spent making phone calls that it is awkward to make while cubicle-bound, and one of these calls was to the mortgage broker who helped me get my first mortgage.  People have been saying ‘you should re-finance!’ to me forever, but I’ve pretty much ignored all of them, because it sounded complicated, like I would somehow be personally involved in doing large amounts of math.  Also, I knew that I’d have to talk to people on the phone, and that I’d have to fill out paperwork, and both of these things are pretty unappealing to me.  Anyway, the guy explained that as long as I stayed in the house for 3 more years, refinancing would be worth it, and I’d be able to pay down my loan faster.  If I was going to sell in less than 3 years, though, it wouldn’t be worth the cost to re-finance.  In three years, I’ll be 31 (how did this happen to me?), and E will be done with school, and we will hopefully be able to make large financial decisions.  Moreover, I will have paid down my house more, so I can potentially (gasp!) profit from its sale, which would be a totally cool and unexpected side effect, since I never really planned to stay there that long.
  2. Fix up my house.  About a year ago, I went through a fit where I wanted desperately to buy a new car, but I didn’t actually need one.  My car is six years old, but it barely has 60,000 miles on it, so it certainly has a lot of life left in it.  Also, since it’s paid off, it’s kind of awesome to not have a car payment.  The solution was for me to clean all the junk out of my car and vacuum it, and it made me feel so much better.  Obviously cleaning and vacuuming my house will help me, but a few coats of paint and spackle here and there, and craigslisting some stuff that has just been sitting around will probably make a world of difference.  This will also make it easier for me to sell when the time comes, and will help the next 3 years seem more bearable.
  3. Save money and pay off debt!  With E working full-time now, we will suddenly have more money, and while making more money can lead to spending more money, I want to try my hardest for this to not happen.  When we do want to buy a house, I want our financial path to be clear of weird old looming bills or unexpected expenses.
  4. Live happily ever after, etc.

PS.

I’m still working out the layout for this fancy “wordpress” business, so there will probably be random updates to the theme while I decide what I like and how to even do it.

For example, right now, I believe if you scroll down far enough on the right, there are sea turtles, and I’m just not sure how I feel about that, but I really like the font at the top.  Maybe I’ll make my own thing?

Oh, I’ve gotten so tech-stupid in my old age.

Edit: I’m revoking the sea turtles, because the fish scrolling across my page were distracting and confusing.  This is not a blog about fish or underwater adventures.

5 Phases of Employment

In my experience, there are 5 phases of employment once I start a new position.

Phase 1: Euphoria

“This job is the best thing that has ever happened! Not only in my life, but in your life too.  Nothing in this history of the world has ever surpassed this joy.”

Phase 2: Uncertainty/Awkwardness

“Hm, this is kind of hard, actually. I have to talk to new people and they’re going to think I’m weird because I don’t have cable, and I have to learn how to use the coffee maker and pretend that I’m an enthusiastic person.”

Phase 3: Complacency

“This job is actually okay, I guess.  I don’t hate every single day, but I still wouldn’t be upset if I were to win the lottery.”

Phase 4: Disdain

“I have never been more bored/stressed/angry* in my entire life.  I hate this job and I’m leaving!”

*While the emotion in this phase varies, the important part is that it is extreme.  It is the worst, and I cannot possibly tolerate it for another day/week/month.

Phase 5: Shutdown

“I don’t even care what happens here, because I already found a new job and it is going to be the best thing that’s ever happened.  I’m going to cry happy tears every single day just because I am so lucky to wake up as me.”

In most positions, this process has taken me approximately 12-18 months to complete, at which point I usually applied for an internal promotion, and usually received it.  I have always been incredibly lucky when applying for jobs, but I’ve always been sort of low-effort.  That may sound boastful, but believe me, it is not always as fortuitous as it sounds.  Getting by with minimal effort may be fine in an undergraduate program or an entry-level position, but it really sets you up for failure if you ever have to do anything that is actually difficult.  By coasting along for all those years, I never learned important skills like ‘perseverance’ or ‘studying.’  Any time I’ve ever encountered anything difficult on my path, I have simply changed direction, which is actually a huge personality flaw.  It’s like that old saying: “If at first you don’t succeed, give up immediately and settle for something easier.” (Right?)

Anyway, getting back to the life cycle, it usually takes me about 12-18 months to get tired of a job and start looking around.  In my most recent position, for various reasons, the entire process took me 6 business days.  I knew immediately and urgently that I did not want to be at this company any longer, so first I called my old boss and begged for my job back.  He played the role of the wise father-figure, and I left the conversation feeling like I should probably try to stick it out a little longer, as though I was at some summer camp where the other kids were mean to me.

After about a month, I applied for a job at a company that I sort of had some connections with, and I scored a phone interview through some name-dropping on my application.  The phone interview went well enough, and they invited me in for an in-person interview.  At this point, I’m getting more and more optimistic, because I am an excellent interviewer.  I dressed professionally with every hair in place, firm handshake, warm smiles— it was a textbook interview.  When I left, I felt like it was a slam dunk, and I went home to patiently wait for the phone call that would allow me to leave my job with 2 middle fingers held high.  (the likelihood of this happening is very small, because that would be very rude.)

