One Interesting Thing about Myself, or There Must Be Something Interesting About Me

Added on by Frammitz.

During new employee orientation for my new job, I was asked, on more than one instance, to introduce myself and say one interesting thing about myself.

I wanted to say something interesting, memorable, but I couldn't come up with anything good.

I got away with the first one: “I gave up coffee for the last four years, but that’s all over now!” (polite chuckle around the room).

Other people gave their hobbies: stamp collector, car aficionado, wine enthusiast, triple black belt, survived raising twins, escaped a dictatorship, runs a school for blind children in India. What was my thing?

So here are some interesting things about me, so that the next time I’m asked, I’ve got something to say.

There's no such thing as a step-grandparent.

There's no such thing as a step-grandparent.

  • I met my husband in college and married him 20 years later.
  • I had nine grandparents.
  • I had three abdominal surgeries in just over four years (probably not work-appropriate).
  • I can light a match using only my toes.
  • I haven’t worked more than nine months in a calendar year since 2003 (that might raise some flags).
  • I was rolling script at CNN the moment we started bombing Baghdad in 1991. From my seat at the then-useless script machine, I watched the evening roll out across 72 monitors.
  • Thanks to a busted fan belt, I was in a Ukrainian country club in the Catskills when they announced that Ukraine had separated from the Soviet Union.
  • I have almost finished my book for Book Club this month.

What is your interesting thing?

 

I Did Get the Job, or I Started on Monday, Kind Of

Added on by Frammitz.

By the time I post this, I will have already started my new job. Kind of.

They offered me the job 3 weeks ago, at which point I ran off to Cape Cod for a week. I then squandered, wasted, and otherwise let the remaining time slip through my fingers. I was going to read those books. And watch TV for days. And exercise every day. And organize my closets. Yeah, none of that happened.

So here, in convenient list form, are my fears:

  • I won't like the office
  • I won’t be good enough
  • My kids will start acting out because they miss me
  • The commute will make me crazy
  • I’ll hate getting dressed up every morning
  • My blog will go by the wayside

Here’s how it could rock:

  • I won’t be in charge of people, so no HR stuff to do
  • My boss is popular with his team
  • I’m with a big-name company, which is good for my resume
  • I could do really well
  • I might love the corporate culture
  • I’ll have money going into the bank instead of just coming out
fly 1.jpg

I’ll be working for a big company, with enough locations that they fly people to one city to onboard them – hand out laptops, fill out paperwork, and, I assume, tattoo the company logo across the small of your back. So I'm doing that this week. I’m trying to decode all the business casual, casual, comfortable clothing and closed toe shoes, business formal… Yoga pants and a fleece probably won’t cut it, I guess.

fly 2.jpg

I recently learned that the first four days of my second week (next week) are in a different town, which I’ll also have to fly to, for more onboarding. More tattoos and learn the company song?

That’s a lot of time away after being here all the time for the last three months.

Husband is a graduate student, which gives him some flexibility, but he’s got deadlines of his own. We have called in reinforcements: the sainted Mother in Law.

The good news is that I won’t be travelling much for this job, so being home every night will be a welcome change after this.

Off I go.  

fly 3.jpg

Vocations, or How Smart People Get Poor

Added on by Frammitz.
Jeans and a t-shirt is what she can afford.

Jeans and a t-shirt is what she can afford.

Stop being so damn surprised that the teachers in this country are not paid well.

The problem with teachers is that highly qualified people keep on doing it for next to nothing. So that’s what they’re paid: next to nothing. This is simple economics, which makes you wonder about the mindset of economics teachers, who surely know this.

Sure, keep on sending around those vigorous stories about the noble teachers who make a real difference, who work long hours, tolerate indignities, and pay for school supplies out of their meager paychecks. That kind of awareness is the root of social change.

But the issue isn’t that teachers aren’t worth more than they’re getting paid. We pay teachers as little as possible because we pay everybody as little as possible.

