Recruiters are snakes

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Here is a rant to start the work week:  recruiters are snakes.  I am so tired of being hoodwinked by recruiters, especially the ones who work for agencies, who lure me to jobs by packaging the job description and salary into a shiny, pretty deal that they guarantee will advance my career.  Twice in the past year, I have been suckered by the same recruiter who promised me “contract-to-hire” roles that ended up being contract only.  I foolishly took a pay cut for one of the positions.  My current role was presented to me as a Human Resources Generalist position.  Three weeks into the job, I learned from my boss that it is a lesser role — Human Resources Coordinator (a.k.a. a grunt worker role).  I kick myself for falling for it.  I need to remember that ultimately, recruiters are sales people.  They look out only for themselves, despite what they tell their clients about committing to their success.

Not only have I been duped by external recruiters, but I have fallen prey to the ones who are my co-workers.  In my current role, which is a more slowly paced one at a small company, I volunteered to help the recruiter schedule some interviews (not part of my job description, but what the heck — I don’t like being idle).  Well, this gal took a mile from the inch I gave her.  On a day that she had two interviews, she decided to stay home and let me handle the greeting, escorting, and interviewing of both candidates.  I am not a recruiter, nor am I familiar with the position details, so how was I to fill a half hour each with the candidates?  The recruiter claimed she had already talked to both candidates and didn’t have a need to see them in person.  So why did she agree to my schedule?  I managed to talk the hiring manager into spending extra time with both candidates, so I was off the hook.  Yes, the interviews would have been good practice, but I didn’t feel up to the challenge.  I’m sure my irritation had a lot to do with this reluctance.

I ended last week with a general disgust for recruiters and yet another hard lesson that I have to look out for myself.  No one else is going to do it.

Money is time

No phrase rings more truly, when it comes to American business, than “time is money.”  The old pragmatist Benjamin Franklin first used the phrase in 1746 when he wrote, “Remember that Time is Money. He that can earn Ten Shillings a Day by his Labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that Day, tho’ he spends but Sixpence during his Diversion or Idleness, ought not to reckon That the only Expence; he has really spent or rather thrown away Five Shillings besides.”*  His point was that time not used for productive purposes is wasted effort and ultimately unfruitful.

I’d like to reverse the sentiment of Franklin’s message by emphasizing how money earned yields time.  By time, I mean periods of leisure, periods without the stress of worrying about bills, periods of freedom to do anything without the constraint of cost.  American culture dictates working ourselves to the point of exhaustion, all so we can retire at a standard age.  Why do we put this much stress on ourselves?  Why do we feel so obligated to corporate bigwigs who couldn’t care less about the individual contributors?  Why do we not value our own time, which in turn makes us more effective and productive?

I often consider the disparities between Americans, and one of the ways I view such disparities stems from distinctions of the working classes. Now, let me first explain that my interpretation of “working class” does not adhere to the customary, blue-collar view of a working American.  Instead, I simply mean those who do whatever work they can find in order to support themselves financially.  These workers may not reap the benefits of rewarding work and are often so unfortunate as to loathe their jobs.

What specifically prompted my consideration of this topic is a passage from Frank McCourt’s book, Teacher Man.  McCourt details his experience as a public school teacher in New York City.  He recalls his interactions with the parents of children who struggled to pass his courses.  Many parents, upon McCourt’s urging for them to spend more time supervising homework and providing tutoring opportunities, reacted with claims of not having enough time because of the demands of their jobs.  They argued that ensuring their children’s success in the classroom fell solely upon McCourt as a job responsibility.

Some argue of a lack of opportunity in their desired fields.  For instance, those who aspire to act or sing may be hampered by lack of financial assistance for professional training.  Many yearn for higher education opportunities but miss their chances when obligations such as work and family pull rank.  Such obligations take away precious time that can be used to cultivate passions, formulate ideas, create art, and share feelings about the human condition.  Is it elitist to conclude that only those who have attended college are capable of participating in such lifestyles?

My studies of the Romantic poets–Shelley, Keats, and Byron–led me to believe these writers luxuriated in ample amounts of time to do whatever they wanted.  I do not suggest that these men shirked their responsibilities as citizens, but they certainly appeared to spend their days as they pleased, observing their natural surroundings and writing nature’s praises.  How lucky writers such as these were to spend their days unconfined and free of menial labor.  How fortunate are those who spend their days free from micromanaging.

Of course, those who have so much time that they don’t know how to spend it must be careful in their choices.  They should be generous and thoughtful and willing to give to the greater good of community.  I have found that monetary excesses do not always contribute to charitable means, but donating time does.  Time is a gift.

 

*Source:  Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opportunity_cost 

Know your worth

I don’t know if it’s exclusive to Silicon Valley or a pandemic of American companies, but the style of hiring on contract-to-hire bases runs rampant.  What’s even more prevalent is the [empty] promise of conversion to full time employment.  I’ve been a sucker for this bait and switch a couple of times lately.

