All’s quiet on the work front

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about the day job.  The reason: I’m burnt.

Crispy critters.  Toasty-oats.  Done like the proverbial dinner.

I’ve been burned out since April or thereabouts.  It was about the same time that two things occurred to me:

  1. Regardless how well I plan and how hard I work, someone will inevitably ask me to throw everything out the window and do something completely different.
  2. Regardless how well I do, I will never be a regional consultant on a permanent basis.

I was just coming down off the high of achieving my training certification and eager to begin the next phase of my development as a certified trainer.  First, I’d have to assess a few other candidates, and then I could begin to coach.

In the next breath, I was told that the certification program was on hold.  Our internal college was in transition and it was unknown when the program would resume.  To date, I have heard nothing.

Though my performance and learning agreement (PLA) was fairly glowing, I knew I would not remain with the team.

I knew this to begin with.  My assignment was part of a deal and was never intended to be permanent.  It was difficult to hang onto this reality when everyone on my old team was telling me that I wouldn’t be returning.  My star was ascending.

Everyone on my new team was eager to keep me.  To his credit, my  new manager never so much as implied there was a possibility.  Fair enough.

I applied for two other positions, both of which I was screened out of because I lacked the requisite experience.  The only way to gain said experience?  At-level assignments, staffed through unofficial expressions of interest.

By the time summer arrived, I didn’t really want to remain a consultant, at least not in the position of regional training coordinator.  The landscape of the program I administered was ever-changing, and, as I mentioned above, all my hard work was largely disregarded.

Then I had to work even harder, and those efforts, too, ended up going to waste.

I began to hope that I would return to my substantive position, despite the reduction in salary.

Unexpectedly, the consultant pool I was in was extended to the end of August, incidentally the end of my acting assignment.  A couple of consultants had retired, and I felt that I might obtain one of those positions.

Until I learned that regionally, consultants were being centralized.  Now, if I wanted to be a consultant, I’d have to move, disrupting Phil and his job, and leaving both of our mothers (still independent, but aging) without a significant part of their support systems.

I’d already made it clear when I made the pool that I would not be moving.

So now, due to geography (ridiculous because most of our work is virtual) I am out of the running, even though my pool has been extended again, to the end of September.  It’s sad, because I have skills that are in demand.

Despite fishing my wish and getting back on the training team, it’s not the same.  I can’t help but feel that it’s a kind of failure.  I know that this is not the case, but my feelings are what they are.  I also feel bitter.

There was a time when I thought I would never be able to rise very far in the ranks.  Though my office is a hub, there weren’t very many opportunities for advancement.

That changed and I moved up two pay grades in as many years.  Now I feel that again, I’m “stuck.”

Don’t get me wrong, the training team is great and our manager is awesome.  The phrase “force of nature” comes to mind when I think of her.  I used to be so happy.  I thought I’d found my work “home” and was content to stay there.

It’s hard to go back when you’ve had your world expanded, though.

I’m just totally burnt out.  Most days I wake up asking myself if I can, in fact, go to work.  I’m so disappointed when I can’t find a reason to stay home.

So I’m going to be taking some time away from work starting October 15.  I’m hoping that the time off will allow me to address some of the negative feelings I have and return to work in a positive and productive frame of mind.

Priorities.  While I have debt, I need to keep them straight.

Does your day job get you down?  Do you have any options that can help you to recapture your love for your job?

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How does chaos become complexity?

Yesterday, I came across this wonderful post by Harold Jarche: Complex is the new normal.

In it, he posits that complexity is the new “normal” state of business and that those who exist in chaotic, or disordered business environments need to shift into complexity to be truly innovative.

For definitions of complex, complicated, and chaotic systems, please refer to another of his posts: It’s not complicated, you see?

The bottom line is that we function in a constant state of change these days, and depending on the specific pattern your business adopts, or falls into, you may have to take a different approach to personal and professional development.

Change and change management

My employer has just hit its stride in the business transformation game and right now, it’s utter chaos.  Add to that budget cuts that are resulting in further staff reductions.  Still business has to be done, training has to be delivered and we all have to find some way to deal.  The environment is hostile, reactionary, protectionist, and uncommunicative.

It’s difficult to remain positive in such an environment.  I must admit, I’m not doing well in this department.

We’re facing one of the biggest and most prolonged processing backlogs ever and employees are getting letters.  No one is safe, I’ve learned.  Even those who were assured that their jobs were not in jeopardy are learning otherwise.

