dreaminghope: (Giggle)
I have a problem with admitting when I don't know something, and I seem to encounter a lot of people who just assume I know the things that they know – I tend to just go along and hope I figure it all out. And I usually do.

I do it at work a lot. I have a lot of regulars, and all my customers know me because I'm the one who answers the phones and answers their emails and calls them back when they need to make last minute changes and I don't have to let them, but I do. When people call me at work, I act like I know who they are until I figure out who they are. When Dave Allen calls, I'm typing in "Allen" in the search box for my customer database as he says hello, and when it doesn't come up with any results, I wonder if it's under "David" or maybe "AllAn" instead of "AllEn", and that's when I realize that he isn't asking about apples or soy milk but is talking about RRSPs, which makes this Dave Allen, my banker, and not a customer at all, and it takes me another 30 seconds or so to shake my head into personal finance mode because I was so ready to talk about fennel recipes and this week's great deal on almond butter.

As far as I can remember, my mother-in-law has never told me what her health issues actually are, but she makes passing references to them. I know she can't eat seeds and that her feet are often cold because her circulation is poor and she's got swollen hands and she's often achy, but I don't know which symptoms are of a disease and which are the results of all the meds she has to take. There's been talk of colitis and lupus and arthritis – tests and theories – but she's never sat down and told me what's officially going on. She probably thinks Russ has told me, but he sometimes seems a little confused too.

My Mom's more of a straight shooter. When she was diagnosed with cancer, there was a full discussion of what that meant. Now, mind you, she didn't tell us about the cancer scare, but only once it was cancer, and I really think we all would have preferred to have been a little scared with her during the cancer scare instead of being thrown straight into the full terror of cancer – especially my poor sister, who found out first through a call from my mother's doctor – but that's my mother. She got her diagnosis and she laid out the plan: surgery – lumpectomy if possible; mastectomy if necessary – and if there's lymph node involvement, then chemotherapy and radiation and this dreadful drug that threw her into menopause and she got these hot flashes that was like an out of control sauna from the inside. And it was all laid out like a check list: cut, poison, burn, drug – check, check, check, check. It works with my Dad's way of being – the engineer in him isn't good with grays and hinting and suggestion. He likes lines and black and white; he ignores vagueness.

My mother-in-law's all vagueness, and it gets to a certain point where it feels really weird – really embarrassing – to straight out ask "What's wrong?" What's really wrong with your hands? What is your diagnosis? This is the disadvantage of faking it; if you don't figure it out, it's really hard to back-track, and say, maybe fifteen minutes into a phone conversation, "I'm sorry, who is this, please?"
dreaminghope: ("I hate everything")
"Has anyone ever told you that you have great phone manners? You always sound so cheerful. Must be how you got the job, right?"

Second customer today to tell me how great I am. To tell me how cheery and sweet I sound.

Damn it!

I really am having a bad work day if I'm overcompensating that much.
dreaminghope: (3-Day Novel)
When I was a very little girl, I wanted to be a vet. That I was scared of every animal that walks, flies, jumps, or crawls - everything but snakes (slithers) and fish (swims) - didn't seem to me to be an impediment. I was aware that most pet owners have either cats or dogs, which were the scariest creatures in my small world. I knew, from friends' tragic incidents involving goldfish, that vet assistance is rarely sought for fish. But I also knew that being a vet was a Good Thing, so that's what I wanted to be. My Mom is incredibly generous of spirit: she never laughed at six year old me who declared that she wanted to be a vet. At least, she didn't laugh at me to my face.

When I was a slightly older little girl, I wanted to be a nurse or a doctor. That I felt sick at the sight of blood and had to cover my eyes even during fictional medical procedures on TV didn't seem to be insurmountable problems. I knew that doctors and nurses made people feel better, and that’s what I wanted to do.

When I was graduating from high school and trying to decide what to do in university, I decided that I wanted to be a journalist. I didn't take into account that I dislike talking to strangers, that I get claustrophobic in crowds, and that I don't deal with stress well. Journalists were noble, and smart, and they gave people power through information, so I wanted to be one of them.

