Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On irony, and the importance of being earnest

I am so proud to include my first literary reference in my blog! My English degree is all Jennifer Lopez: 
Nearly six months ago, I was tiredly searching for a job and felt like I had exhausted all potential contacts, all avenues for revenue-gains, all cover letter templates, and worst of all, myself. My countless applications yielded little responses, and even less interviews. Those interviews yielded no offers, and well, you can see the pattern there.. And then, on one unassuming Monday afternoon, I got a call from the temp agency I had interviewed with a month earlier, to begin a job the next morning at 8 am. Fifteen hours later, I was planted in front of a computer screen and phone, answering job-seekers questions about their applications and resumes. It could not have been more ironic if it were in that Alanis Morrisette song (which, can we please talk about how someone should have proofread those lyrics because sister can't tell irony from just plain bad luck). Yet I quickly learned how perfecly the stars had been aligned in my favor, because this job was providing me with a birds' eye view of the hiring practices and structural layout at a major organization, one that I had been trying to break into for months. My mouth was foaming in those first few days at the expanse of information that was literally at my eager fingertips. If they only knew who they hired to put in this chair, I kept thinking to myself. Of course, my scope was more narrow in the larger scheme of things - the organization's size, and state-affiliation make it a not so average example; but still, this was a temp job that would prove tremendously valuable considering the short amount of time it has lasted.

Most importantly: I've gained some badly-needed perspective. On the job market, on the ins and outs of hiring, on the politics of office relations, on the incompetencies of massive institutions. Not to mention the technical incompetencies of waaay too many people out there. For instance, did you know there are professionally employed people in this country who do not have the technical capacity to copy and paste? Well there are, and I hope that I talked to all of them in the past six months, otherwise America's computer literacy is in worse shape than I ever thought possible. But all joking aside, this has been the part of the job I found to be the most enjoyable. I will generously estimate that I have spoken to thousands of candidates in this time, many unemployed, many desperately, desperately needing work. They have run the gamut of all spectrums, in profession, economic class, and ethnicity. I've spoken to custodians from Ethiopia and millionaire CEOs in China. They all wanted a job, and they all wanted me to help. Many of these conversations played out politely, generically. But many were wrought with anger, frustration, sadness as their various situations were described. And while there have been times that I've been thankful for the phone receiver that divides me and the caller, or given myself a headache from rolling my eyes too far back into my head; on the whole, I've actually been touched by these conversations in which people share so much of themselves. Their openness inspired my own honesty, and I hope its safe to admit that sometimes, I gave more help than was "officially" allowed. I never accepted bribes - bizarre, but there were offers - or gave out information that would give a candidate an unfair advantage, but I always gave my most earnest and sincere responses, no matter how many times I had to give them. And this approach wasn't only applied to clients (as those are the rules of customer service, after all), but to supervisors and co-workers as well. My ability to be sincere in my interactions and direct in my requests from them, ultimately, leads me into my next job. 

Earnestness in the workplace is something to strive for always. For all its power, it is undervalued and underused. Imagine if we all communicated with eachother with the utmost honesty; if we felt we were allowed to say what we mean to say at our jobs, within the codes of civility, of course.

So now, for old-times sake, I will reflect on a few additional take-away lessons as I prepare to depart this "little job that would":

-A back-slash can mean different key-strokes for different folks:You say  \  I say  / . Its best to describe this as "the symbol that shares a key with the question mark" just to err on the side of safety.

-If someone comes into the office thinking they've been shot, kindly offer them a seat but do not engage in prolonged eye contact even when they begin to talk about hot-button topics like gay marriage or Lindsay Lohan.

-Lastly, when someone smiles at you, smile back. When someone says 'thank you', thank them as well. It is these moments that brighten a dull day, and its only the least we can do. The very, very least.


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