Ten Things I Want to See In My Next Job

This week marks two years since the great crunch at my last job left about 20% of the employees, and my entire department out on the street. While this is partially due to my advanced age, a computer science degree that predates the personal computer, and a major shift in the market from employee to employer-focused, it’s probably also that, being constantly hit by or barely surviving downsizing exercises at my last five companies going back a decade, I’ve just been a little pickier about saying yes to jobs that exhibit the same destructive behaviors, or that I just have a bad feeling about going in.

I’m increasingly convinced the type of job I want doesn’t exist anymore. Certainly if it does, it’s only found via one of those “inside networking” things and isn’t going to land in my lap courtesy of a recruiter who has my best interest at heart and really wants me to be happy and successful. (You read that one, right?) So, as long as some know-it-all recruiter can force me to sit through his boring “Ten Things You Need to Do To Land the Perfect Job” post on Linked-In, allow me to retort with my own “Ten Things I Want to See In My Next Job.” On the off chance that I’m wrong, and my dream boss is out there scouring the Internet for me (probably sitting next to my dream girl in a locally-owned coffee and sandwich shop somewhere), “Hi, boss. Call me. Let’s get something moving.”

1. Don’t make me retype my resume in your on-line job application. We live in the 21st century. I carry three different versions of my resume on my phone, and I have professional profiles exhaustively detailing 30+ years of my professional history on three different job boards, Linked-In, and PMO-Elite. If you’re using antiquated HR software that can’t parse a Word document or pull data via API from a job board, and your HR department isn’t capable of converting it in the one format they need to work in, then sorry, we’re done before we even got started.

2. Don’t ask for my desired salary on the application before I’ve even gotten to speak to you about the job. First off, this just screams “looking for the cheapest person we can get to negotiate from a position of weakness.” Second, a lot of your answers — even knowing what your benefits and vacation package looks like — will affect my salary requirements. Finally, as a thirteen year business analyst and sales support engineer, I can make very strong arguments to back up my numbers. I do know how to put together an effective argument and cost/benefit analysis, after all.

3. Sell me on your company vision. This is becoming more and more important to me. When someone asks me what my company does, I would love to be able to say something other than “insurance,” “pharmaceuticals,” “mortgages,” or “makes these three rich guys who own it even richer.” Not that it needs to be anything altruistic or honorable. One of my favorite jobs of all time is best described as, “made a bunch of people happy.” At least that I can get excited about.

4. Have free parking nearby. I am sick of freezing, roasting, and soaking, before I even start my day, but most of all, I’m really sick of having to factor the walk from my car to my desk into my commute time. I don’t need to scratch my car door on the side of the building when I get out, but I do require that I be able to SEE the building from where I park.

5. Put a ring on it. This is the one that’s apparently really killing my prospects. Have I mentioned that contracting work is a career-killing racket? I have finally put my foot down on changing discount insurance companies and wrapping my sports-loving child in bubble wrap any praying for the best during the “benefit grace period” every couple of months when I switch contracts. I’m sick of being treated like a disposable second-class citizen by co-workers, and I am over having a “likely extension” or “possible conversion” dangled in front of me like a carrot.

6. Give me an opportunity to add to my skillset, or at least tell a new story. I might as well laminate my resume for the past thirteen years. “Worked as a liaison between business and IT … Effectively captured requirements … managed a portfolio of complex projects and directed development teams … blahblahblah …” If you’re going to make me do that stuff again, at least make the projects more interesting than “modified a program,” “developed a report,” “built a dashboard.”

7. No damned ping pong tables, indoor basketball courts, or video arcades at work! If you need these kinds of things to get through the day, put your company next to a family recreation center, or better yet, go work for one. I had my fill of “Oh, you need to talk to me, let’s have a ping pong meeting.” No, I need to talk to you, not compete for your distracted attention. “I’m not going to have that ready by the next sprint, your time estimate was completely unreasonable.” No, my time estimate was generous, and I just happen to notice you wasted all of Thursday afternoon in a Galaga tournament with the Finance department knowing you had a deadline on Friday morning.

