Tag Archives: career

I still don’t have a clearly defined dream

Gravel pathwayEver since childhood, I had a vague notion that I wanted to be a writer.

I carried the idea with me through college. And although I was always writing short stories and even novels, I never gave much thought to how to develop my dream.

I think I just assumed that I’d become a novelist, or a newspaper columnist, or maybe an advertising copywriter. Some opportunity would magically manifest right when I needed it, and I’d end up with a high-paying and personally rewarding career.

Not surprisingly, that didn’t happen.

My lack of focus was frustrating in college. It seemed like everyone else was preparing for a dream career, while I was just writing funny stories and hoping for the best.

I always worked hard and performed well academically, but I never had a clear vision of the future – of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.

I think I hoped that when I got older, all the cards would simply fall into place. One day, I’d wake up with a clear idea of what to do with my life.

Not surprisingly, that hasn’t happened, either.

I’m in my thirties, and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. My vision of the future is as fuzzy now as it was when I was a kid.

My goals are unfocused. My ambitions are murky. Looking toward the future is like peering through the bottom of a Coke bottle.

I know a couple of things, though. I know that I like to write, and I know that I like to make people laugh.

And … well, that’s sort of it.

That’s not a clearly defined objective; that’s a muddy quagmire.

What do I do with that?

Going through life, we all watch people succeed. Some get promotions. Others get book deals. Some figure out exactly what they want to do, and then they go out and do it.

I’ve always admired those people. They have determination, drive – focus. They got it together. They know exactly what they want.

And I’ve always lamented that I’m not like them. I don’t have that pristine vision – that clarity of thought.

I have no idea what I want or how to achieve it.

At least that’s what I’ve always thought. But now I’m not so sure.

Maybe you don’t need a clearly defined goal to be happy, or to succeed. Maybe the desire to succeed is enough.

That and the determination to actually try.

If you want something in life, you have to start somewhere. You have to choose a road, even if you don’t know where it leads.

That’s the beauty of life. There are so many options. It’s not just a linear path. It’s a labyrinth of corridors that branch off in all sorts of directions.

And oftentimes, where you end up is better than what you ever could have imagined.

So yes, my objectives are still vague. I like to write, and I like to make people laugh.

And for now, maybe that’s enough. You have to start somewhere. You have to take the first step.

If I pursue that goal — as obscure and vague as it is — I don’t have to have a clearly formed vision of the outcome. I just have to have a desire to succeed.

So I’m going to keep writing. It’s a step. It’s a start.

And brick by brick, it’s going to help pave my path to a successful future.

That much, at least, is clear.

Being curt doesn’t make you businesslike

two businessmen in officeI’m noticing a trend lately where people respond to e-mails with an abrupt, terse tone.

No greeting. No “please” and “thank you.” Just a curt, one-sentence response, with a sprinkling of condescension.

I imagine they’re trying to sound confident and authoritative. After all, real professionals don’t waste time with pleasantries or kindness. Real professionals are tough and domineering, and they command respect with their aloof detachment and emotionless demeanor.

But if goal is to sound cool and confident, I’d like to remind these people that they’re failing spectacularly.

Instead, they’re just proving themselves to be clueless jerks with no skills to back up the swagger.

In fact, there’s a direct correlation between a person’s curtness and their incompetence.

The more curt the e-mail, the more incompetent the worker. It’s a rule.

I’d also like to remind these people that real competence stems from patience and understanding and putting yourself in another person’s shoes.

True professionalism comes from listening to the needs of others and responding to the best of your ability.

Genuine respect is earned by appreciating others and recognizing their contributions.

Humor and warmth go a long way in cultivating relationships and building trust. A person who can laugh projects much more poise and confidence than a sleaze-ball who tries to control others through fear and intimidation.

Most people want to be perceived as competent and able. It’s understandable. And our professional correspondence speaks volumes about our personality and the image we’re trying to project — even more so than the way we dress.