Companies are happy to serve the only people they answer to: Stockholders. (Read that sentence over again until you get that.) Lower salaries mean more money for the stockholders.

Individuals are happy to serve the only people they answer to: Themselves. Lower salaries for public servants means lower taxes which means more money for red wine and 85% organic chocolate, or whatever you do with your money.

Like it or not, because teachers are paid out of our common pockets, this is a social issue in a capitalistic society.

Unless parents and non-parents alike agree that it’s important to all of us that young people are better educated than we were, more money for teachers is not going to happen. A better education starts with more and better teachers. Higher pay attracts more and better candidates. The money behind this arrives via the IRS.

There are many sides to the argument. Some don’t want young people to be better educated because they might become a threat to their own job down the road. Some feel people shouldn’t have children if they can’t afford to raise and educate them completely without help. Some feel that society should provide fully fair and excellent education, health care, and basic quality-of-life services to everyone, because we are social beings who thrive or fail together. Some blame Obama. Or Bush. Or the other Bush. Or socialists. Or the super-rich. Or the poor. Or teachers. Or parents. Or kidsthesedays. Or the Kardashians.

You might have heard that you should do what you love and the money will follow. But here’s where we are: if you have a vocation — teacher, priest, artist, journalist — if you have a job that is your calling, then you have a job that will never pay very well. Don’t be surprised.

How the Interview Went, or The Bus Stop

Added on by Frammitz.

Good news and bad news: The interview went well.

I went to the interview on time, a little early. It’s a 25 minute drive when the traffic isn’t bad. It would probably be a 40 minute drive home, which is still not awful on the scale of DC commutes. I was wearing one of my favorite shirts, and thanks to the weaning, it actually fits.

He didn’t ask me a lot of things. He basically tried to scare me off by telling all the difficult aspects of the job. It didn’t work. Well, ok, he scared me a little. My last job wasn’t as active and hectic, but, well, that’s why they had to lay me off – not enough work to do.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have mixed feelings about getting a new job. I absolutely must get a job. This is not negotiable. I feel awful about how I have not maximized every second of my time off, but it’s time to get back to work now.

Ultimately, it went well. They called back in the afternoon saying they want to move forward and have me meet a couple more people next week. I got very positive feedback from the man who would be my boss.

I had an email this afternoon from someone else, too, a recruiter who is hopeful about finding me a job. She says she’s out of the office today, but has "an exciting update" from another company that I had a phone screening with a couple of weeks ago.

This suddenly reminds me of a poem. Just replace the word “men” with “jobs”:

Bloody Men
“Bloody men are like bloody buses —
You wait for about a year
And as soon as one approaches your stop
Two or three others appear.

You look at them flashing their indicators,
Offering you a ride.
You’re trying to read the destinations,
You haven’t much time to decide.

If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.
Jump off, and you’ll stand there and gaze
While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by
And the minutes, the hours, the days.”

 Wendy Cope, Serious Concerns

___________________________________

Next day:

The “exciting update” was not so exciting. They went with another candidate. You think it’s a bus worth taking, but then the sign says “Out Of Service.”

Another company that I talked to a few weeks ago said there would be an update in a couple of days. Hm. I can’t quite read the sign from here, but that’s usually a “we went with someone else” kind of update.

The folks I interviewed with called back, though, and asked to set up another interview for me to meet other members of the team.

Maybe there’s just the one bus in service. I hope the other passengers will let me on.

 

I Have a Job Interview, or Reality Creeping In

Added on by Frammitz.

I have a 9am job interview this morning. My first thought was “Ugh, can’t we make it later so I don’t have to drive in rush hour traffic?” And then I realize:

If I get this job, I’m going to have to drive in rush hour traffic every day. Every. Day.

But this is good. I’ve been out of work for two months. I turned down one job offer because the terms were bad and the tactics to get me to accept them were worse. So I’m still looking for the right spot.