What concerns me is that once the main thrust of the transformation process is completed, and the dust begins to settle, the chain reaction continues.  Several positions are staffed at a ratio of processing staff, including mine.  If insufficient numbers have been culled by attrition (those in a position to are seriously considering retirement) or promotion, further reorganization will be necessary.

Fortunately, I’ll have some time to wait for that nether shoe to fall.

My boss and team are a clever bunch, and they’ve decided to wade into the fray by offering Change Management training to affected staff.  Because I think it’s an important and valuable service offering, I’ve thrown my hat into that ring and will be part of the implementation team.  In other words, I’ll be training again 🙂  My wee trainer’s heart rejoices.

But change management is only part of the puzzle.  In order to pull out of this chaotic nose-dive we’re in, we have to strive for a more ordered, but still deadly flat spin, a more complex state from which we might have a chance of recovering.  If we’re clever.

Failing that, we could always eject.

But how do we achieve a complex state?

In an associated post, In an increasingly complex world, Harold Jarche shares Robert Warwicks’s seven essential criteria to consider in an increasingly complex world:

  • Go out of your way to make new connections.
  • Adopt an open, enquiring mind-set, refusing to be constrained by current horizons.
  • Embrace uncertainty and be positive about change – adopt an entrepreneurial attitude.
  • Draw on as many different perspectives as possible; diversity is non-optional.
  • Ensure leadership and decision-making are distributed throughout all levels and functions.
  • Establish a compelling vision which is shared by all partners in the whole system.
  • Promote the importance of values – invest as much energy into relationships and behaviours as into delivering tasks.

Jarche states that these criteria are a good place to start when trying to align one’s business environment to high-functioning complex from less efficient chaos, something he says he doesn’t see in most businesses these days.

I’m trying.  Sweet googly-moogly, I’m trying.  No “but” face here.  I’m seriously givin’ ‘er.

Will let you know how this all pans out.

Is your workplace in a state of flux?  Is there any strategy in place to help staff adapt and grow?  How are you dealing with change personally?  Let me know.  Seriously … commiserate!

The bitter and the sweet

I promised last week that I would post about a bittersweet experience I’ve had at work.  As with anything I write on Writerly Goodness, it’s a bit of a story 🙂

I’ve written previously about how I became a trainer and course designer.  All I’ll add to that now is that I love my job and I honestly thought I’d found my home.  I had no interest in leaving.

Still, the wisdom at work is that if you see a job-posting that you’d be interested in, apply for it.  If nothing else, you get the experience of going through an “assessment process” and you get to find out if others in the organization see value in what you do.

In 2010, I’d missed out on a couple of plum postings, both times because I was out on the road training, and didn’t have my resume, transcripts, or copies of my degrees with me.  All would have been required.  Ah well, I thought, this might be the universe telling me that I’m right (for a change).  I’m happy where I am and I shouldn’t mess with it.

In April of 2011, I saw a posting for a courseware writer.  At this point, my training world-view was just beginning to be expanded with techie tools, and free Webinars, and all that good stuff.  Even then, I knew that course writing was a direction I’d love to go in.  So I applied.

One thing I have to tell you about assessment processes at my employer is that they are long.  Sometimes a year can pass before you hear anything back.  I was content to wait though.  So many other things were happening in my life at the time, I probably couldn’t have done testing, interviews, or myself, justice.

In July, I received a notice: I’d made it past the screening and would be writing an exam.

So I did.

Then in September, in the midst of another crazy time at work, I saw a posting for a consultant.  My position is called an advisor.  That’s where training falls in our organization, and consultant would be a step up.  The call was broad, across business lines and all over the province.  I thought, what the heck, let’s give it a try, not even thinking that I would be successful.

That testing was in October, a fairly quick turnaround for my employer, and the test was followed by a phone interview in November.  The results were to be released by the end of the calendar year.

I still hadn’t heard anything about the course writer process, and as the possibility that I could become a consultant became more and more real, I started to get concerned.  By that time, I was more convinced than ever that I was where I was meant to be, career-wise.  Did I want to become a consultant?  Would I like it?  I had no idea.

The promise of a swift assessment was fulfilled and I made the pool of candidates along with another colleague.

Then things at work began to get tense and uncomfortable.  My colleagues and I were delegated to processing for three months and all training activities were cancelled.  Employees were being culled by virtue of the non-renewal of their contracts.  Restructuring, a process that is on-going and painful, had started in earnest and people were relocating, changing business lines, and generally doing whatever they could to preserve their jobs.

