Help Wanted: Royals Need Not Apply

People fancy a royal baby now and then.

People fancy a royal baby every now and then.

Poor Harry. Every time I left my little work space today, I found myself drawn to the television footage of Prince William and his fresh-faced wife holding the prized baby and smiling for the public before delivering him to his nannies at Nottingham Cottage.

While Capt. Harry is busy qualifying as an Apache Aircraft Commander and generally trying to prove himself useful, the world seems more interested in his nephew, who has done nothing but soil some monogrammed nappies.

Some people just don’t appreciate the value of hard work. I, for one, would make a scandalous addition to any royal family.

“Your majesty, I notice that you signed a royal decree to dismiss a dozen gardeners today. Where might I find a job application? I dare say I’d make a splendid addition to the gardening staff,” I’d ask my own grandmother, with a curtsy.

Appalled, she would order me to practice my royal wave until teatime.

It’s not like Harry needs the money. He could spend his days lounging about the palace, playing Call of Duty with his mates, and nobody would dare tell him to get his royal arse off the couch and find a job. He must be afflicted with the same malady that makes me feel a compulsion to earn my keep, to fill my days with productivity.

Good for you, Harry old chap! The world may love Kate and William, but it needs people like us. Someone has to scrub Her Majesty’s loo. What’s that, Harry? Oh, you don’t do that kind of work. I see. Well then, cheerio!

Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?

42_movie_jackie_robinson

Maybe my outlook is too literal, but when I hear the phrase team player, I think of people who enjoy playing baseball and basketball, games I loathed in high school P.E. class. Because I prefer more solitary activities like golf and archery, I’ve always thought I’m just not a team player.

Having such little baseball awareness, it took watching the movie 42 last night to realize that being on a team does not always mean being a team player. When Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, some of his new teammates placed their own selfish prejudices before teamwork, and they petitioned to have him removed. It turns out that people who choose volleyball or soccer are not inherently better team players than those who choose fishing or the rodeo.  Or the fishing rodeo.

Like a baseball to the head, it hit me why I’ve had the recurring compliment at work of being such a great team player. I used to wonder if my managers had me confused with someone else, or if they were showing signs of dementia. The more likely explanation is that although it’s in my nature to want to do things alone, I am capable of pushing myself outside my comfort zone and working very well with others. When the occasion calls for teamwork, I am flexible enough to tell the hermit in me to put on her big girl pants and play with the other kids.

How often do we pass up projects, jobs, or even entire career paths because we think, That doesn’t sound like me? The job market is not run by Burger King, and you can’t always have it your way. Sometimes, you have to dig deep inside and consider what you might be capable of achieving if you stop labeling yourself and start discovering you.

And You Thought Your Job was Hard!

Somm_movie_poster

If you read my last post, you’ll be spared the disappointment right now of learning I don’t frequent restaurants that employ sommeliers. It’s true. When the occasion calls for something a little classier than a Coke or margarita, I keep my drink order to two tried-and-true syllables.

“White zin,” I say, my fingers and toes all crossed under the table or bar as I hope there will be no follow-up questioning or discussion.

The documentary Somm follows four men hoping to earn the title of Master Sommelier. Why? So they can work in elegant restaurants and recommend wines to people slightly more cultured than me, of course. Blindfolded, a Master Sommelier can identify a wine’s year and region and provide some really startling and bizarre descriptions of the tastes. I couldn’t pick my stapler out of a lineup if they blindfolded me at my office.

I just completed my Master’s Degree while working a full-time job, a feat that seems like a stroll in a botanical garden compared to what these hopefuls endure. The obsessive studying, tasting, and spitting is unlike anything I’ve ever known anyone to put himself through, all for a job title. The worst thing I had to do to get my current job was to pee in a cup at a staffing agency.