And it was cool; the guy I’m interviewing with found my resume online, I think through Indeed or LinkedIn, then clicked through to my About.me page. About.me is a free web page, kind of a digital calling card, with your name and a brief bio, plus links to email and social media.

But I’m stalling. Job interview. Real stuff. Not a phone screen, this one.

But just one interview scheduled. Then… crickets.

As long as I don’t think about the growing gap on my resume and the possibility of financial ruin, things are going okay. Getting time with the kids. Getting some things done around the house. Started a blog.

Maybe the kids won’t go to college. Christmas might be completely reliant on grandparental generosity. Eventually, we won’t own the yard I diligently mow each week.

But the commute is awesome. 

Like Hell You’ll Get to That, or Feeding Your Family

Added on by Frammitz.
They're going to need heavier tackle and bigger bait.

They're going to need heavier tackle and bigger bait.

I turned down an offer for a good job for good pay, working with good people. Part of me wonders if I’m even allowed to turn down a job offer. Will they revoke my unemployment benefits?

I don’t have another job offer. I have been out of work for more than a month. What was I thinking? I was thinking I want to be able to support my family even if I no longer work for him.

An employer can dictate what you can and cannot do after they are no longer your employer. As long as you say yes when you take a job offer, then they can do that.

Most of the time, this is not a big deal. If you’re a consultant, they might say that you can’t be hired by a client for a year. That’s designed to keep the clients from hiring away their best people and turning the company into a staffing agency. I get that.

But this restriction went well beyond this and for much longer. The details don’t matter. They are protecting their interests. It’s up to me to protect mine. I know it was the right thing to do. I won’t let my family bear the kind of risk they were asking for.

So now what?

It’s quiet here.

There’s no boss, no meetings. No deadline.

I am the master of my own destiny.

I have full control of my time.

Finding a job is a full-time job, though, and this false freedom taunts me with all the things I never managed to get done on the weekends. Have I gotten all the things done that I wish I could have done when I was working if only I had had the time? Not even close.

On any given day, I’m presented the opportunity to sleep and spend time with my kids and garden and install the rain barrel and update my resume and write my blog and surf the web and set up some interviews and figure out what’s happening in the garage under the powder room and clean out the basement and organize a garage sale and check out job seeker web sites and network and put away all the stuff from my desk at my last job and pay bills and clean the house and repot my plants and visit friends and read a book and travel and clean off my desk and get some exercise and watch TV and go to the movies and call my family and paint a painting and repair the crib and do some consulting work and…

I have a few active opportunities. I have talked to companies who have expressed some interest in me. I am communicating with folks and trying to find the right place for me. The pond water isn’t completely stagnant.

But it looks I’m going to have to exercise my project management skills that are listed on my resume and create a schedule that fits in a full day of employment focus each day while carving out some time to get to at least some of the other things I never have time for.

Structure.

So long, freedom. It was fun until the money ran out.

The DC Commute, or The Slow March

Added on by Frammitz.

I live in the DC region. If you do not, I want to share something about life here: We spend a lot of time driving.

Poor bastards. And me. DAMN this traffic jam!

Poor bastards. And me. DAMN this traffic jam!

Route I-495 — The Beltway — is often the only way to get where you’re going, especially if you have to cross the river between Maryland and Virginia. It’s littered with broken spirits.

There are multiple studies showing that the cost of commuting can be some $10,000 per year. That is only the cost to the car. It doesn't include the cost to your health (weakened immune system, more sick days, weight, back pain, heart attacks). It doesn't include the cost to your family (relationships with your spouse, kids). It doesn't include the hours lost from your life.

This is your song, every day:

Some people make extreme commutes, juggling remote work and three-hour treks to the office, in order to have a home away from the bustle. Some daily commutes aren't much better. Oh, you might find a job ½ hour away from your home, according to MapQuest, but there’s more to the math:

  • Base time =  ½ hour
  • Rush hour (7am to 10am and 4pm to 7pm) = base time x 2 = 1 hour
  • Rain = base time x 3 = 1½ hours
  • Snow = base time x 4 or more = 2 hours and up (and up and up)
  • Traffic Accident anywhere on Beltway = add another hour

So you can leave the office each day at 5:30pm, and have no real idea what time you’ll get home.