I didn’t expect anything to result of the consultant pool.  There was no budget for hiring, so why should I expect anything?

Slowly, things began to even out.  My team returned to training, and the initiative that had been postponed by our return to processing.  My manager announced that she was pregnant and going on maternity leave effective June first.

And when I least expected it, I got the call.

Today was my first official day as Acting Training Coordinator (a position that falls within the consultant role) and with luck, I’ll get to hang onto it until March 31, 2013.  Eeps!

The good things:

  • New challenges
  • Steep learning curve (call me masochistic, but I thrive on this stuff)
  • Acting pay (had to say it)
  • A chance to find out if I like it
  • A chance to find out if I’m good at it

The bad things:

  • Leaving my team (I heart them so much!)
  • Fear of failure (and it’s not a wee thing)
  • Not training anymore (my last gig was last week—sadness)
  • Having to off-load all my work and special projects on my team mates
  • More responsibility and pressure (I have a budget to manage—eek!)

So there you are: my bittersweet rhapsody 🙂  It’s more sweet than bitter, to be sure.  I’m doing the snoopy 🙂

I’m celebrating tomorrow when I receive my Silver award with some of my team mates.  That was for the SMART Board project.  It looks like it might get a revamp this year and I may get to train again.  Happiness is just waiting to be found.

Do you have a success story that presents as a mixed bag?

What happened afterward

Last time on My history as a so-called writer: NEOVerse opened new possibilities 🙂

About the same time that I started working for ACCUTE, my sister-in-law told me to apply for a job with her employer.  I did and before the year was out, I was once again working two jobs at the same time, up to sixty hours a week.

Exhausted, I left ACCUTE and stuck with the better career opportunity.  It was in a call centre, not something I’d generally choose for myself, but in Sudbury at the time, it was a very good job (considering pay, benefits, and pension) and I needed that.

It felt like selling out, though.  Plus, I wasn’t suited to it.  Every negative call stayed with me.  Every anguished personal tale made me feel guilty that I couldn’t do anything to help.  I tried working full-time, but couldn’t hack it long-term and returned to a part-time schedule after six months.

It was at this time that my depression, which I’d been trying to deny since I was seventeen, reared its ugly head in earnest and I had to deal. Medication and therapy provided a short-term solution, but eventually, I weaned myself off the meds and tried to manage my illness through diet, exercise, meditation, and persistent awareness of what my body, heart, and mind were telling me.

They were screaming at me to get out, but I didn’t have any other options.

Term employment led to permanent, a mortgage (negotiated to consolidate our debt including our sizable school loans), and a car loan.

I was an adult now, with an adult job, adult debts, and adult responsibilities.  I was a home-owner.  All creativity seemed to vanish.  Though I was still certain that I wanted to write, I was unable to muster the necessary dedication.  Writing was now something reserved for vacation.

This went on for years.  I tried to wedge my butt in my desk chair, but it never stayed for long.  I did pull out my old project from time to time, but couldn’t focus. I joined the Sudbury Writers’ Guild and attended a fall workshop with Rosemary Aubert.  To be honest, I’d never heard of her before, but the workshop was great and I was inspired.

When my grandfather passed away, part of my small inheritance went toward a lap top computer.  That helped a little too.  I wasn’t chained indoors in the middle of summer anymore.  I wrote more that year.

I was successful in an internal competition at work.  Better pay and a better job.  It was a good thing.  Just before I started, the Sudbury Writers’ Guild scored another coup: Nino Ricci.  That was when my writing life changed.

In the wake of that workshop, I started writing every day.

That was the real beginning of my life as a writer.

Took me long enough, didn’t it?

Gratuitous links regarding the butt in chair phenomenon:

____________________________________________________________________________

This is my last post in My history as a so-called writer for the foreseeable.  Other tales of Writerly Goodness can be found under my categories: Work in progress and Authorial name dropping.  Next week, my blogging schedule will change, so stay tuned.

I will continue to post in Select poetry, Alchemy Ink, Work in progress, and Breaking open the mind, my learning category.

An idea that didn’t go anywhere …

"Here Lies a Good Idea. Don't Let Your Id...

“Here Lies a Good Idea. Don’t Let Your Idea Die. Put it in the Suggestion Box Today” – NARA – 514482 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So last year I had this idea for a way to evolve training for both our clients and our staff.