But please don’t mistake aloofness for ability. Don’t confuse curtness for competence.

No matter how stiff your upper lip, being a prick will never make you a professional.

So let’s cut it out with the abrupt, terse e-mails, OK? Si “hi” in your greeting. Tell someone you “hope they’re doing well.” Respond with a “thank-you” when they fulfill your request.

After all, isn’t common human decency worth a slightly cluttered inbox? If someone doesn’t appreciate a “thank-you” e-mail, then they always can delete it.

I’ll never subscribe to the notion that civility and decorum have to be sacrificed for the sake of doing business.

Skill and proficiency may define a professional, but it’s kindness and compassion that constitute the soul.

Those days when you just can’t deal

two men sitting in an office conference roomSo I woke up the other morning to my alarm clock. Its relentless, piercing squawking pulled me out of a deep, restful sleep.

Groaning, I reached out and fumbled around my nightstand, grasping for the snooze button.

Instead of hitting it, I ended up knocking my wristwatch to the floor.

“Uh,” I groaned. “I’m too tired to pick it up. I can’t deal.”

So I yanked the alarm clock’s plug from the wall and left the watch lying on the floor.

Only the clock kept squawking, because I’d put backup batteries in it in case the power went out.

So I reached out and swiped the alarm clock off the nightstand. It hit the floor, the back hatch falling open and the batteries tumbling out.

The clock lay there next to the watch, its relentless squawking silenced.

Hours later, my phone rang. I reached out to pick up the receiver. “Hello?”

It was my boss. “Are you coming in to work today?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “I can’t deal.”

“What do you mean you can’t deal?” he asked.

“Just what I said. It’s one of those days where I can’t deal. I don’t even have the energy to pick up my wristwatch.”

“Where’s your wristwatch?”

“It’s on the floor next to my alarm clock.”

“Why is your alarm clock on the floor?”

“Because it wouldn’t stop squawking.”

“Are you sick?” my boss asked. “Do you have a cold, or something?”

“No. I’m healthy. I just can’t deal.”

“What exactly can’t you deal with?”

“Today. I just can’t deal.”

“But that’s no excuse. You can’t stay home because you can’t deal. You have to deal.”

“I don’t want to deal.”

“But that’s not part of the deal. The deal is that to keep your job, you have to show up.”

“I’ll show up tomorrow,” I said.

“No — you’ll show up today. If you’re not sick, then you need to come in.”

“But I’m sleeping in,” I said.

“Colane, do you have any idea what time it is?”

“I don’t,” I said. “My wristwatch is on the floor.”

“Then look at your clock.”

“My clock is on the floor, too.”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” my boss said. “Get dressed and get down to the office immediately! Either you show up in an hour or you’re fired. Deal?”

I sighed. “This sucks. I don’t want to get up.”

“That’s life,” my boss said. “Deal with it.”

Every online Office Assistant job posting

An honest interviewer

Well, at least I know what I’m getting into….

Our company has an exciting opportunity for an enthusiastic and dynamic Office Assistant. The Office Assistant will be responsible for supporting 47 senior-level executives, as well as completing degrading, rudimentary tasks — such as making coffee and sorting the mail.

Qualifications:

• Four-year degree required, preferably with an emphasis on structural engineering or quantum physics. Candidates with a Master’s degree preferred.

• Must have your own vehicle for picking up Starbucks, giving rides to senior-level personnel and shuttling intoxicated executives to highbrow societal functions. Candidates with a Class-A commercial driver’s license preferred.

• Excellent written and verbal communication skills. Must be an expert writer and grammarian, with proficiency in Associated Press Style and the Chicago Manual of Style.

• Must have proficiency in technology, including hardware, software and network infrastructure. Must have expert knowledge of printers and printer drivers. Candidates with working knowledge of HTML, Pearl, Javascript, and CSS preferred.

• Must be an expert in graphic design, with working knowledge of Quark, Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe InDesign. Must be an expert photographer with access to your own professional-level equipment.