So what are you willing to pay for that job? Your marriage? Seeing your kids during the week? Your social life? Your health?

If you liked this post,.jpg

For the last year and a half, I've worked within walking distance to my home. It was a one-in-a-million job opportunity. Now I’m looking for a job again. Most of the work in my field is over a bridge from here. And I’m asking myself: What am I willing to pay?

The Employment Risk, or I'm Really Good at Not Working

Added on by Frammitz.
Back to the madness?

Back to the madness?

It might not come as a surprise to you that I enjoy not working. 

I'm good with working, too. I get into it.

But when I’m not working, well, I get into that, too. Not working suits me.

I have not worked a full, straight work-year in a dozen years. Starting in 2001, I began working as a consultant. In my field, we work ridiculous hours doing work that few people want to do, on an unforgiving deadline. Sound like fun? It kind of is, once you get into it. This kind of work requires some recovery time after each assignment. So until 2009, I would typically have a couple of weeks off between these bouts of intense work.

That was the best part of the job: the not-working part. I worked hard. I saved money. I bought a house. But things changed.

  • In 2009, I got married. Yay! I took that summer off for the wedding prep, wedding, and honeymoon. When I came back online in the fall, I took a full-time job.
  • In 2010, I took 12 weeks off for maternity leave. Yay!
  • In 2011, I was laid off. I managed to find new full-time work very quickly, but delayed the start date for a little bit and had a nice break.
  • In 2012, I took 12 weeks off for maternity leave. Yay!
  • In 2013, just as I was wondering what it would be like to work a regular job for 12 months in a row, I was laid off.

And here we are. I’m not working and I am enjoying it. I’m cleaning the house, working in the yard, playing with the kids, starting a blog, doing my taxes... If someone asks me to show up for work at 9am Monday, it would be a real shock to the system.

But if I don’t find a job soon, that could be a big problem for the Frammitz household. So I put out a few feelers, applied to a few places, posted my resume on Indeed, and in a little over a week, I am at serious risk of employment already.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m giddy at the prospect of being employable at a time when people all over are struggling. I’m lucky; I happened into a niche job that few people want to do and fewer people are good at. I wouldn’t call it a vocation, but it suits me. Not as well as not working does, though.

This week, I am trying to make a decision. One option is a consultant/full-time combo, giving me schedule variety yet still getting benefits. It’s a compelling offer, even more so because they volunteered that if I want a couple of weeks of downtime before I get started, they’re ok with that. It’s like they read my mind.

However, it would mean crappy commutes for me most of the time, an hour or more, the kind of commute that I have been deliberately trying to avoid. This creates inconsistency of presence for my little guys, too, which causes them to act out because that sucks for them.

I could keep looking for a full-time position with a good commute, but that could take longer to find. With delay comes stress, and what’s the good of downtime if you’re going to be all stressed out about it?

However it turns out, I will be back to work later than I should be, but sooner than I’d like.

Sexism, or Downgrading Working Mothers

Added on by Frammitz.
Shall we just assume that they are all on the Mommy Track?

Shall we just assume that they are all on the Mommy Track?

Sexism is so pervasive that we often do not recognize it. It's time to stop wincing and pretending it's okay.

Other –isms are much more egregious to our ears, much more recognizable. Racism is so harsh to the listener that you hear a lot less of it than you did 30 years ago. It’s still there. It’s gotten better, but also it’s gotten quieter.

An –ism is what happens when you characterize an entire group of people in simplistic terms and judge an individual based on those terms. An –ism doesn’t have to be cruel, just impersonal, in order to objectify the person being judged. For example:

When a woman becomes a mother, her attention is diverted from her job and she becomes less effective. Often, she cannot stand the separation and quits her job entirely. If she does not, she is typically called away physically or mentally often enough that she no longer qualifies for promotions, particularly ones that might involve travel. Between taking sick days to take care of her children and not working late because she wants to be with her kids, it makes sense that her career transitions to a holding pattern at best.

