Laziness, It’s a Feature!

One of the things that used to bug me as an employee was how quickly I would complete my work. Not that anyone else was slow, I just work fast. I’ve always been like this. I finished homework quickly. I finished in-school work quickly. I finished tests quickly. I get to the airport two hours before my flight. I drive too fast. I don’t know how to be fashionably late.

You see, I’m impatient, I’m smart, my brain is always on overdrive, I don’t know how to shut off, and I’m rather – shall we say – competitive. I know, it was hard to tell.

None of that is a problem, of course. Until it is.

This “working quickly” super power worked against me in the beginning of my career life. At my first job I worked as an editor, editing radio advertisement scripts. I would get giant stacks of these ads in the morning and would be done by mid-day. And with nothing on my desk, I looked like I was slacking off. Everyone else was still working on them the next day.

I ended up in the computer room (yes, we had a computer room) to fill the time and, ultimately, ended up managing the system.

Later on I moved into the tech space at a telephony company where I ended up in a support role. I was responsible for a geographic area of customers and had a queue of tickets that were always cleared by mid-day. Sadly, that was not an accomplishment that got rewarded. My manager told me to slow down or find something else to do. So in spite of the fact that my customers loved me and I placed #1 in all of my tech trainings, my boss thought I was lazy because, well, I finished quickly and had nothing to do for a few hours each day. It made for a toxic corporate work experience.

Everything changed for the better when I went into business for myself. Working quickly benefitted my customers and they loved it. When you’re billing for time and competing for business, being able to say “yes, I charge more, but I will be done faster and you won’t have to call me back because I fix it right the first time” was a big boon to business. Also, it was true. I had mastered the knowledge and skills that my customer base needed and wanted.

Then I realized that charging by the hours wasn’t doing the trick for me so I charged for my knowledge instead of for my time.

I wasn’t being lazy. I had mastered the skills that were required of me to efficiently take care of my work and my customers. Thankfully, my customers recognized mastery as mastery. I recognize it too. But I still feel like I’m being lazy if I’m not busy.

I need to remember that mastery is not laziness. Mastery should be rewarded with time to relax.

It should. But, then, this is me and I like being busy. I like the feeling of accomplishment. I like signing off on a project. I like to tick the items off my list. I like to beat my deadline dates (competitive, remember?) – it drives me. I believe in underpromising and overdelivering in all things. It’s no surprise that I feel a strong sense of guilt if I’m not busy. I find it nearly impossible to waste time. I also find it nearly impossible to say in 500 words what should take 10 (term papers were a nightmare for me).

I have to remind myself regularly that just because I finish a task early, it doesn’t mean that I have to fill that freed up time with more work. Mastery is the answer, not more work. I need to internalize that and recognize that downtime is healthy. Time spent not working is something to be treasured and protected. Not working is NOT being lazy.

Downtime is healthy. Downtime is necessary. Downtime gives my brain the rest it needs to shift gears and learn new things. Downtime is good. Maybe if I say it enough I’ll actually believe it. 😊

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Job Hunting is a (Crummy) Job

I’ve spent more time on this computer in the last 2 weeks than I did in the entire last month! OK fine, I’m exaggerating. I may be prone to bouts of exaggeration when I’m frustrated, but who isn’t?

I have spent 75% of every waking hour working on this new “job”. This is hard work. And I know I am not the only one doing this. Us unemployed folks are working our little fingers to the bone.

My mind is occupied non-stop with thoughts about how to search, where to search, rewriting my resume, writing cover letters, fixing up my LinkedIn, making the right connections, redefining myself and what job I want to look for, assessing how long I can go without employment, touching base with everyone I know, setting up (and reading through) job searches, researching companies, looking at Master degree programs, reading through certification programs, reading executive coaching materials, and a thousand other related tasks. And catastrophizing.

It’s exhausting, friends. No wonder I can’t sleep at night (Harper the Puppy Artist laying on my legs notwithstanding).

I don’t know about you, but I put a lot of pressure on myself. I’m not sure why i thought I’d have gotten callbacks already – I’ve only applied to 3 jobs and those were panic-driven applications. I shouldn’t be applying to anything until I have my tools in order. But, alas, I feel like I cannot afford to waste missing even one job opportunity.

I want patience and I want it right now! Not hearing from these companies drives me up the wall. I mean, it’s been a whole day and I’ve heard nothing! WTF? <grin>

I hear you all chuckling…I know exactly how ridiculous that statement is. I know it in my logical brain. The part of my brain that operates the Imposter Syndrome part of me is completely unaware of the logical fallacy however. I regularly have to beat that part down with a large emotional stick. And I know there are many of you, dear readers, who are in exactly the same place. I see you. I hear you. I feel you.

I am envious of my friends and ex-co-workers who can “take time off” so they can recharge and rejuvenate themselves. Friends, I do not know how to not work. I don’t know how to not do some kind of forward motion.

I think the most painful questions I get asked are: “what do you do” or “what do you want to do next”? How do you put nearly 30 years of varied tech-business experiences into a succinct, 30-second, answer that muggles will understand? That’s actually a very big, very real dilemma that I will have to work out because most people have the attention span of a gnat when it comes to listening to someone describe their work. Interestingly, I have no problem answering these questions, btw, when I’m talking with people in the tech industry.

Side note: y’know what’s been really bizarre? Nobody assumes I’m executive material. I don’t know why. Is it because I’m a woman? Is it because I’m older and unemployed? Is it because I don’t dress in designer clothing? It makes no sense. I ran a business for 25 years…I have skillz, yo. Do you other out of work executive types experience this too?