I just left a company for this reason.  The recruiter who placed me in this last role, in true salesperson form, asserted that my conversion to full time status would take no longer than 30 days.  After 60 days of employment, I inquired of my status with the VP of HR.  Instead of converting me, she decided to hire a personal friend, who happens to be a dinosaur in the workforce.  For example, he doesn’t know how to set up conference calls, nor can he figure out the online document preparation tool used by the company (DocuSign).  This geezer claimed the headcount spot that should have been allocated for me.  The VP’s reasoning was a need for an internal recruiter.  What kills me is that the geezer’s salary doubled mine.  Wouldn’t I have been a more fiscally conscious hire?  Naturally, I was furious with this decision.

The cherry on the sundae was learning that the VP has requested a personal meditation room for the office, complete with décor and furniture.   I suppose the budget for this addition is less than the one required to put me on the payroll, but it still shows that her priorities are way off.  I’ve since accepted a full time offer from another company, so I say good riddance to her and her meditation room.

The lesson?  Don’t settle for a promise.  Stay firm with your expectations from a job offer, and get everything in writing.

Progress

Progress is progress, whether it occurs in large or small doses.  While I haven’t yet reached my career goal of securing a writing job, I have made significant progress in my status as an administrative assistant.   To understand this, you must realize the levels of administrative roles and the degrees of responsibility they entail.  A receptionist, for example, may not have the high stress of catering to an executive’s every want and need, but she may be subject to juggling a stream of phone calls, greeting/directing visitors, finding available conference rooms, etc.  Thus, some may deem the receptionist tier of administrative work the lowest rung of the ladder.

This same group might view executive assistants as the cream of the crop, the untouchables (in the elite sense, not in the Indian caste-system sense), the gatekeepers to the wealthy shareholders running the corporate show.  They are polished, professional, and terrific at delegating.

I’ve fallen somewhere in the middle of these ranks.  I’ve worked the front desk and fetched coffee for CEOs.  I’ve washed dishes after lunch meetings and been privy to confidential information.  I’ve been trusted with sensitive business matters while expected to do a lot of grunt work.  Maybe I should appreciate being utilized in various capacities; perhaps this indicates my value as a worker.  On the other hand, I’m tempted to view at as abuse.  “Oh, give it to Suzanne.  She’ll do it.”  That’s how I imagine higher-ups solving the problem of mundane, but necessary, office chores.  For example, I was once recruited to drive the company Escalade back from the shop.  The CEO asked me instead of asking his pretty assistant.  He was probably afraid she’d scuff her Louboutin heels on the side rail of the vehicle.  After being irritated by his request, I looked at it as a chance to escape the office and cruise Highway 101 in a shiny, black SUV.

I recently left a contract secretary gig for a chance to work in HR.  I’m sorry I made this move.  At my contract position, I was left alone, went to lunch whenever I wanted, close enough to home to be able to walk to work, and didn’t worry about work when not at the office.  Now, I’m learning a lot, but it’s at the expense of being micro-managed and stressed about making major errors with employee benefit cases or payroll information.  The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

If I stay positive, I can look at this new role as progress toward a more defined position.  I’ve also realized that HR is not for me.  In its own way, that alone is progress.

A Mindless Escape

I want to live in a sitcom. I want the trials of everyday life solved in approximately 30 minutes. I want a somewhat glamorous job that necessitates a fabulous wardrobe and proper recognition for my efforts.

I am notoriously inconsistent with my career goals.  To clarify, I know what I want to do for work (a professional writing gig of some kind), but I vacillate between holding an easy, stress-free job that pays the bills and a role that will challenge me and not force me to watch the clock.  If I go with the latter, do you think I’d be more readily available to whip up a gourmet dinner for the family, complete a snazzy DIY home project, and socialize with my gal pals at a quaint local cafe?  I certainly wouldn’t feel married to a laptop at home if I could leave my mindless job when the clock strikes 5.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of “The King of Queens.”  I’m not quite sure if it’s the east coast setting, the timeless barbs of Jerry Stiller, or plain old screwball comedy that gives me joy, but I’ve been addicted to reruns for years.  I envy Carrie for her legal secretary job in Manhattan, where I’ve always wanted to live.  The show depicts her as dedicated to her work, yet she always has time to shop, host Sunday brunch, and eat Chinese takeout with her loving husband.

I wish I could have this type of work/life balance, but, alas, I’m not a sitcom character.  At least I can steal wardrobe ideas from some of them.