8. Let me control my environment. Now we’re getting into the big ones. Also previously mentioned, this agile seating thing is only good for me about 25% of the time. In the early phases of a project, it’s great for getting a cadence going, disseminating information, and building rapport. The other 75% of the time, it annoys me with having to hear office gossip and bitch sessions, getting drawn into other teams’ meetings two feet from my head, listening to people directly in front of me lead conference calls I don’t care about, and generally makes me claustrophobic when I can’t stretch without poking the guy next to me (who is breathing too #@$&-ing loud) in the eye. Most of my job is thinking, reading, and typing. I like quiet, no interruptions, a diet coke, and maybe a bit of bebop music during these situations. It just makes things go faster and keeps my blood pressure at a reasonable level. Which brings up …

9. Do not micromanage my time on task. I love working for multinational corporations that write off amounts ten times my salary as rounding error, but then want to jump my ass if they determine a task should take no more than 40 hours, and I logged 42 hours to get it done by the deadline (it was actually 50 hours, but I didn’t count the 8 hours I worked at home), especially if the extra time required was due to the stuff in #8. This also ties into …

10. At least pretend to listen to employee opinions. I usually pick this up studying your responses to a few carefully placed questions during the interview, but it’s surprising how often I find hiring managers (particularly younger, insecure ones) are so easily put on the defensive when an employee offers an opinion or *gasp* suggestion. I think my favorite example was when, as a contractor, my 20-something millennial boss cut me off mid-sentence in a meeting with the phrase, “Yes, that’s all well and good, but in my experience…” Like, look, ya little pipsqueak, I’ve been doing this since you were in diapers. When was this experience, last week?! Even if you ignore my opinion because you think I’m an idiot, you will let me finish my sentence when we’re in a public setting.

So there ya go. Ten demands. Maybe it makes me sound like a cranky old fart, maybe it’s the reason I’m blacklisted by most hiring agencies in the city, but life is to short to put up with a job you’re not happy at. I’ll pay a finder’s fee, or take a discount on my salary, if anyone can prove to me that jobs like these are still out there.

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That Time of Year …

100% true exchange …

Me: Alexa, play Christmas FM…

Alexa: Playing Christmas music on iHeart Radio…

♫ Have a Holly, jolly Christmas… ♫

Me: Ew … FUCK NO … not iHeart … Play Christmas.FM on TuneIn.com …

” … is currently listening from St. Michael’s hospital in Dublin. So, we dedicate this song to her. Here’s ‘The Christmas Shoes’…”

Me: Alexa, what the f*ck is wrong with me?!

Alexa: I’d rather not answer that.

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What’s Going on Here?

It’s scary to think that, decades later, in a completely different part of the country, 3rd graders still magically wake up one morning knowing about these paper fortune teller things and how to make them. Okay, in the south we called them Snapdragons, she calls them fortune tellers, the most-common name is Cootie Catcher.

Point being, like so much playground culture, this is oddly universal, varies less than an accent might from region to region, is usually taught to you by a peer (not as curriculum), and few people can remember how and where they acquired the knowledge. What is this?! Jungian collective conscious? DNA memory? Darwinian survival instinct? Alien telepathic transmission.

Screw common core and iStep … figure out how THIS apparently subconscious anthropological communication works and teach them THAT way…

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Has Anybody Seen My Youthful Naivety?

Sorry, Lisa. I’d love to move to New York, and the money is awesome, but the only things I still have a “deep rooted” passion for are creme horns and about half the Venom Mob catalog. I can offer you “likes it better than EDI mapping, but not as much as domestic lite beer.” Sorry, after 25+ years of dealing with recruiter promises, I just can’t engage enthusiasm for a “day job,” no matter how hard you try to make it sound like a cross between a Carribean vacation and fulfilling my life’s purpose.

Seriously, why do all postings and email solicitations suddenly read like this?! “We need someone who LIVES AND BREATHES to perform regulatory audits!” “The right candidate is someone who gets fired up to write technical specs!” “We have an EXCITING OPENING for someone who spontaneously orgasms at the thought of offshore project management.”

The warning flag going off in my head finishes these sentences with, “… because anyone doing it for the money will be sorely disappointed.” Can we just be honest for once and make the post read, “You need a health plan. We want your soul, but will settle for some of your moderately-specialized experience and skills. We promise we’ll be nice about it and ‘occasionally’ let you have a life outside the office.” Because, that’s how these things really end up in my experience.

Okay, I’ve become a curmudgeon. I have a low tolerance for insults to my intelligence and I can’t fake enthusiasm. I don’t think I fit in the modern workforce anymore.

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Looks Like I Picked the Wrong Specialization

So, I guess somebody horked off their developer the other day …

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Pet Peeve #14

UntitledWho do I hate more here? Is it PayJunction, who seems to think their policy of gaming the system as a standard business practice will endear me to change Lifelong Credo #27: Never work for, or trust, a company with ‘Pay,’ ‘Quick,’ or ‘Easy’ in their name, or who thinks that redundant repetition of the same ad will somehow make a career in sales and resulting pay cut and loss of 50 IQ a viable option for me at this stage in life?  Or is it LinkedIn, who in addition to not being able to respond to complaints of phishing from multiple, identical fake accounts on their site, also can’t seem to spot multiple irrelevantly-tagged job postings. Seriously, a part time intern should be able to ensure than when I search on Project Management jobs in Indianapolis, that I don’t get flooded with over 60 copies of the same post for a “100% Commission Sales” position in every other city in central Indiana?