Through it all, what I really wanted to be was a novelist (and a drag queen, but that's a story for another day). In many ways, I'm well suited to it: I'm imaginative and a natural people-watcher and eavesdropper, and I like spending a lot of time alone, writing. I wonder that I never mentioned it in the "what I want to be when I grow up" field in the memory books I would fill out with my Mom at the end of every school year.

Maybe I didn't mention it because I took it for granted: I couldn't not tell stories; I couldn't not write. It didn't matter if anyone else was reading or not, I would still write.

Or maybe I didn't mention it because, even as a kid, I've always been a practical person, and I knew that I would need a day job too. Vet by day and novelist by night! Or, you know, office manager by day and novelist on long weekends.

I mailed in my early registration for the 2008 3-Day Novel Contest this week.
dreaminghope: (Cute but Deranged)
My Most Annoying Personality Trait

When I first get into work on Sunday mornings, I turn all the highlighters cap down, make sure the pens and scissors are in the correct slots in the desk organizer, flip the ruler so it sticks out the left side of the file holder, and return the stapler, post-it notes, and calculator to the correct spots. My Friday assistant always shifts things around when she uses my desk; I need everything in its place before I start to work.

***

"I have a plan. I always have a plan."

***

It was like something straight out of a Judy Blume novel (Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, to be exact):

"Everyone take two pieces of paper and write your name on them both. On one, write Good Things and on the other, Bad Things, or Not So Good Things, if you prefer. Then we will all write about each other’s best qualities and worst qualities on the sheets."

I took the leader's Bad Things paper first and wrote on it in my big handwriting: "I think this is a passive-aggressive exercise and if you have anything to tell me about my personality, you can tell me to my face." As we all grabbed papers at random in the half-hour that followed, I always knew who had that paper because they would look at me and chuckle.

At the end of the exercise, I stuffed my papers into my purse unread. At home, I dropped them into a desk drawer and forgot about them. I came across them months later while looking for something else.

I don't remember anything from either page except for one Not So Good Thing entry: "Sometimes you get a little 'my-way-or-the-highway'."

"Just a little?" I asked.

***

"There is a plan. Don't fuck with the plan."

***

I am going to start training a new assistant at work tomorrow. Wish him luck.

Orange highlighter for the customers with changes to their deliveries. All the grocery codes are written in black ink: a four letter code, one space, a slash, one more space, then the next code. Circle them in blue highlighter. Notes to the customers are highlighted in green; packing instructions in yellow; packing instructions in pink. Bin counts in blue pen. Office notes in red pen.

I have very specific ways of doing every tiny task. I always have a reason for doing things the exact way I do, but sometimes my reasons don't seem important to other people. I seem controlling and obsessive...

***

"Just stick with the plan, and everything will work out perfectly."
dreaminghope: (Squinty Puck)
I try to read my future in the spill of elastic bands and paper clips across my desk. All it says is "you will keep working", which I already know.

So I settle for telling the fortunes of my paper clips:

"In your future, I see that you'll be holding together a bundle of papers for the accountant."

"I see you going to the bank with Monday's cheques."

"Don't worry, you'll be used again soon," as I return a shiny clip back to the box of its brethren.

It's Sunday, and I'm training the new girl. She's going to be great, as soon as we get in some practice. I didn't realize how complicated my job was until I started trying to teach it to someone else. I’m worn out from thinking about what I usually just do.

I restrain myself from telling her what colour of pen to use and to use semi-colons instead of dashes. There's enough for her to remember without my neurotic need to always use the same colour of highlighter for the same task.

I also don't tell her that the paper clips like it when you talk to them.
dreaminghope: (Cute but Deranged)
From my little office, I just watched my co-worker glide across the warehouse on his wheeled office chair, come to a tidy stop in front of the water cooler, fill his cup, execute a 180 degree turn and glide back to his desk.

The wheeled office chair is highly under-appreciated. Graduating to a job that allows one to sit all day seems to bring with it a certain seriousness. Also, most offices seem to be carpeted, which interferes with the smooth rolling of chairs. Carpet is so known to be problematic for wheeled chairs that they invented little plastic mats with sharp studs to compensate. However, they are usually small mats, unsuitable for gliding. They do facilitate chair dancing, however, so all is not lost.

Chair dancing, in case you are unfamiliar, involves grooving so hard to your music that you cause your chair to start bumping and grinding right along with you; excellent ab workout. Depending on your work environment, it might be best done after everyone else has gone home, unless you are fortunate enough to have an office door.

