Monday, March 14, 2011

The Job I Didn’t Get and the One I Didn’t Take

I tutored a student from Korea once and she told me that in Korea, unlike in America, “13” is a lucky number.  “13” has always held special significance for me…my first apartment was #13, my bank account ends in 13, there are 13 Denises at my work, and there are 13 in a baker’s dozen and who doesn’t love an extra cookie now and then?  A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed for a new position at the federal agency where I work.  It’s a position that involves increased responsibilities, challenging and exciting projects, and, oh yeah, it’s a 13.  That’s a grade level in the government’s GS system.  In my agency, a 13 is like the brass ring, it puts you on the road to “management,” not to mention a cubicle with a window, or at least a cubicle where you can get cell phone reception.  I threw my hat into the ring so that I could get practice interviewing.  Friday morning, my phone rang. 
I started working at my federal agency while I was a student in grad school.  It was where I wanted to work and I didn’t care that my job was as low on the professional hierarchy as you could get…I was in.  I didn't even have a cubicle when I started and when I finally got one, it was the tiniest one you could imagine.  And I had to share it! 

I eventually applied for a permanent position, not much higher than the temporary position I had as a student but it was a step closer to my chosen career.  Everyone was sure that I would get it.  But I didn’t.  And I was devastated.  Think of the worse break-up you’ve ever had and multiply it by 100.  I went home and sobbed and then called my mom and sobbed some more.  That experience taught me a valuable lesson:  never get yourself excited about a job, especially if your fate lies in the hands of someone in St. Louis.  (I don’t have anything against St. Louis, that’s just where our HR department is located.)  It turns out - not getting that job was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I ended up getting another position that ultimately led to the job…the career…that I have now. 
A couple of years ago, I applied for another job in a different part of our agency (the Presidential Libraries part…for the newest library in Texas.)  I interviewed with a scary formidable lady who was half-deaf and who kept asking me to speak up.  I kept silently telling her that she should turn her hearing aid up (note – hearing aid humor is totally acceptable if one, in fact, wears a hearing aid oneself.)  A few weeks later, I received a job offer.  I pretty much knew during the interview that the job wasn’t right for me.  But there was a part of me that thought, if I move to Texas, my life will change, everything will be awesome, and my cubicle will be huge (everything's bigger in Texas, right?) 

When I talked to my then-supervisor, SuperJ, about taking the job, he said to me, “You think you’re going to get off that plane and there’s going to be a cowboy waiting for you with a sign that says here I am, welcome to your new life.”  It’s a testament to how well SuperJ knows me that he knew a) I would expect a cowboy to be waiting for me and b) I would expect that cowboy to be holding a sign.    

And he knew what my gut was telling me the whole time.  Moving to Texas was less about taking a job and more about changing my life.  But just because you change your location doesn’t mean you change your life.  I didn’t take that job.  And that was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made.  I’ve grown up and grown more as a person, I’ve gotten better at what I do, I’m braver when faced with challenges, and I’m not expecting any sign-holding cowboys to change my life for me anymore. 
Friday morning, my phone rang.  I was offered that lucky 13 position.  My friends/coworkers/therapists may not have believed me, but I was truly shocked.  I never expected to get a job offer.  Now, I had a big decision to make.  Keep doing the work that I'm passionate about or strike out and do something new.  It is the year of adventurous Denise after all.  I promised myself I'd always tell you (my loyal readership) the truth, so I’ll admit it, I totally freaked out (the Valley Girl homage is totally for you, SuperJ).  There might was some hand flailing and panicking.  I received advice, solicited and otherwise, from trusted colleagues, including Respected Pal Who Knew Me When I Was in a Tiny Cubicle.  He went through all of my options with me and then gave me the best advice of all, take the weekend to mull things over and think about what I really wanted.  So, that’s what I did.  I went home and tuned out all the other voices and opinions and I listened to the one voice that I need to listen to more often.  My own. 

And while I did not wallow (as instructed by TopChef), I did develop one helluva case of stress pee.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations! But don't keep us waiting - what are you going to do?