• Must have advanced video-editing skills, with the ability to produce custom corporate videos in a variety of digital formats. Working knowledge of Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere required.

• Must be proficient in web design and marketing, with the ability to craft unique weekly content for our company blog and social-media accounts. The candidate also will write and edit our 5,000-word daily newsletter, as well as execute weekly e-mail campaigns.

• Must have the ability to type 90 words per minute on a Royal typewriter.

• Must have working knowledge of General Accounting Principles, with the ability to oversee annual budgets, complete weekly payroll and respond timely to unexpected IRS inquiries.

• Must have expert carpentry skills, with the ability to complete office remodels as required. Knowledge of HVAC, plumbing and electrical wiring required. Candidates with a general contracting license strongly preferred. 

• In addition to meeting day-to-day expectations, the successful candidate must complete 500 hours of career-focused training within the first 90 days of employment.

Applying:

To be considered for this amazing opportunity, please send your resume and a link to your LinkedIn profile. Also, please submit a 5-minute video in .m4v formant detailing your skills and accomplishments. Candidates also must take an online personality assessment, as well as commit to 60 hours monthly of community service.

Salary:

Compensation starts at $10 hourly.

Financial experts: No matter what the market, you should always buy stocks

roulette wheel

According to financial experts, U.S. stocks have nowhere to go but up. (Of course, that’s what they were saying about home prices in 2007, but best not to dwell on that.)

I walked into a local money manager’s office the other day to open an account.

“Do you have an appointment, sir?” the receptionist asked, as I walked past her desk.

I walked into the money manager’s office and sat down at his desk. “Here’s the thing,” I said. “I know you’re a money manager, so you’re probably used to working with clients who, you know, actually have money. And I don’t really have anything to my name except for a worn-out rubber vomit and a pack of gum that shocks you when you try to touch it. But I want to retire someday from this grueling, thankless career of writing comedy, so I need to start investing for the future. Does that make sense?”

The money manager clasped his hands and leaned back in his seat. “You should buy stocks,” he said.

“I’ve never been very good at earning money,” I said. “Don’t get me wrong: I’m a hard worker. I’ve spent my entire life busting butt, trying to get ahead. The problem, I’ve found out, is that hard work has nothing to do with making money. Employers used to covet a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn, but now all they seem to want are self-promoting braggarts who mask their incompetence with smooth-sounding babble. And because I was taught to be humble, I tend to labor diligently in the background while the smooth-talking braggarts take all the credit. And then they get all the promotions while I stay at the bottom, working myself to an early grave.”

“You should buy stocks,” the money manager said.

“And I don’t want to end up in an early grave,” I said. “I mean, sure — dying young has its benefits. I wouldn’t have to save so much for the future, because there wouldn’t be much of a future to save toward. And I wouldn’t have move to Florida and start eating dinner at 3 p.m., because who wants to eat dinner that early, anyway? I certainly don’t. I’d end up rummaging through the fridge at 7 p.m. and making a tuna fish sandwich with sardines and mayonnaise. And then I’d wake up at one in the morning with raging heartburn that feels like someone is running a blowtorch up and down your chest. I don’t want that to be my future.”

“You should buy stocks,” the money manager said.

“But if I do grow old, I need a retirement fund so I can actually buy food,” I said. “I don’t want to be a destitute geriatric with no teeth who gnaws on Alpo while watching Murder, She Wrote reruns. If it gets to that point, a tuna fish sandwich with sardines might be the financial equivalent of eating caviar. Not that I’ve ever eaten caviar. Why would anyone pay so much to eat something so disgusting? I feel the same way about frog legs. Although some people say frog legs taste like chicken. I guess it depends on what kind of chicken. If it tasted like KFC, then I might try it. I like chicken when it’s deep fried, but not so much when it’s baked. Baked chicken might be healthy, but it tends to be chewy and dry, and then it’s about as appetizing as my worn-out rubber vomit.”