My own office has an excellent surface for gliding: linoleum, leading to a cement warehouse floor. However, it lacks other crucial features: clear paths with suitably placed push-off areas. The lack of a clear path requires clumsy navigation, reducing the enjoyment of flying freely over the office floor. Lack of convenient push-offs means that longer glides require walking your chair some of the distance; not nearly as much fun as shoving off of desks, walls, photocopiers with your hands and feet.

I have one mini-glide I am working on perfecting: push off from my desk with both hands, to glide backwards to my boss' desk. The goal is to stop just past the drawer that contains the petty cash and the cheque book, without hitting wall, desk corner, recycling bin or shredder, collect item from drawer, then use a single push to glide back to home again. I practice when my boss isn’t in the office, as the risk of collision is high. I'm not very good yet, with only two years of daily practice, but I am improving. I get far fewer bruises now.

My boss is considering moving us to better office space within a year or two. I've already put in a request for a south-facing window (for light and to allow satellite radio). I think I'll add a request for lino floors; I would hate all this practice to go to waste.
dreaminghope: (Working Zoey)
I am a writing tool bigot. I think it started when I was but a wee child in school. We were not permitted pens in early elementary school, only pencils (with the useless little pink stubs on the end, all but gone in one childish fit of erasing). I wanted a pen. They wrote so smoothly, the ink went on dark and even, and the sound was the quick and quiet swoosh of real writing. I was a quiet, shy kid, but on paper I wanted to be bold and bright and to make my mark visible.

Pencils are scratchy and skittery, and they break easily when you pushed too hard (which I inevitably did; I’ve always had a heavy hand). Their marks are lighter and are designed to be removed, erased from existence. I quickly grew to dislike pencils, and the calluses they left on my fingers.

In those long-gone days, I yearned for pens. Whenever possible, I pushed aside pencil crayons (superior colouring instruments for shading though they are) in favour of markers. I loved the rich, even colour that coated the paper completely with even the lightest touch. I loved the way they glided. I loved how pretty they were and how they never got worn down and uneven the way pencils did with repeated sharpening.

In grade five, we were, at long last, allowed to use pens, the erasable kind. I carried several at all times, in a little green pencil case, and from that year on, the only time I would use a pencil was on standardized tests and when measuring off a cut line.

My dad gave me an elegant wooden pen set once. It came with a mechanical pencil. If there’s anything I hate more then pencils, it is mechanical pencils. They make tentative, thin lines, like they are scared to commit to the paper. And they are fragile little things, constantly requiring refilling with more Capellini-like strands of lead. Useless!

Sharpies, on the other hand, are extremely useful. When I was younger, my sister and I would spend hours making shrink art. The perfect writing utensil for shrink art is the Sharpie, and so we had a beautiful collection of the fine-tip markers, including all the colours available and always extra black ones. Now, many years later, I hoard Sharpies. We have a selection ranging from extra-fine to extra-thick. We have the range of colours. Russ even has a push-up Sharpie that doesn’t need a cap. In the store, I lust after the adorable Sharpie Mini pens. At every excuse, out comes a handy Sharpie to label a package or container. I think I am looking forward to getting a deep freeze because of all the labeling opportunities.

My love of marking things up extended beyond just pens and markers as I developed a love for highlighters at a job where the beauty of those brilliant, translucent colours were sometimes the highlights of my day. When I left that job, my staff gave me a gift pack of highlighters, including the mythical, rarely seen, red highlighter.

But despite my love for all other writing utensils, I still hate pencils. I will not use them even in situations where they would have been the logical choice. Thus, my messy and passionate affair with white-out. Some days I come home with my hands caked with the stuff; I love that it hides my mistakes, but I get impatient and end up rubbing it to try to get it firm faster.

I discriminate against pencils, and I am not ashamed. I will stick with my highlighters, markers and pens. I will even continue to indulge my love-hate relationship with white-out. All for the love of making bolder marks on a piece of clean white paper.
dreaminghope: (Firelight - Cinnamonsqueak)
A friend was complaining about a co-worker of hers the other day, about how he isn't capable of multitasking and only does one task at a time (and also about how slowly he does each task, but that's not relevent to the rest of this post). She was frustrated because she is a multitasker of the highest order: doing two or three things at once and planning the next task or two at the same time.