 

That was over a month ago, and I’ve heard nothing.  Not even a “thanks, but no thanks” auto-email.  I can’t help but feel like I’ve been stood up after a blind date.  I mean, I thought I nailed the interview.  I don’t think I would have done a single thing differently, so I guess what I find most concerning is that I obviously didn’t actually nail the interview.  This means that it’s not JUST my interview skills that need to be polished, but my judgment skills too, which are a lot less tangible.

 

So at this point, as I’m stewing over my defeat, a few things are happening in my head (in the shape of an outline):

  1. I still hate my job, but still relying on their compensation to pay for things I don’t hate, like:
    1. Food
    2. Shelter
  2. I’m still stalking job boards daily,  but sort of mentally beat down about applying, because:
    1. What if I get an interview and they don’t hire me either?  Or worse!
    2. What if they do hire me, and it is somehow worse than this insane place?
  3. I need to get more skills somehow, but I am skeptical of graduate school, because I’m still:
    1. Adverse to difficult things.
    2. Not sure what exact career path I want.
    3. Not rich, and hesitant of becoming less rich yet.
  4. I can feel inaction creeping in because:
    1. Other jobs will be different from this and could be harder or more miserable.
    2. I have 12 days off over the holidays, and I sure do love not being here.
    3. One way to prevent disappointment is to avoid getting your hopes up in the first place. (I just made that up, but it sounds like something girls would post on facebook and somehow attribute to Marilyn Monroe, who is probably pretty surprised in the afterlife about how prolific people think she was.)

So the answer to all of this crazy-talk is to come up with a plan.  I’m not there yet, but hopefully I will get there soon.

Introduction

Here are some things I’m really good at:

-Keeping mental track of who’s currently pregnant on my facebook, and whether they are cute-happy-pregnant or gross-fat-pregnant.  (this is a real issue.  Some people look like they are radiantly growing a beautiful life inside them and some people look like they accidentally ate a large piece of couch stuffing and now they don’t know what to do about it except post pictures on the internet.)

 

-Using Excel to calculate how much weight I could lose by Christmas/my birthday/St. Patrick’s Day (this is a legitimate milestone in my calendar year) if I lose x pounds per week.  It is important to note here that I have never met any weight loss goal that I have set for myself, except one summer without trying, I lost 20 lbs by lying in bed from 6 pm- 6 am every day instead of ‘eating dinner’ or ‘being a productive member of society.’  Once I started eating/smiling again, though, it came right back on, so I wouldn’t recommend a depressing break-up as a mode for long-term weight loss.  I did recently adjust my 3-pronged food pyramid of cereal, pizza and sandwiches to remove most grains on most days, but the jury’s still out on whether it has made me skinnier or just more belligerent.

 

-Fancy penmanship, in short bursts

 

-Structuring my workday in such a manner where I accomplish exactly the amount of work I have to do.  If I have a lot of work to do, this is impressive, and people think I’m part-robot*.  If I only have a little work to do, however, this is less impressive, because it will take me all day to do a half hour of work.  It’s sort of like if your car knew when you needed to be somewhere and drove at the appropriate speed.  You would never be early or late, but sometimes, you would go way too fast, because you’re a putz and couldn’t get it together to leave the house on time, and sometimes, you would go way too slow, and even the slowest grandmas would give you the finger as they passed you on the road. 

 

-Smelling things.  Sometimes I am convinced that our dishes/kitchen/couch smells like dog-smell, but my GF can’t smell it.  In fact, dog-smell is pretty much the only thing I excel at smelling.  Either everything in my home (including the inside of the microwave) smells like a dog, or I have dog-smell permanently imprinted in my nose/brain.  Both of these outcomes are pretty bleak, actually.

 

-Writing emails and cover letters that sound really good to me.   I specify here that they sound really good –to me- because I haven’t been particularly lucky in my job pursuits.  I did get a new job a few months ago, but I probably should have known that something was awry because it was the only company who even wanted an interview with me out of all the applications I sent out.  At the time, I thought I had finally found a company who understood and appreciated my full potential as an important contributor to the organization, but now I think that everyone involved in the hiring process was insane.  The last 3 months have been very similar to most of my internet dating pursuits,** in that I realized almost immediately that I’d made a huge mistake and started looking around for the nearest exit.

 

In summation, I have very few viable job skills, and spend most of my downtime calculating theoretical weight loss, catching up on facebook, and watching reality shows en masse on whichever of my internet TV subscriptions enable me to do so.  So I figured I’d start a blog.  If for no other reason, it will force me to get out of the fetal position after work and actually feel something.  Tearing up during a Google commercial EVERY Google commercial does not count as being an emotionally functional person.

 

*I am part-robot, coincidentally, but it’s the ‘feelings’ part, not the ‘working’ part, so it actually makes me less likely to succeed in an office environment, not more.

 

**I say ‘most’ because I met my lovely girlfriend online 2 years ago and she’s actually awesome.  But let me assure you that she is in the vast minority, and that everyone who has ever approached me on a dating site has turned out to be crazy-bananas in one way or another.  I messaged E first, though, so the burden of crazyfreakitude was on me, and either I turned out to be okay, or I turned out to be a kind of crazy that meshed well with her own, so it worked out.