Essentially, the idea was to have online, self-study, or asynchronous, courses for our client groups, to teach them about our business, what we could do for them, and how to make the most of our service offerings.

A secondary tier, or phase, of the training would have introduced clients to the way we do our work, a kind of insider’s guide, which I termed a certification program.  Taking some of these more advanced courses could have been an asset for our hiring group, so that when jobs were posted, the links to these courses could be included, and completing them could give applicants an advantage, because they would have some knowledge of our business and the work that we do.

Internally, our training products could be converted to online, self-study materials as well, designed to harmonize with the public ones, and in conjunction with informal learning strategies like coaching and mentoring, replace the costly and time-consuming, in-class training we now provide.

I contacted a colleague to get her opinion, and she graciously offered to give me a venue to discuss the concept and get some feedback.  I had never written a proposal in our business before, nor did I know how to go about gaining approval for my idea.

While the session was great and I got some serious validation for the idea, I didn’t get much with respect to next steps.  There was a plan in the works for a kind of online suggestion box for employee ideas, but that wouldn’t be up and running until sometime in the next fiscal year.  Aside from that, I really didn’t have any kind of internal platform to promote the idea, gain support, and move forward with it.

I did follow up with some key management figures from other departments, and tried to escalate the idea through my own management team, but didn’t get much response with respect to who I could approach next, or support with respect to how I could present the idea.

I had to be set it aside for the time being.

Though the suggestion box was eventually launched in September of 2011, and I submitted my idea in early October, I haven’t heard anything since.

Maybe my employer isn’t ready to enact my idea yet.

Still, I think it was pretty good, and even if it doesn’t go anywhere, I consider it to be one of my accomplishments.

Have you had an idea that you weren’t sure how to promote or what to do with?  Who did you approach and where did it go from there?

Life before training

I’m talking about my work life here, and before I became a trainer, I can honestly say that work was hell.

Before I go any further, I just want to establish one fact:  I disagree with the whole concept of work as something that we have to do to earn money, pay bills, and be a ‘productive member of society.’  I have no problem with work itself.  I garden; I help my spouse renovate the house; I’m writing a novel.  That’s all hard work and I don’t shy away from it.  I just don’t like the necessity of selling the better part of my life so I can live the rest of it the way I want.  It’s a devil’s bargain.

When I was young, it was retail, after school and on weekends.  In university, it was seasonal, contract jobs.  Now I can’t say that I hated all the jobs that I had.  I enjoyed working in the library, working as a student counsellor, helping students write resumes and find job placements, I enjoyed the pet stores I worked in, and the veterinary clinic.  Retail and food service, not so much.  Being a security guard was the worst, despite the canine companion.

I enjoyed some of the things I got to do, like designing Web pages (in the old type-it-out-in-Wordpad days) and desktop publishing.  I liked filming and editing horse shows.  I was good at teaching, but aside from the subject matter, I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the rest of it.

The problem was that until I started working for my current employer in 2001, all of my jobs were short-term, with no future.  I was always worried where my next pay cheque would come from.  Plans were out of the question.  I ended up on Employment Insurance. Twice.

So I got my first real job … in a call centre.  Six and a half years and varied, frantic applications for internal job postings later, I became an adjudicator.  While a vast improvement over my previous position, it was still a job, something I did to pay the bills.  A year and a half later, I was successful in another competition and obtained my current job.

I started off monitoring new trainees but soon had my first experience as a corporate trainer.  I liked it!  I immersed myself in my job and tried to do my very best.  Soon, I was rewarded with further opportunities for certification, new toys with which to deliver training (SMART Board) and the means of developing a collaborative work platform for my virtual team (SharePoint).

From there, I dove into the world of free Webinars on various aspects of learning, course design, and training delivery; I started writing courses, creating videos, and designing in SharePoint.  I became a social learner, a mutant learner, and, as I’ve dubbed myself, a learning mutt.  It was my day-job that brought me to the world of social media, platform-building, and this blog.

I’m now well on my way to becoming a certified trainer through my employer’s program, I’ve taken courses on curriculum design and project management.  I’m about to become one of a group of trainers who will be delivering a newly developed business writing course.

I’m having as much fun now as I did in university and everything that I’m learning feeds my creative soul.

I still don’t like working, but if I didn’t have to work, I might still choose to be a trainer and course designer.

Go figure …

Have you found, or lucked into, a job you like?  Are you still searching?  Share your journey!