Monday, June 16, 2008

What I learned in 2006 and 2007

This is the last in my series of posts on what Gen Y can learn from the Gen X work experience.

I would say that 2006 was the worst year of my career – and 2007 was the best.
In 2006 I was up for a faculty job at the community college where I worked. I had done everything I was told: Adjunct teaching for five years, regular meetings with the key decision makers, ass kissing. And then I didn’t get it. My inside source told me it had nothing to do with me, there was political in-fighting going on and I was the innocent victim (whatever that means.)

I was seriously depressed over this. I gained 20 pounds. I hated myself for falling victim to the “if I pay my dues, I can get what I want from my employer” mentality. Then two things happened that started the ball rolling for me in another direction.

First, I pitched an idea to my local newspaper for a weekly column and they agreed to publish it. The second (and much more significant) thing was that an association I was involved in hired me to do some consulting. I still had to keep my job at the community college (which by that time had become quite a nightmare after three new bosses in three years), but I had a couple distractions. I was still depressed, because I didn’t think my distractions would really lead anywhere, but I was a little better.

Fast forward six months. My “day job” was getting worse by the minute. And just when I thought there was no hope for me, something amazing happened. I was offered a full-time telecommuting job with the association that hired me to do consulting. Never saw it coming. The job paid well and the work was creative and exciting. And I would work with a whole group of people who were a lot like me and appreciated my quirks.

So what’s the lesson here? Dreams do come true? I’m still not that much of a Pollyanna. The lesson I learned was it’s never over or hopeless when it comes to careers. And sometimes you have to get hit over the head to see what you really should be doing. Had I gotten that teaching job, I never would have agreed to do the consulting and would not have even been considered for my current job. I would be a part of that “political” academic environment (whatever that means) and I still wouldn’t be all that happy.

I can’t say if everything hits the fan again that I won’t be upset. At the same time, I will never put myself in a position where someone else decides if I get to do the job I want. I have the best “day job” ever now – but I also have other ways to do what I love (like this blog) that I have complete control over.

This experience I had is extremely common. I know I guy who’s going through it right now. When you’re in the midst of it, it’s hard to “feel” like you’re going to get over it and to the next level. I heard Penelope Trunk say, “If you want a new job, stop looking and start blogging.” I think that’s great advice. You have to take control – even if you’re not feeling up to it. The only difference between the winners and the losers is the winners got up the last time they were knocked down.

In the end, here’s what you can learn from the Generation X: The key to success is getting back up, dusting yourself off, keep going.

1 comment:

Kristina said...

Great series of posts!

My experience mirrors this. I quit the day job to be more available for the kid(s) and, oh by the way, pursue my own career dream. It took five years, and things looked pretty bleak at times, but I kept dusting myself off.

GenXers don't settle.