These guys can take the test only once a year, so failure means back to the notecards and the spit cups. Their wives and girlfriends continue to live their lives in the wings, waiting for their men to pass the lousy test already and start living. And yet, earning the M.S. title does not mean a return to any sort of normalcy. A Master Sommelier, it seems, is somewhat of a celebrity in the wine world. He takes on the massive responsibility of keeping up with the latest wine trends. His colleagues revere him and expect him not only to know the whole wine kit and caboodle but to train new candidates as well.

No wonder they don’t offer that job option at the staffing agency.

Smells Like Work Spirit

Gentlemen Smoking and Playing Backgammon in an...

Gentlemen, you’ll need to refrain from smoking in the office. You’re free to stay inside and bite your fingernails, though.  Painting by Dirck Hals, 1627. 

If you’re trying to choose a nasty habit, might I make a suggestion? Biting my fingernails has served me well over the years, and it might be just what you’re looking for. I realize that smoking cigarettes is popularly touted as a more glamorous activity, but hear me out.

I can bite my fingernails at work. The office is ripe with germs from all those dirty employees and customers, making it the perfect place for me to strengthen my immune system by voluntarily placing my hands in my mouth. Disgusted? Quit reading, and take up trichotillomania. It’s an even nastier vice; look it up.

Being able to nurture my filthy addiction in the workplace gives me a certain advantage over all those smokers who routinely step outside to maintain theirs. How much time are smokers wasting each workweek? By how many dollars are they increasing company health insurance costs? Really, I deserve a raise for my productivity and ingenuity, if not for my willpower.

While smoking cigarettes can cost an arm and a lung, fingernail biting is free. If I lose my job, I can go on biting while I fill out job applications. Not to mention the money I’m saving by not indulging in a weekly manicure like all the other women at work. On Mondays, when they compare polish colors and swap stories about the quality of work at different salons, I can keep plugging numbers into Excel with one hand, while gnawing on a cuticle of the other.

With so many companies extending their tobacco-free policies beyond the building and to the entire property, there soon will be no more stepping outside for a quick smoke. To indulge in that particular depravity, working guys and gals will have to wait until lunch and leave the premises.

Reader, if you’re still with me, I’m impressed. I can only imagine how nauseated you must be feeling, with all this talk of smoking, biting fingernails, and compulsively pulling one’s hair. If you didn’t bother to look it up, that’s what trichotillomania is.  For a little relief, why not head over to Midwest Beauty Review for a little therapy?

 

My Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal

LionessWhat shape do your career aspirations take? Mine probably most resemble a puppy. At a job interview, you’ll see me shaking hands, rolling over, and performing any other trick I think will impress my potential caregiver/employer. Feed me! Love me!

I try to maintain my dignity like an aloof cat, pretending the man behind the mahogany desk would be really lucky if I would join his company. Like he’s the one being interviewed. But I blow it when he asks, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Five years? Are you kidding me? I’ve never worked anywhere that long! Really, I just want you to pay me enough money so I can keep up with my bills and have some sort of answer when my friends and family ask where I’m working these days. I don’t do manual labor and I don’t work late nights. Also, I can’t type, but I hunt and peck so well, you’ll barely know the difference. So, please, when can I start?

James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras have found that visionary companies often use Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals to stimulate progress. A BHAG is not your run-of-the-mill goal. It’s so big and hairy, so audacious, it positively reaches out and grabs people  and drives them to do amazing things. Aiming to put a man on the moon, now that was a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal.

If it works for organizations, I figure it must work for individuals as well. I’m not job-hunting right now, so I have time to prepare my Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. When the time comes, I will firmly answer the man behind the mahogany desk with a deafening roar:

I’ll have the filet mignon!

Spring Fever All Through the Week

Sick Dog

The bug that disrupted my stomach last week was merciful (or clueless) enough to do so on a Thursday, which is one of three acceptable weekdays to call in sick. As excruciating as retching over the toilet can be, there’s something even more uncomfortable, and it’s the task of telling your boss about it and redeeming one of your precious sick days. Even more unthinkable is to do so on a Monday or a Friday.

