Monday, October 21, 2013

The devil I know

So I am caught on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, I have this growing sense that my time at my present place of employment is rapidly drawing to a close. I have some irons in the fire which may or may not amount to anything, but even if those particular leads go cold, I will probably keep at it in different directions until I can make a break, a change, a clean start, and everything else I’m yearning for professionally at the moment. I’ve been getting paychecks from the same company for over six years now, and have been engaged on this specific contract for more than four; I still remember those crazy dot-com boom days when it was more or less assumed that everyone in my generational cohort would bounce from job to job at least every five years (and at most, as often as headhunters came a’calling with ludicrous salary offers for jumping ship). It really is a question of when I’ll move on, not if, and the answer is basically “just as soon as I can”.

On the other hand, I have no earthly idea how soon that will be, and therefore it is in my best interest to continue to operate under the assumption that I am going to be at my present place of employment for a good long while. It is tempting, in a very vicious cycle kind of way, to conduct myself like I have a bad case of senioritis and graduation is about a month away, but not only do I recognize that as inherently unprofessional, but it could very well blow up in my face, bite me in the ass, or cause any number of other metaphorical bodily injuries to me.

So I’m wrapping up the last straggling loose ends of my big annoying project, and while I’d like that to be the capstone I go out on, I also find myself getting drawn into newer initiatives which could potentially keep me busy for a very long time. Ordinarily I would consider this a good thing, a reason to have a little faith in my job security, an opportunity to make myself a little more indispensable. But doing it (or more to the point, doing it right) requires a certain amount of big-picture thinking and long-term planning, and I’m not entirely sure I’m up to the task.

All of this was neatly encapsulated for me last week, as I had a scheduled one-on-one meeting with my government boss’s boss. I may have mentioned this a while back, but she is new to the organization as of about six months ago, and based on the impressions I’ve gotten at all-hands meetings and whatnot so far, she seems like a perfectly nice person to work for, someone genuinely interested in the success of the organization and willing to do what’s necessary, including changing the way things have always been done, to achieve the mission. Which would be unreservedly great if I wasn’t mentally on my way out the door. But I find it all but impossible to get myself emotionally psyched up for this change at the top.

Not long after the new boss-of-bosses came aboard, she announced her attention to conduct the one-on-ones with everyone in the agency. I took that in stride at the time and assumed, as one of the lowliest contractors, that my appointment would either never manage to get scheduled or be scheduled only to be postponed indefinitely. And I was really fine with that. But to my hat-eating surprise, the one-on-one showed up on my calendar and stuck, with typical inopportune timing. The thing is, even when I feel exhausted by my job, even when I feel a certain accompanying careerist wanderlust, I have a natural tendency towards loyalty which means that even to fully consider looking for, applying for, interviewing for and leaving for a new job, I have to psyche myself … up? down? out? … in the appropriate direction, as the case may be. I need to really, truly convince myself that my current gig does not in truth deserve my loyalty, due to its various shortcomings, frustrations and indignities. So just when I had built up a pretty good head of steam in the form of a mantra of all the things wrong with my job which should motivate me to move onwards and upwards, along comes a meeting with the boss’s boss in which I needed to make nice and talk about the things I like about the job, and the things which are challenges but also for which I can envision solutions (with management’s support).

It was jarring, but I made it through without shooting myself in the foot and without losing my grip on the impetus to get out of here sooner rather than later. Please keep all fingers crossed that I can pull off the shift into the next phase of my career before I have some kind of dissociative break from trying to think in two opposite directions at once.

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