I am also a multitasker, especially at work. This makes me one of those employees that bosses like, because they can throw diverse jobs at me and I juggle them all. I plan product launches while charging credit cards, I answer phones while typing emails, I invoice accounts while discussing delivery schedules, etc.

Multitasking in this way has become a necessary skill for most jobs, as well as for many lifestyles. Then we wonder why people take medication to sleep or watch hours of mindless television to relax. By the end of a day of doing everything at once, we are too tired and we are stretched too thin to do anything, but we are also too mentally wound up to just relax on our own.

This way of life also makes it hard to enjoy any one thing. For example, I have the habit of thinking ahead to what I have to do when I get home, so I miss my walk home. Or I miss the simple pleasure of doing a job well to completion, because I always have multiple jobs at different stages, so the job as a whole never stops.

Most of the time I am a "high-functioning" multitasker: I don't lose my place in my multitude of tasks, I keep the jobs neatly separated, I am capable of putting aside tasks to focus on just one thing if it is important (dramatic) enough. I get rewarded for this behaviour, especially at work.

The ability to do just one thing at a time, however, is a skill I would like to develop. We're heading into the summer slow-down at work, and I will take the opportunity of extra time in my workday to learn to focus completely on one task, not skipping around.

I don't want to lose the ability to multitask, but I want to gain the ability not to.
dreaminghope: (Happy Bug)
I got a call from a customer this afternoon, responding to a voicemail I left him about his declined credit card. We'd talked several times before, about his credit card, his delivery, his bin pick up... normal stuff.

Today he asks me how long I've been with Green Earth, and what I do there, and whether I'm just summer help... odd, but some customers just want to chat a little, and since it isn't long distance, I have no problem with that.

Then he mentions that he works for the Cactus Club, in human resources. He tells me that he likes my attitude, and if I ever want to change jobs, I should call him and see if anything's opening up at the Cactus Club.

OK, I am not going to leaving Green Earth, which I love, for the Cactus Club. And I'm certainly not going to leave my job as an office manager to be a waitress or hostess -- I get to sit on the job right now! But it was still really flattering!
dreaminghope: (Labyrinth)
They say time flies when you are having fun. I think that is only true if whatever's coming after the fun isn't fun as well.

Once again my days seem to have a rhythm. It is delightful to feel like a part of the world again.

My work has an immediacy now, working for a small, local company, helping local customers, dealing a lot with local, seasonal food. I see the people I'm working with.

The work day has a steady rhythm to it. I am busy all the time, but I don't get hectic or stressed very often. The day passes quickly.

I come home from work feeling good about what I have learned and accomplished. The evenings pass more slowly now. They feel leisurely, relaxed.

Living without dreading the next day means that time is what it is, not an enemy.

Reflections

Jun. 6th, 2004 07:33 pm
dreaminghope: (Pensive Zoey)
It is kind of amusing that I never thought about it before, but I just realised that in my entire working life so far, I have never worked for a company big enough that I did not work directly with the company owner. No huge corporations, no big bosses that you hear about but never meet, no stockholders and boards, no parent companies, no levels of authority from managers to district managers, etc.

I have always, for better or for worse, worked directly with the person ultimately responsible for the company and all its decisions.

It is a really different work experience from working for larger companies, from what I can tell from hearing the experiences of friends. For example, I've never see a training/propaganda video. Though I may not always agree with the decision being made, I have always been able to talk directly to the person who made the decision. If I have a problem with my boss, there's nowhere to appeal to, as they are the highest authority.

I wonder if I'll ever work for a corporation. I may not: I do love small companies. They have character. They are friendlier and more personal feeling. That isn't always better, but I do think they add more to a community and are more accountable then are huge companies. And I must admit that I felt a certain amount of self-righteousness watching the movie The Corporation, knowing that I did not work for a company like that. I know I am lucky to have that luxury, but I like working for companies where I can see and understand all their actions and I can feel good about them.
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
I feel really good about myself, work-wise, for the first time in a long time.

I've been cleaning up my work search stuff, now that I have a new job lined up, and I realize that I only sent out about 25 resumes. I got two interviews out of that, and got hired from the second interview. And I've been called twice since then for interviews (which I've passed on, of course).