Many people can read that paragraph and nod appreciatively. They are sexist. They have taken a characteristic that they perceive to be true for a group of people and judge individuals accordingly. Try this on for size:

When a man becomes a father, his attention is diverted from his job and he becomes less effective. Often, he cannot stand the separation and quits his job entirely. If he does not, he is typically called away physically or mentally often enough that he no longer qualifies for promotions, particularly ones that might involve travel. Between taking sick days to take care of his children and not working late because he wants to be with his kids, it makes sense that his career transitions to a holding pattern at best.

Does this sound funny to you? Perhaps a few guys are like this, but would you apply this to any man who has children? Try this one:

When a black man becomes a father, his attention is diverted from his job and he becomes less effective. Often, he cannot stand the separation and quits his job entirely. If he does not, he is typically called away physically or mentally often enough that he no longer qualifies for promotions, particularly ones that might involve travel. Between taking sick days to take care of his children and not working late because he wants to be with his kids, it makes sense that his career transitions to a holding pattern at best.

Did your eyes widen at the outright racism of this? If it didn’t, I don’t want to know you. So how is this wrong in a racial context, but okay in a gender context?

Increasingly, employers need to align themselves with a new reality in which women are the primary breadwinners and the family’s home support structure involves the father to a much greater degree. We might start to hear this more:

Women who are married and have children are better hires because they have a family to provide for, which makes them more stable and dedicated to their jobs.

It’s what they used to say about married men versus single men.

Applying for Jobs Online, or Codifying the Employer Advantage

Added on by Frammitz.
This isn't me.

This isn't me.

Applying for a job has gotten worse, even as it has gotten easier.

It used to be that you could send in a résumé. It would be reviewed, probably discarded, and you’re off to the next one. Your sum effort was modifying the cover letter and putting it in the mail. If they liked what they saw, you would be asked more questions, and the conversation would get fruitful for both parties.

I’ve read a number of articles on what information to share up front and what to hold back for these more fruitful conversations. Don’t reveal your age. Don’t tell them your salary requirements. Make them provide the range they are looking for first. Don’t burn out your references by having a lot of people call them.

Now you apply online. You would think this would simplify the process.

Not so much.

All of the information you’re supposed to save for negotiations is now required just to get your résumé in the door. You have to reveal your graduation dates (which give away your age) and salary requirement (one number, not a range). You also have to provide references, which used to be the last thing before an offer was made. And you have to provide the salaries from your last three jobs, which gives enormous leverage to the hirer.

If you decide to hold any of this back, you cannot apply. You cannot proceed. You just can't. Computers are impervious to your preferences. Your application is incomplete and the hiring manager will never, ever see your résumé.

So you fight the urge to fight the system, invest a lot of time to manually enter all this information, and then you don't hear back. Maybe they're calling your old boss. Maybe they've excluded you for your salary requirements. Maybe they think you’re too old. But they probably just looked at the resume, decided it wasn’t a fit, and moved on.

And you’ve spent a lot of time sending a lot of personal information out into the world.

Opted Out or Pushed Out? or Do We Abuse Single Women, Men, and Non-Parents While We Abandon Mothers?

Added on by Frammitz.
Their personal priorities can only interfere with their professional output.

Their personal priorities can only interfere with their professional output.

CHAPTER ONE: THE PAWN

I was single for 40 years, and gainfully employed for 20 of those, before marrying and having children. I work in a time-pressured, intense profession. For a decade of this career, I was a consultant for hire, working regularly for a Fortune 50 company. Long hours. Food deliveries to offices for a 7pm dinner break. Sometimes working through to the next day.

I didn't date much.

I saw dedicated people, mostly “without families”, working right next to me at 10pm.