Update:  Worse, they apparently PayJunction RE-posts these every day, because this is now day 3 of the great flood, and my filters specifically ask only for jobs posted within the last 24 hours.

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Pet Peeve #10 …

The latest “fantastic deal” from Comcast/XFinity …

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Seriously, I would like to believe there is a special place in hell for people who package their corporate junk advertising to look like priority mail coming from an individual.

I’m thinking they go somewhere on the 8th circle, in one of the bolgias (malicious fraudulents) … right between people who auto-roll video loudly at page load, and people who claim to be “fans” of a band but secretly only like a couple of their most-popular albums.

Seriously, your first interaction with me is to deliberately misrepresent yourself and deceive me into opening your unsolicited sales pitch? Oh, sign me up for whatever “limited time offer” you’re selling.

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Gotta Love Facebook

Facebook:  Your last post is performing better than 95% of your other posts.  You should boost it.
Me: …
Facebook: Your post continues to perform well.  For $10 we can show it to 1500-3000 more people.
Me:  …
Facebook:  No really! Boosting your post will drive more hits and likes to your business.  Boosting your recent popular post will enable you reach thousands more people for just $5.
Me:  Okay, fine.  Here’s $10 bucks.
Facebook:  Your boost is rejected!

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A Rare Parenting Post …

17191499_10155129297615802_693229583783904952_nEpiphanies do seem to come suddenly and from the strangest places … I suppose that’s why they call them epiphanies instead of “thoughts you just have because they make sense.”  Case in point, I have this kid — or small proto-adult — living in my home.  We call her “Lil’ Q.”  She’s six … soon to be seven.  Her hobbies are, for the most part, drawing and writing.  I mean, seriously writing.  Most little girls this age, based on my observation, like to play with dolls or Barbie’s or whatever and play-act scenarios.  Not mine.  We were at the store the other day, and like any completely pwned father, I took her through the toy aisle, thinking I might let her pick out something, seeing as how she was being very well behaved for a six-year-old who had been dragged to at least four stores by her father who was attempting to run weekly errands and such.  So, half-expecting we’d be picking up our forty-fifth or forty-sixth Barbie doll to complete the small army she’s attempting to assemble, I was completely taken aback when she declared, “Actually, I need a new secret journal for my stories and a new song lyric notebook.  I filled up all the pages in my old ones.”

Ummm … those were 100-page composition books your grandmother gave you for Christmas.  That was only, like, two months ago.  Come on, kid, we’ve got a whole toy department.  Are you sure those are full?  Did you write on the backs of the pages and everything, because that comes to something like fifteen pages a day on the days you’re with me?  (She insisted she had, and I later confirmed she was mostly correct.) Sure, whatever. I can buy ten new notebooks for the price of a Barbie doll.  Heck, kid, take four.

Now, it’s not like this was a TOTAL surprise.  She’s got stacks of papers with little poems, song lyrics, and stories she’s written.  I will admit, at one point she shocked me by presenting three pages of a story, complete with punctuation, spelling, and a vocabulary well in advance of a first-grader – that was until I realized she’d spent an entire afternoon diligently copying pages out of a Robert Ludlum novel I was reading.  Not to mention, I’d already been called to a conference with the teacher about Lil’ Q’s … prolificacy.  Apparently, when you give her a writing assignment like “write two lines about what you did last weekend,” MY kid takes two lines PLUS the entire back of the page to craft some weird, semi-surrealistic Madeline L’Engle short story that mashes up Nickelodeon sitcoms, DC comics, and Disney Princesses.  Her teacher admits she has never seen anything like it, and unfortunately, there is no real curriculum in the first grade for encouraging and developing future Kerouacs (who I’m sure she has never read, though she can imitate his prose style with surprising fidelity).

As with most of the things our kids do, this got me thinking back to my childhood.  Sure, at her age, I suppose I too was a budding storyteller.  I had just discovered the joys of the Hardy Boys and Star Trek, and my earliest creative tendencies probably did involve the same odd mash-up storylines acted out by various completely unrelated action figures.  I just don’t remember the driving urge to write them down.  Of course, I had other distractions – piano lessons, little league, friends constantly knocking on the door wanting to go ride bikes.  Hell, it was Mississippi.  We didn’t have that three or four-month stretch where it was too cold to go outside, and kids back then didn’t tend to sit around in isolation playing video games or watching 200 channels of television the way HER friends seem to.  So perhaps this is, in a way, a strange evolution for a 21st-century kid whose dad doesn’t watch or encourage the watching of television.  I’m starting to think we might need to have mandatory TV time.