I paused for a breath. “As you can tell, I’m not exactly a health nut, which is a personal defect I should address if I’m going to start planning for the future.”

“You should buy stocks,” the money manager said. Keep reading…

Your dirty dishes are my problem

woman in office rolling her eyes

My response to most company policies….

Dear Senior Leadership Team,

Good morning. I’m writing to you today to express a grave concern.

I’ve spent many sleepless nights debating whether to escalate this concern to senior management. As a result, my work performance has suffered, and I’ve ordered way too many useless gadgets from the Home Shopping Network.

I feel I have no choice now but to voice my thoughts. Stoic silence is no longer an option. And though I often hesitate to make waves, sometimes you have to be the fat guy who does a cannonball into the pool.

My concern this morning is in regards to the company breakroom policy.

That’s right: the company breakroom policy. I don’t like it.

There. I’ve said it. I feel much better already.

As senior management is aware, all departments are required to take turns cleaning the breakroom. During a department’s designated month, employees must rinse dirty dishes, load and unload the dishwasher, wipe tables, restock the cleaning supplies, sweep the floor, and chisel Lean Cuisine explosions from the roof of the microwave. (At least I hope it was Lean Cuisine. But based on the mess, it could have been a cat. I’m not sure.) Keep reading…

Attack of the time parasite

time parasite

The dreaded time parasite attaches himself to a hardworking employee and sucks away not only his industry knowledge, but also his will to live.

The time parasite is a wretched and despicable creature. They’re among the lowest form of scum imaginable (a true invertebrate with no noticeable backbone or useful purpose), and they often come with an overinflated sense of self worth and a graduate degree in business administration.

The time parasite is a true bottom-feeding life form oozing with sludge and dripping with charisma. They often have a sallow, oily appearance, and they thrive in dank, slimy places covered in dead rot (otherwise known as the upper echelon of senior management).

To survive, the time parasite will attach itself to an amiable, industrious employee. The employee won’t mind at first, because the time parasite will present itself as an eager and dedicated manager committed to assisting the team.

As the employee discusses the easy-to-follow steps of a rudimentary procedure, the time parasite will sink in its fangs and begin to feed. It will ask pointless questions to prolong the conversation, and the employee will be forced to restate in a different way what he or she already explained in intricate detail.

As the moments stretch into minutes, the employee will begin to feel anxious and short-tempered. E-mails will keep piling up — many requiring immediate response — but the time parasite will refuse to release its sinister hold. The employee will motion to his or her screen, or they’ll pretend to pick up their phone and make an imaginary call, but neither tactic will work. The time parasite has a hunger for the souls of employees, and its ravenous appetite is insatiable.

As the time parasite continues to devour mercilessly, the employee will feel his or her existence slipping away, as if they’re attached to the Count’s life-sucking machine on The Princess Bride. Indeed, even the most self-driven, highly motived employee will lose his or her momentum when ensnared in a time parasite’s inescapable grasp. The employee will cease to perform at a high standard, and instead of looking forward to five o’clock, they’ll start wishing for their own death.

In that way, time parasites are much like the Dementors that guard Azkaban Prison — except much more career-focused and self-serving.

Indeed, the time parasite’s enervating effects drain the employee of their motivation. When the time parasite finally releases its bone-breaking grip (usually because it becomes bored by a conversation that it cared little about in the first place), the employee will feel chewed up and violated. They’ll shake themselves off and go back to work, but their once-productive workflow will be disrupted. The time parasite took from them something that they can never get back. Not only time, but a sense of wholeness — as if the very fabric of their being was unraveled by a tug of the thread.

It will dawn upon the employee then that none of their skills, knowledge, or ideas matter anymore — at least in terms of the employee’s long-sought-after upward trajectory — because the time parasite will be there to gobble them up and to take credit for all of the employee’s accomplishments.

