Job and identity

July 13, 2012

I don’t think of myself primarily as what I do at work. At least I didn’t think I did. If asked how I think of who/what I am, I think about being a mother, a pastor’s wife, and a child of God. Even if someone asks specifically about my job, it’s hard to sum it up in a few words because what I do right now is help in several different areas – areas that will have to manage without my help once my position is eliminated in about a month.

So I was surprised, recently, to realize how much it bothers me to be losing this rather ill-defined set of responsibilities. It’s not just the financial impact and the difficulty of finding another job in this uncertain economy – though it is discouraging not to get responses regarding any of the few jobs I’ve found to apply for. (I did finally get one “you do not meet the requirements of the position” form letter from the corporation I currently work for, regarding a position in another department.)

Suddenly there is a lack of a sense of purpose to what I am doing at work. I no longer feel part of a team that I am trying to help succeed. The co-workers to whom I have mentioned this assure me I am still part of the team and they appreciate the work I do, but the sense of being “in this together” is gone for me. I feel like a temporary employee, someone who is working here for the time being but has no future here.

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On competence and wonder

February 8, 2012

Until recently, I never would have thought of there being any connection between competence and wonder. But I’ve been thinking about them lately because of what I read in a book by Eugene Peterson.

I’ll write more about the book when I’ve finished it, but there is so much in it that I plan to write separate posts about some topics. One is about Sabbath-keeping, which Peterson approaches in a different way from anything I had read on the subject previously.

Peterson makes a fairly common observation that children experience a sense of wonder frequently, but adults much less so. What is different is his explanation. Usually, I think, the reasons given have to do with being too busy, too wrapped up in what we think are important concerns but that often are actually distracting us from what is really most important in life.

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When interests and abilities diverge

January 21, 2012

When I was growing up, I thought that sitting at a desk working with numbers was about the most boring job I could think of. I had very little idea what an actuary like my father actually did (I still have only hazy notions of how his workday was spent), but I knew it involved lots of numbers.

It’s not that I was bad at math. On the contrary, it came easily to me (except for one unit in third grade when we had to learn base 8), and I found it very boring. As a senior in high school I did my calculus homework to relax from more challenging subjects like literary analysis and chemistry. I enjoyed competing in Math League, but I had no interest in studying advanced math topics on my own in order to do better at the meets.

What I liked was writing. I had always been good at it, at least according to my teachers. (My mother also thought I wrote well, but I discounted her opinion as lacking objectivity.) I had always loved to read, and I longed to be able to write stories that other people would enjoy reading.

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What’s in a job?

September 9, 2011

As a child you learn about a fairly limited number of job choices. There are the ones that kids typically imagine being: policeman, fireman, teacher, artist, professional athlete, doctor, and perhaps a handful of others. There are the jobs that you see people doing around town: cashier, plumber, mail carrier, and the people who repair bikes, cars, and computers. And there are the ones that your parents and other adult acquaintances do.

I had very little idea what any of those jobs were really like, even the ones my parents did. (I had a somewhat better idea what my mother’s job as a typesetter was like, than my father’s job as an actuary, because while I had visited his office, I had actually sat in my mother’s office while she was working, before they considered me old enough to go home to an empty house after school.) Knowing what a person does for a living doesn’t really give a clear picture of what that person’s workday is like.

As an adult, I have found it fascinating to learn about the thousands of different kinds of jobs people do, most of which I had never given any thought to until I learned about them. Everyone knows what a nurse does, right? I had very little idea what a nurse’s workday was really like until I got to know one, and later when I worked as a part-time receptionist for an oral surgeon. I thought being a cashier looked really easy – so easy it would be very boring – until I worked in a K-Mart deli and had to deal with a line of people all impatient to get their food served and paid for.

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More about FISH!

October 4, 2008

Almost everything I have read about FISH! has been positive – even on websites that aren’t about promoting FISH! So I was surprised to find a blog with at least two posts all about what a bad thing the FISH! philosophy is.

Kevin Carson’s objection seems to be that FISH! is marketed to, and enthusiastically used by, HR departments at large corporations, who hope to use it to get their workers to work harder and more enthusistically – without having to pay them more. I had certainly never thought of it that way before, and I had to stop and think about whether that might be a legitimate criticism.

I know from reading business books and magazines that some companies tend to go after the management fad-of-the-month. Rather than take a good hard look at how they do things and make fundamental changes, they try to find a quick fix using the latest buzzwords, a few seminars, and some feel-good motivational materials. Such companies probably do use FISH! as a cheap attempt to make their workers happy – or at least convince them that if they’re not happy it’s their own fault.

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Books: FISH!

October 3, 2008

I have been dealing with a lot of frustration at work (which, somewhat indirectly, is the reason I didn’t post anything here yesterday). Not due to difficult projects or people – rather the opposite, that I have no real challenges to apply my problem-solving skills to…. Except for one huge challenge – finding a different job where I will have sufficient challenges to feel a sense of accomplishment (at doing more than just getting through the day). Or else transforming my current job into something very different. (So far three successive managers have been very pleased with the work I do but unable to identify additional responsibilities within the scope of the group we work in.)

This week I attended a seminar on putting together a personal development plan to get from my current job to where I want to be – whether in this corporation or another (and this seminar was designed, led, and paid for by our corporation). It was no surprise to me that I need to take more initiative and be more assertive, but so far the only advice anyone has been able to offer me on how to do that is simply to do it. Which simply leaves me feeling more frustrated than ever.

So I asked the seminar leader for suggestions of books or other resources on helping me to deal with this frustration. She promptly loaned me three books, which are interesting enough, even if not exactly what I had in mind. And as one of the extra responsibilities I have been able to take on is filling in for our receptionist when she is out (family emergency), I had time, sitting at the front desk after finishing my own work, to do quite a bit of reading.

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