It is nice to know that I have useful skills and multiple opportunities.

Also, I have been really enjoying the number of compliments I've been getting at work since deciding to leave, such as:
- "You are the best supervisor I've ever had."
- "You are wonderful and you've made so many things possible for me."
- "The best people always leave Omega."
- "You have done a great job here."

And a lot of the other managers, including at least one of the partial owners, has been saying a lot of things like: "It is horrible that we lost a valuable employee like you. We need to make sure this never happens again."

This has been quite the ego-boosting situation. I need to keep reminding myself why I hate this job so I don't "fall" for the appeal to my need to be validated by others.
dreaminghope: (Firelight)
I don't know quite what to think since she didn't really let me talk a lot and she didn't ask a lot of questions.

Normally I'd see this as a bad sign, but I think she's just weeding out people who couldn't read the ad and, when they hear that they would be doing the "adults" section, are no longer interested in the position.

She didn't ask for my references. Maybe they'll be doing that at the second interview, or maybe they don't bother with those. Either way, I'm ready.

I'll probably hear on Wednesday whether or not I get the second interview.

On a lighter note: I have fabulous friends! Thank you, everyone, who's been so supportive, sympathetic and has given me such positive feedback in the last couple of days, both on LJ and in person.

And thanks to those who agreed to be my references on less then 12 hours notice, by email!
dreaminghope: (Happy Bug)
Woo-hoo!

I have my first job interview of this search! The Georgia Straight left a voicemail today asking if I want to meet with their Classifieds manager. I shall call tomorrow and try to arrange something for Friday, my flex day.

So, my resume must be OK if I get an interview off the first ad I send it to.

I'm actually kind of proud of my cover letter for this one. They asked in the ad for you to give them three reasons as to why they should hire you. So I wrote:

I would be perfect for this position for the many practical reasons laid out in my resume, such as my phone background and my computer skills. However, you will want me for this position because if you hire me:

1) My teammates will tell you that I work extremely hard while smiling the whole time.

2) My customers will tell you that I am always bright and fun to talk to and that I make placing a classified ad easy and pleasant.

3) My supervisor will tell you that I was easy to train and that they never have to worry about how my work will turn out.


After sending it, I worried that it might be too silly, but it got me an interview!
dreaminghope: (Labyrinth)
I just came back from mailing four cover letters/resumes. One to the closed captioning firm and three unsolicited ones to various companies. My favourite cover letter is the one I started: "Ah, another unsolicited resume."

I am so excited about the opportunity to start a new job in a new industry. I am so scared that no one will hire me.

I fear that I am sending my tender little resumes out into a world that will mock them.

I've never left a job this way before. Last time, there was a lot of warning and no hard feelings. This time, there will be annoyed, aggravated, stressed, pissed off and hurt people in the wake of my choice.

I must write 150 times: I need to take of me. I cannot live to please other people.
dreaminghope: (Firelight)
There are some interesting jobs out there...

Last week I applied for a job with The Georgia Straight for someone to take incoming calls regarding their "Adults" classifieds. I haven't heard back yet, but the competition just closed on Friday, so I haven't given up hope.

This week I am applying for a job with a closed captioning company. I never thought about the fact that someone has to type those captions! Maybe that could be me.

And today I picked up a book from the Vancouver Library book sale called The Joy of Not Working (signed by the author, like new condition, for $2!). Its basic premise is that life is too short not to enjoy as much quality and quantity of leisure time as possible.

Reading it is making me think that I may want to quit my current job without a new one lined up.

If I do, what's the worst that could happen? I could have so much trouble finding a new job that I drain my bank account. So? I could pull out of my long-term savings (putting off buying a house for another year or so) and/or get a Starbucks job.

I do not believe it has to be like this. I don't believe that you have to hate your job, dragging yourself to it for 40+ hours per week, living for evenings, weekends, and 2 weeks of vacation, all of which you are too stressed and tired to really enjoy.

I want work that I enjoy and that I find satisfying. I want to be paid what I deserve for what I do.

I also want shorter work weeks and more vacations. I'll make do with less stuff to get it.

To learn more about other people who want this, have a look at Take Back Your Time Day.

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