And so the time parasite will slink back to its dank, slimy environment, leaving in its wake a department of demoralized souls who now have to work past five to make up for lost time.

An under-appreciated office-dweller

getting a big promotion“Thanks.”

That was the extent of your e-mailed response: “Thanks.”

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I’m glad that you at least acknowledged my effort.

But “Thanks”? That’s it?

Not to sound entitled, but I think I deserve a little bit more.

Did you see how quickly I acted upon your request? And did you bother to grasp the thoroughness of my reply?

I mean, I don’t expect you to write a haiku as a testament to my glory and magnificence, but give me something more than “Thanks.” Maybe something like “Thank you very much” or “Your assistance is greatly appreciated.”

Nope. “Thanks.” That’s the length to which you ventured to recognize my contributions.

I don’t want to complain, but I feel like my work here isn’t appreciated. No matter how I’m feeling or what’s going on in my personal life, I put forth my best each day. My commitment to timeliness and quality is unparalleled, and I’m highly regarded as a dedicated team-player. The meticulous approach I bring to my work has earned me stellar reviews from upper management.

So I don’t think I’m out of line to expect a little bit more than “Thanks.”

I suppose it’s not in your nature to recognize others (being so singularly focused on your own career and upward momentum). But the next time I go out of my way to accommodate one of your “urgent” requests, a little more gratitude would be appreciated.

And I’m not talking about an overdone dissertation dripping with sarcasm. You don’t need to say “I so dearly value your heartfelt dedication and perseverance. You are a radiant beacon in a shadowy sea of cubicles; a pillar of strength standing among a battalion of slump-shouldered staff. You consistently outshine your peers, like a brilliant star streaking across a twilight sky. Your mind brims with industry knowledge; your heart and soul exude the passion you bring to your job. I truly cherish having you on my team, and I wish to thank you profusely for your wholehearted dedication.”

No, you don’t need to say all that. I’m not looking for unconditional admiration, or a stepping stool to senior management. I’m clearly not on the fast-track, because instead of brown-nosing my way to success, I’m too busy doing all the work.

I just want something more than “Thanks.” And at the end of a trying workday, is that really so much to ask? I’m but a mere human with a humble heart. I seek not riches or fame, but just a smidgen of recognition, to validate my otherwise futile existence.

This mysterious journey of life holds little clues to the grander intricacies of the universe. Life moves forward in a constant current of progression, and unless we flow forward with friends, the world can make us feel isolated and lonely.

We must respect each other, cherish each other — love each other. If there’s a deeper meaning to the universe, it’s that all we have is each other. All people (and indeed, all office-dwellers) are interconnected — like a connect-the-dots game in which all the points are linked.

By the mere act of existing, each of us is obligated to bring warmth to this world, and we can do that by respecting each other. Don’t let your condescending, managerial detachment make this world a cold, unforgiving place. Be warm. Be loving.

Be human.

I so appreciate your contributions to this organization. All I ask is that you appreciate mine.

Thanks.

Omit the extraneous details, please 

Two businessmen in meeting“Did you know there was an earthquake last night?” I asked my friend, Hank, as we stood near the water cooler at work.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “I felt it.”

“You felt it?” I asked. “They said it happened around eleven-thirty. I was asleep.”

“Yeah, well, I was awake,” he said. “You see, I’d gotten up around eleven to take a gnarly dump, and when I lay back down, the whole room started shaking. I thought a car had hit the house.”

I stared at him, blinking.

Hank frowned. “What?”

I crossed my arms. “Did you really need to add that extraneous detail?”

“What extraneous detail?”

“The detail about why you’d woken up.”

He shrugged. “I was just trying to explain why I was awake.”

“And you needn’t have done so. All you had to say was that you were awake and that you had felt the earthquake. Nothing more.”

“Right, but I wanted to explain to you why I was awake at eleven-thirty.”

“No one cares why you were awake at eleven-thirty. It’s an extraneous detail that’s not pertinent to the story. That’s why they call it ‘extraneous.’”