That said, I am having an internal battle trying to decide what I want to do next. One of the problems of not having spent the last 2 decades in corporate life is that I lack the language, the corporate-speak that others have. And I haven’t had need for the tools that corporate environments use. So while I do have skills, I will need to train up on the practical tools.

With such varied experiences, I fit into a bunch of management and executive roles: customer success, professional services, managed services, and chief of staff come to mind first. I fit them all very well. I do know that I’m a helper type. That’s my nature. That will have to factor in to whatever I look for. My next task will probably be to augment the job search with some process and leadership certification classes so that I have something “official” to bring to interviews. Anything I can do to stack the deck, right?

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It’s been 10 Days

It’s Friday. I’ve been out of work 10 days now. It seems like 10 years and 10 minutes all at the same time. I have no frame of reference. I thought it was Thursday on Wednesday and Friday on Thursday. I have worked 12-14 hours every day for 10 days now. What kind of work, you ask? Great question. I’d love to tell you.

I have reworked my budget and have returned purchased items. I have worked on my resume and gotten input from others. I have set up a job search spreadsheet and applied for unemployment. I have donated 10 boxes of books (Books4Cause) and reconstructed my bookcase. I have taken care of legal matters and investigated what ISOs are and how they could impact me. And I spun up this website.

I cancelled future back-related PT appointments. And I’ll be done with mental health therapy as well. Even though I suspect I’ll have some kind of insurance, my provider is out of network and when money is tight – I have 6 weeks of severance – I stop spending on anything that doesn’t directly help me bring in money. Put another way, my health comes last when money gets tight. I know that this is the same for pretty much everyone. Why is healthcare tied to employment anyhow? That’s a topic for another day.

Today I feel the urge to talk about job hunting. I don’t know the correct way to do this new to me experience. I haven’t had to look for work since like 1983 or so. Things have changed. ::eyeroll::

I have pals who have applied to 50+ jobs in the last 10 days. I have other friends who applied for 250 jobs before landing. I’ve heard that it’s a numbers game…increase your chances by applying to as many jobs as possible. But I have to wonder: are they all jobs these folks really want? Do people truly apply for everything instead of what they really want? Do people feel hopeless? Do they feel their worth is less because they were laid off? I don’t know the answer to this and I suspect I’ll get as many different views as there are people out of work.

I have very dear, non-IT friends who do not understand what I do or what I’ve done. And so, in trying to be helpful, they’ve sent me advice on how to get a minimum wage job in retail. I’m not sure why anyone would think I would want to (or physically could) work at <retail shop>. Or, my “local” friends know that I knit so they suggest selling hand-knit items on <social marketplace>. I love my friends madly. They love me back. But it’s interesting to me that I’ve never taken the time to share with them what I know and what I have done in my work life. That’s on me.

I don’t want to come across as ungrateful. I am beyond grateful for all the love and support they lavish on me. I have never felt more supported than I have this past week. So I thank them and ask if I can send them a copy of my resume in case they run across something more appropriate. Hopefully that will give them a better idea of what I’m looking to do. And I have to start talking about myself in ways that highlight me, rather than poopoo my talents. This is NOT the time for me to be humble.

Thankfully, my IT pals get it and I have a very large network of dear dear friends. Thank the heavens for These people are my lifeblood. In very few words I can tell them what I’m looking for. I have found LinkedIn to be a valuable resource as well. While I do have to zhuzh mine up (that’s a task for next week), my network has expanded manyfold and I search it regularly for contacts inside companies I’m interested in working for.

I do have some advice for you when you have a friend who’s lost their job:
– Let them know right away that you’re available to talk when they’re ready. Then give them some space to grieve. I couldn’t speak for 2 days. I didn’t eat for over 24 hours. I still haven’t slept a full night. This is about them.
– Touch base a week or so after initial contact. Just let them know you’re thinking of them and you’re still available.
– When they’re ready, ask if they want your advice or just an ear to listen?
– Ask them if they are eating and sleeping? Offer to bring them food or cook for them. They’re grieving. They may not be able to even make a decision like what to eat for <meal>.
– Offer to look over their resume if you have those skills.
– Offer to practice interviewing with them.
– Ask them if they’re ready to start looking again – give this question some time before you ask.
– Please don’t assume desperation. Most folks in tech layoffs have received a severance of some sort. Don’t assume “something is better than nothing.” It’s really not. Center your friend’s needs: ask them what they’re looking for in a job and salary range before you tell them about that part time retail job.
– How can I help and who can I introduce you to are probably two of the most valuable offers you can make to your unemployed friend.

I can say that today – at least for now – I do not feel worthless or even less worthy than I did 2 weeks ago. I do feel scared, that’s for sure. I’m very afraid, for dozens of reasons, that I won’t find another job. But I do not feel desperate. And I feel some gratitude. This has shown me how many people I have in my life who really do care about me. I had no idea. I am both stunned and oh so grateful.

Until next time…

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A Video

It’s finally up. Last month (July 2023) I spoke at my favorite conference – PSU MacAdmins.

I used to speak on tech topics but discovered that I’m not very good at taking tech principles and operations from my brain and teaching them to audiences. I can translate tech-speak to muggle-speak, however. I just can’t do it tech to tech. I suspect it’s a case of Imposter Syndrome more than anything, to be honest.

But I *am* very good at soft skills presentations. And, so, I’ve done a number of them. The most recent one was a lot of fun: Ageism in Tech, revisited. I talk about ageism, racism, and sexism in tech. I’ll post it here. I hope you enjoy it.

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