I saw allowances made for people who “had families.”

I saw entire proposal organizations with only one successful (new) marriage. Divorced or never married were the default relationship statuses.

I saw men taking a week off when their wife had a baby. A week! But they had to get back to work, because vacation time is not generous, and they couldn't both afford to take Family Leave without pay.

Such is America. We work our tails off, and our home lives come last, especially if we don’t have a traditional spouse and kids at home. Young workers and men take the brunt of the overtime required to keep the business successful.

I wondered how I was ever going to have a family if I stayed on this roller coaster.

If businesses don't have a strong incentive to enable their employees to have personal lives, why would any of this change?

CHAPTER TWO: THE BREEDER

I finally did marry, and had my first child at 41 years old. I never had much expectation of a work/life balance before, but suddenly I had a new responsibility. I not only had to provide food, shelter, and clothing, I had to provide this child with a mother. If I left before he woke and returned after he went to bed, I failed in that responsibility, no matter how much money or how many bottles of mommy milk I brought home.

I found that people’s understanding of what to expect from me professionally changed suddenly and dramatically. No longer did they assume that I was at work, was working, had my mind on my work, and would continue to work. People who were not close friends asked a lot of revealing questions.

  • They asked about my baby. I lit up and shoved photos in their faces, but not until they asked.
  • They asked if I was leaving. Many women do. I could not, and I don’t know that I would have if I could have. I did not ask them if they were leaving.
  • They asked if I cried when I left my baby in the morning. I did not. He was being cared for very well. I did not ask them if they cried when they came to work.
  • They asked if I had a hard time keeping my mind on my work. I did not. I did not ask them if they were focused on their work.
  • People did not ask if it was difficult breastfeeding exclusively while working. It was. Very.

I felt awkward about my responses. Was I supposed to fall apart? Did they think I didn't love my child? Was I not bonding appropriately? Was it not enough that I was doing the job that I was paid to do and that my child was happy and healthy?

Should I reveal myself as a heartless less-than-woman or a professionally useless mommy-brain?

CHAPTER THREE: THE PROVIDER

I have read that when a person has a child, their income flat lines. It ceases to rise year over year.

There are exceptions to this rule: a few women and, oh yes, all men are unaffected in their earning potential after having a child.

An article by Lisa Belkin reminded me of some harsh statistics: "Working mothers are 79 percent less likely to be hired, half as likely to be promoted, and are offered an average of $11,000 less," said Joan Williams, the founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law and a professor at the Hastings College of Law and author of a paper called "Opt-Out or Pushed Out?" What feels like a choice is made in a context, she said, and while women might feel they are "choosing" what is best for them and their families, they are limited to the available options.

Look, businesses don't give a fig if a woman has kids or not. They just want the 120% effort that they are paying her a 70% salary to perform. But they assume that she, and not he, will take on the brunt of the family management responsibilities. They assume that mothers no longer prioritize their work and are therefore no longer candidates for advancement. So they as a business, and we as a society, treat her as a mother, as a professional has-been. And there are plenty of people who step up to take up the extra work, the salaries, the raises, the overtime, the lack of a personal life. See Chapter One, above.

Meanwhile, more and more women are the primary earners in families. Since women make much less than men on average, you can see that families aren't winning. Businesses get the productivity at a lower price. Women are probably bringing down the salaries of men who are competing with us, too. Why would businesses walk away from that?

If businesses don't have a strong incentive to enable families with win-win options, why would any of this change?

The entire work/life balance issue ought to be readdressed for all humans, but that's a social issue, not a business issue. When it comes down to it, we’re working for companies – they’re not working for us.

---------------

Update: I was laid off at the end of March. I now have to go get a new job. I am 79% less likely to be hired and will be offered less if I am hired if they learn that I have children.

I remain the primary breadwinner in our family.

If you liked this post,.jpg

We will continue to pay for childcare out of pocket four days per week while I look for a new job. So I can look for a new job.