“I don’t think it’s extraneous,” Hank said. “I think it’s integral. If I hadn’t have been awake, then I wouldn’t have felt the earthquake. The reason I was awake is a pertinent part of the story.”

I shook my head. “It’s neither pertinent nor appropriate. All you had to establish was that you were awake and that you had felt the earthquake. Further elaboration was unnecessary.”

“I disagree. I think it’s a crucial detail that you can’t omit. Its absence raises the question of why I was awake so late on a work night.”

“Nobody cares why you were awake so late on a work night.”

“Again, I disagree. If someone is awake that late on a work night, an explanation is required.”

“No explanation is required,” I said. “Like I stated, it’s an extraneous detail.”

“Not when you’re an early riser like me,” Hank said. “It’s well-known among my co-workers that I go to bed early. That’s why I needed to establish why I was awake so late on a work night. You see, what happened was that we’d had Karen’s chili for dinner, and I woke up in a cold sweat with my stomach churning. I was lucky to hobble to the bathroom without exploding all over the hallway.”

I plugged my ears. “Not listening,” I said.

“It was terrible,” Hank continued. “It was like the Jeff Daniels scene from Dumb and Dumber — expect more harrowing and traumatic. Clearly, I had to shower afterwards. And then the moment I slipped back into bed, the earthquake hit. I was so rattled, it took me a long time to doze off.

“All in all,” he said, “the whole ordeal cost me two hours of sleep. So if I seem a little off today, that’s probably why.”

“Well, no offense,” I said, “but your judgment does seem a bit clouded. As you should know, it’s not entirely appropriate to mention your bowels in a workplace conversation.”

“My bowels are a pivotal part of the story. I thought I explained that point already.”

“In depth, yes.”

“Look,” Hank said, “all I’m saying is that I’m not exactly at my best when I have endure diarrhea and an earthquake in the same night. It’s all a little unnerving.”

I sighed. “I just wanted to make small talk, Hank. You know? Water-cooler conversation.”

“Right,” he said. “And I thought that’s what we were doing. We were talking about the earthquake.”

“No,” I said. “As you just pointed out, we were talking about your bowels and your chili-fueled escapade.”

Hank shrugged. “Well, it’s not exactly a detail you can gloss over. Especially if you had to live through it, like I did. Man, was it excruciating. Karen felt bad, too. She said she probably put in too many jalapeños, or something.”

I shook my head and started to walk away.

“Hey,” Hank called. “Where are you going? Was it something I said?”

“I have to go,” I said. “My stomach’s churning.”

Reclaiming my right to recess

Children on a playground climbing a jungle gym

Sure, being an adult has its perks. You can stay up late, watch R-rated movies, and even eat ice cream for breakfast if you’re so inclined. (With my IBS, I’m not so inclined.) But I’d gladly give all that up if I could get my morning and afternoon recesses back. Why does recess have to go away when you grow up? All they give you in adulthood is a measly lunch hour … and maybe a cigarette break, if you’re lucky.

I hate to exercise.

I mean, I really hate to exercise. I hate it more than life itself.

But you got to do it. If you want to live a long life and accomplish great things (or even if you want to be a humor writer, like me), you’ve got to maintain your body.

A healthy body promotes a sharp and healthy mind. (It also discourages fellow beachgoers from laughing at your Speedo.)

I realized today that I need to exercise more.

And by that, I mean I need to exercise, period. As in, performing some sort of enhanced physical activity — something beyond my current regimen of rising from the couch to find the taquito that slipped between the seat cushions. (If it’s fuzz-free, it’s still good. Just got to brush off the cat hair and any loose change.)

It dawned on me that I’m tired. I sat down this evening to hammer out a post, and I was dismayed because I had nothing. My brain was dead. Static. Foggy.

I was tired. I’m always tired.

And I’m tired of always being tired.  Keep reading…