Parker Posey, I feel your pain.*

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I have become such a clock watcher!  I don’t like this about myself.  I’m not lazy; I’m just not challenged at work.  The quagmire I face in administrative jobs is whether I want easy, mindless work or something that will fire up the old neurons.  I’m torn every day.  This feeling might lead to a Wikipedia search of Natalie Imbruglia, then Australia, then travel websites while toying with the idea of an international excursion.  Thank God for the Internet!

I look forward to skipping lunch so I can leave the office that much earlier.  Then, while at home and killing it on (teen) Jeopardy!, I scorn myself for not actively looking for and applying to jobs that might be rewarding.  

I check Instagram, play “Draw Something” (I might be the only person who still plays it) and shop online.  I clean and re-clean my desk.  I drink cup after cup of tea (I’m trying to eliminate coffee in order not to be a complete office drone stereotype), climb stairs instead of take the elevator to kill time AND burn some calories, and then sometimes dare to apply to jobs from my work computer.  The last one is risky, but I sometimes don’t care enough to abstain.

It’s 4:47, which means I have a mere 13 more minutes until I can escape my cubicle.  How much time passed, or did I waste, by composing this entry?

*Anyone who has ever worked in an office should see “Clockwatchers.”  It’s a good, dark comedy about the mutual sufferings of four office temps.

A dilemma

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I recently took a new job at a very large company.  I’m still in a support role; however, I now support software engineers rather than sales and marketing staff.  The contrast in personalities is stark.  Perhaps I should revise that to say the engineers have no personality at all and therefore cannot be compared to the characters at my former place of employment.  

I’m in my third week but have not been introduced or spoken to any of the people in my adjacent cubicles.  I go to the break room, smile at the coffee drinkers, and get nothing in return.  Yes, I tend to be shy, but I abide by a tactic of recognizing a new face and making some iota of effort to welcome that person to the work place.  I don’t always introduce myself to newcomers at work, but I at least acknowledge them.  I greet them in some way and always smile while passing them in the halls.  The robots at my office won’t even do that.

My issue could stem from a cultural difference.  (Many of my co-workers are not from the U.S.)  Or, it could be a product of the intense focus engineers demonstrate in their work.  Maybe the blinders they wear while programming code prohibit them from participating in the social mores of American office life.  The positive spin I place on being ignored is the minimal distractions I encounter in my new role.  Whereas at my old job, I was bombarded with nagging requests, office gossip, and appeals to be a shoulder upon which to cry, I can appreciate the quiet and focus on the new job.  I’m no hermit, but I think I’m happy with the latter.

Starting over, yet again

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This week, I resigned from my job.  I took a contract position at a major technology company.  A recruiter called me and proposed the position when I was least expecting it.  I don’t want to be so naïve as to say I didn’t know my resume is “out there,” but I didn’t think recruiters reached out from sunny southern California all the way to sunny northern California.  Anyway, it worked out for me, and I leave my wretched job next week.

What makes me hesitate, though, is realizing the new opportunity might be a lateral move.  I’m going from one executive assistant position to another.  I keep telling myself to reach beyond administrative roles, but, for some reason, I continue to apply to them.  Perhaps I’m comfortable in the domain of knowing how to do this type of work and not wanting to challenge myself.  The problem is resenting the role once I get settled into it.  I curse my decision and tell myself my education has gone to waste.

What I need to decide is whether I’m happier with a job that allows me to leave the stress at the office once the workday ends or if I’d be satisfied with continually striving toward specialized roles that use my journalism background.  It’s a toss up for me.  I thought I’d have my act together by now at close to 33 years old, but I continue to vacillate.  Still, I’m trying to be positive about the move and look forward to learning new things in a fresh environment.

Channeling Pam Beesly

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Channeling Pam Beesly…yesterday, I went to one of the coffee stations at work and found a plate and knife with remnants of chocolate cake.  The plate, of course, was empty.  The offending party who snagged the last slice was too lazy to a) put the knife in the sink, which is mere inches from the scene of the crime; b) dispose of the cardboard plate on which the cake sat; and c) make any attempt to clean the area, which was littered with crumbs. 

So how did I channel Pam Beesly of “The Office”?  I snapped a picture of the crime scene and briefly considered sending it to the staff with a plea for people to clean up after themselves.  Alas, I lost my nerve and decided against it. 

The incident reminded me of an “Office” episode that shows Pam dealing with a filthy microwave oven.  She posts an anonymous note requesting the culprit to be mindful of his or her actions and show consideration for others.  Her actions are not well received as most of the staff resents being reprimanded for one person’s laziness.

Rather than being treated as children who are scolded for misdeeds, people should take responsibility for their actions.  I suppose this is too much to ask of people who figure the office isn’t their home and therefore don’t care about its upkeep.  I’m more bothered by the sheer laziness.  Thinking “someone else will take care of it” is such a superior, obnoxious attitude.  The lowly administrative types such as Pam Beesly and me are the ones who are stuck with the mess.