So, this much sussed out, the next question is, what the hell do you do about it?  Instinctively, I know encouragement is key, and assuming her personality is like mine in most of the other ways, formal instruction or correction is guaranteed to put her off faster than anything.  It took me a while to figure out that this was a key underlying motivation that drove me to computer science (which my parents know NOTHING about) and turned me off of any kind of organized instruction in music or sports (which they were experts in and ALWAYS had a critique of).  Sure, at her teacher’s recommendation, I will offer constructive challenges like making sure stories have beginnings, middles, and ends.  As for spelling and general trivia, I simply direct her to the non-judgmental tutelage of Amazon’s Alexa, although the latter is notoriously bad with homonyms, resulting in a disturbing story last weekend about “meating friends,” which I can only hope was an honest mistake.

As for the rest, I have no idea.  I can very clearly remember my creative bursts as a third or fourth-grader, recording various and sundry “radio plays” on a shoebox cassette recorder, constructing epic D&D modules as a fifth and sixth grader, or attempting to write a sprawling sci-fi novel as a teenager.  Back then, inspiration came from everywhere.  I remember when the briefest glimpse down an alleyway or throwaway line of conversation in a crowd could explode into a million ideas for stories – half the time already played out in my head before I got home to commit them to a more permanent medium.  I also remember the cruel wall of self-awareness that came in high school, when the post-puberty version of me began to ask that most-defeating of questions, “Wait … is this any good?!”  By the end of high school, creativity was quite literally shut down.  Practically overnight, I went from editing fanzines in my bedroom with my buddies to pretty much hating every book, record album, or movie I consumed thinking, “I could have done THAT, and BETTER even.”

Yeah … but, you didn’t.  You were — and by the way, decades later, STILL ARE — too busy worrying about whether it’s any good instead of just producing something you can call “Draft 1.”

So, what’s a proud father to do? Go all “Leopold Mozart/Billy Ray Cyrus” on her? I’ve read/seen/experienced enough to know that you can’t push, discourage, or otherwise interfere with someone else’s creative process. Heck, she’s already given up on ballet lessons and decided she’s going to get her black belt next.  Who am I to stop her?  (Yeah, never finished karate lessons either.)  I could warn her about the Hemingway-esque self-doubt and creative bankruptcy that looms with impending adulthood, though who in the heck ever listens to signs and portents of doom? Hell, if that worked, pretty much every novel ever written would be a LOT shorter … and more boring.  I could just clear her path and let her go, hoping she gets enough momentum to break through or steer around the wall she’s on a collision course with, but would that be enough? Or is there more to be gained letting her clear those paths herself? Or heck, she’s six, maybe by next week she’ll want to be an astronaut or something and will have forgotten all about her writing.  Obviously, I’m Dad.  I’m never going to stand in her way, and I will give her whatever she needs (or asks for), it’s just a weird feeling of helplessness wondering if that’s the most I can do, and should I even be doing THAT.

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He Gets Me. He Really Gets Me.

Okay, Alexa gives me unparalleled access to music and can play a couple of cool trivia type games around bands.  Spotify makes excellent recommendations every Monday and has turned me on to a LOT of cool bands I otherwise never would have found.  However, I really feel like IBM’s Watson and I could be best buds, sitting around drinking beer and analyzing tunes for hours on end.  I normally loathe infographics as tools for those with limited understanding to misinform those with limited attention spans (sorry, my profession is writing very large, very thorough analysis documents, and I enjoy it) but this one seems benign enough.  I’m not sure what measurements and metrics a computer algorithm

I’m not sure what measurements and metrics a computer algorithm uses to infer the meanings of songs and assign emotional scores to those meanings, but I’ll keep searching.  Case in point, Roy Orbison’s “Crying” can really only be objectively considered significantly Sadder than NIN’s “Hurt” if you measure it based on the tone of Roy’s voice (far sadder sounding than Trent’s), or the the fact that it repeats the “sad-related” word “crying” about a bajillion times, where Trent uses lesser-relatable words like pain, hurt, feel, kill only once each.  Otherwise, bumping into your ex (as in Roy’s song) hardly seems on the same plane of sadness as stripping yourself down to your emotional core and not knowing if what’s left is even truly alive (as in Trent’s song).

And don’t get me started on Lovely Rita, a song about getting a parking ticket and realizing you have a homoerotic fetish for guys (or masculine women) in uniforms, being the happiest thing the Beatles ever put out?!

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