But the ultimate transgression is to call in sick on the first warm, sunny, gloriously spring-like day of the year. No matter how vividly you describe your gruesome symptoms, nobody believes you’re having anything but a Ferris Bueller kind of day.

So, I am thankful the bug attacked in the wee hours of a Thursday morning. By Friday, when the birds were really belting out their praise of spring and the sun was shining in full force, I was well enough to make a brave appearance at the office, weak and subdued but displaying a valiant effort to catch up on the paperwork that had done its own vomiting on my desk. It’s common practice, after all, to toss any confusing or unwanted paperwork on the desk of the one person greedy enough to stay home while everyone else is holding down the fort. Serves her right.

Not that I’m complaining. My employer is kind enough to grant five paid sick days a year, and I repay that kindness by never using more than two.  In fact, I always arrive early the morning after a sick day, and I take an abbreviated lunch to compensate for having been paid to spend a day in bed.  Guilt aside, the extra effort is necessary just so I can catch up. Sick or not, I must complete my work, which is patiently waiting for my return. Tapping its foot in passive-aggressive irritation, but patient nonetheless.

Some of the other people in my department have more time-sensitive tasks. Lucky dogs. When they take their sick days, my employer can rest assured that the rest of us will step up and make sure everything gets done. Again, my own obligations are detained until the party in question recovers from her own variety of spring fever. Recuperating from others’ illnesses takes its toll on me. No wonder my immune system is vulnerable to such nasty viruses as the one that so recently visited me.

It makes me wonder, who’s really paying for these sick days?

If I Were a Yahoo

Gee, I'm glad I don't have to do this job from my comfy home. Getting dressed is so much more fun!

Gee, I’m glad I don’t have to do this job from home. Getting dressed and fighting traffic is so much more fun!

Just when I think I have myself figured out, I go and make a decision so directly in opposition to who thought I knew myself to be. Like that time I turned down the opportunity to telecommute.

For years, I wished I could work from home. The types of jobs I held were perfectly suited for it, requiring only a computer and a phone. I hated driving 45 minutes to work in good weather and more than an hour in the snow. There had to be better ways to spend a small fortune than on gas. Chocolate and coffee came to mind.

Eventually, something nearly as good as telecommuting came along: a job so close to home that I never even had to get on the highway. I had time to listen to two songs on the radio as I took the little side road to my office each morning and back again for my lunch hour. I went weeks between trips to the gas pump. Then, they made the offer. Management asked for volunteers to work from home. In return, participants would suffer some newly-created, less-than-ideal shifts. It was time for a little SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

I was confident I already knew telecommuting’s strengths and opportunities. After all, I had been dreaming of such a break for a long time. Rolling out of bed and logging into the computer while my coffee brewed, wearing my pajamas all day, saving on gas, throwing in a load of laundry between customer calls, avoiding annoying bosses and coworkers. But suddenly, the offer seemed even more burdened with weaknesses and threats. Like all the toilet paper I’d have to buy once I was going at home more than at work. The worthless schedule . Sure, I would be at home, but I’d be working when I was used to being out. And my cats. While I love them, I did not relish the idea of their walking on my computer and sticking their butts in my face while I tried to assist customers in a professional manner.  And come to think of it, I would miss the camaraderie of my coworkers and the sage advice of my manager. At home, I wouldn’t be able to poke my head around the cubicle and get a second opinion on anything. It would be only a matter of time before I drew a face on a volleyball, named it and started consulting it on important business matters.

I conjured a frightening image of myself on the verge of insanity: unkempt, wearing pajamas at noon, holed up in a closet and whispering to my customers so the feline predators wouldn’t find me, isolated and depressed without any coworkers with whom to commiserate. My boss would forget all about me, and my prospects within the company would be extinguished. So, I turned down the chance to do something I had for so long thought I desperately wanted. Did I make the right decision? I don’t know. Let me ask Lucille Volleyball.