But I’m telling myself it’s all right because lots of people will be able to relate to it, and it also ties into my pet theme of control.
[Album, you ask? What’s this about an album? Ohhh, yes, THAT album. I promise it will drop eventually.]
One thing that makes a person feel pretty out of control is waiting to hear from an HR department about the results of an interview. Now, I know this is rough for people pretty much universally. But it is an extra-special experience when A) It’s an internal position you had to do independent research to even know about and one you networked over a year to prepare for; B) You feel deeply that it would suit you, more than anything else that is remotely plausible at the moment; C) Your existing circumstance is a currently a shrieking void bordered with sharp teeth (exaggeration? yes. how it feels to an introvert whose nature is daily being infringed upon? also yes); and D) You are having trouble identifying any alternative prospects, despite a lengthy career in the same place, with opportunities only arising once every two years or so.
After a couple weeks of silence, your hope is nearly gone. But you know your fanciful nature coupled with your seething desire for escape (not to mention the weird hubris that somehow manages to co-exist with your extreme self-deprecation) will keep an ember alive until the closure of that declination email, and there is nothing under the sun that you can do about that.
Now, so much online advice and commentary about situations like this are based on certain assumptions. They talk a lot about preparing for “rejection,” which, yes, I realize that’s just what most people call it. But it’s still a rather sensational word that evokes associations with dating and breakups, or with being a social outcast (which is why I use “declination”). This word choice goes hand-in-hand with an assumption that, naturally, the advice-seeker will interpret not getting the job as deleterious to their self-worth. I do realize this may often be the case – perhaps even more so among those Googling for advice on this topic. However, I’d issue a reminder that plenty of folks like me also exist. Logically, we know that being passed over for a more experienced candidate says nothing about our inherent value. We know that what feels final usually isn’t, and that there are countless reasons beyond our control, many quite valid, that feed into these decisions. But that doesn’t make the feeling of being profoundly stuck any more palatable.
There’s also an assumption that one will be bitter – toward the process, the hiring committee, the chipper newbie chosen over the musty lifers, or the upstart external candidate favored over the dependable known quantity. To which I say: au contraire. When The Email finally comes, bitterness is not what I will feel. When the successful candidate is announced, I will no doubt nod along to their bio and think, “Man, they sound awesome. Clearly they were the right choice.”
What I will feel is exhausted at the prospect of trudging back to the drawing board with no concept of a path forward. What will sting is being utterly flummoxed by how to gain requisite experience when I only have time to bail water out of a holey canoe – that is, answer back-to-back phone calls all day in a department with raging service-level issues.
This brings me to a recommendation of sorts.
Companies – and call centers I’m looking extra hard at you – need to lay out more than just metrics for their people during performance evaluations. If the employee is a strong performer and demonstrates agility and enthusiasm, not to mention a keen interest in a very specific area of the business, a career path should be mapped and regularly revisited. Mentorship and skill-expansion shouldn’t be fluffy concepts constantly paid lip service but only taken seriously in certain geographical locations or when times are easy. Of course, no one can or should be guaranteed a particular outcome – but the retention of talent requires putting intentional effort into growth and development.
Which reminds me: I have loved the first half of this article for a long time and always find myself returning to it. It backs up a great deal of what I just said above. OK, so the use of Zappos as a shining example has perhaps aged poorly. But the prescriptions given prior to that case study are still solid, in my opinion.
I’ll end with some thoughts (vents) not related to call centers. Another big source of my frustration is that I have begun to develop a pretty clear vision of what I’d like to do with myself every day.
Those of you who don’t know what your passion even is (which is also super understandable) are going to say, “Whaaa? How is knowing what you want a bad thing?!”
Here’s how. What I want seems both scintillatingly possible and ferociously impossible at the same damn time.
It sure as hell seems like a person with an advanced writing degree, a solid track record of autodidacticism, and substantial professional experience should be able to find some kind of way to rub words together and perhaps conduct research in quiet for a modest living. With the current state of things making exclusively remote work more common, that desired piece, too, seems within reach. There are also those unique features of my life – childlessness by choice, a financial safety net – that make me less averse to risk than some others. So I get annoyed at myself on the regular, feeling sure that my inability to manifest this seemingly simple vision is a colossal failure of imagination.
Then again, everyone and their Aunt Mary wants to write (or do some other creative thing) for a living. The market is flooded with clueless mediocrity. Crappy wannabe writers writing crappy articles about how to be a writer for other crappy wannabe writers, like an ouroboros of transparent self-aggrandizement.
So, guys. It’s 3 a.m. Saturday. Whaddya think are my chances of devising escape before Monday morning at 8? Hmmm?