Saturday, May 6, 2017

Second Feels Pretty Sad-Talking Careers

In the spirit of "my blog is my own and I can write what I feel", this post is a getting it all off my chest kind of post. I won't be offended, heck, I won't even know, if you close your window right now. On Friday I received the official notice that I didn't get the other job in the partner organization. My dear friend N did get it, and I am happy for her. Between the two of us, she was by far the best fit. She had also been in the running, was still in the running, for the dream job, but has taken herself out of that since accepting the promotion. When the person that would have been my boss called, she was full of appreciation that I applied and interviewed, gave me feedback that it was a very difficult decision, and that she hopes I will consider other opportunities there. She told me that she and the others on the interview team valued my expertise and skills tremendously. I've known her for over twenty years as a genuine person, so don't think this was just to soften the rejection. She also opened the door to discuss my  longer term goals. If you remember, this was the job that I wasn't even sure I wanted, and that in many ways would be only lateral for me. Quite frankly, the job should have been meant for N all along, but requirements to post and interview, plus the potential that N would not want it, was there. Yet, once I got off the call, I sat for a minute or two, and then tears welled up and rolled down my face. 

Second place is just the first place loser. - Dale Earnhardt
Yeah, how I felt after the call.

I've never thought I lived my life in terms of winners and losers, but for the past 10 years I have felt like the harder I have worked, the more likely I am to finish second best. I'm in education, but  in education policy, not direct teaching or administration in schools. Anything policy related seems to reward young and hungry to make a mark (regardless if really making a difference), and for the first 18 years or so of my career, I must have stood out as such. I was hired as a manager  before 30 when on paper there should have been better candidates, and received two promotions over the next 11 years. 

Then it all halted. I was second runner up to the top position, and my career, it feels like, started the downhill skid. I was now past 40, possibly perceived (as DH conjectured) by my now new boss as a threat. Any career moves needed to be lateral or higher, but I was demoted structurally through a reorganization that brought in a first class A-hole to lead operations. I made the decision to take a new external position that I thought was lateral, but turns out, was overly glorified in the posting and in recruiter conversations. Once I took it, I have learned that young and hungry have the clout. You either come brand new to the organization as a manager or higher, or you will stay in the bowels of cubicles until you retire, unless, you start young and take every hint of an opportunity. Then, you are earmarked as the cultivated future, and managers jump through hoops to keep them happy. It is a bizarre culture in which people who came to the organization as already recognized experts, but not in a managerial role, are literally locked until they leave or retire, on the rung of the ladder they came in on.

Gosh I sound like a bitter old pill! I wrote last Monday that I had already realized I didn't get the job do to the length of time of not hearing anything. I was going to put forth renewed focus and energy on doing my job well, and potentially influencing the way work happens in our division. That still goes;I have no other option. I can't help that the official rejection stings, and I'm feeling like a worn out shoe. I'm good for kicking around in a muddy garden pulling weeds, and planting flowers. But when time comes for the dance, I'll be put aside in a corner while the fresh little kitten heels come out along with the flowers I planted and cared for being carried in a bouquet. I hate that I've tried to make my career not matter, but it still does, a lot. Second feels pretty sad.

18 comments:

  1. Having not been a "career woman" I really don't get the whole notion of "my self-worth is tied up in my job" thing. I've had jobs but nothing long term which I'd call a career.
    I'm sorry you feel like sloppy seconds, but work is just one aspect of your life so maybe focus on your family(nuclear, not Hubs massive tribe)for awhile until this hurt stings less. I think I nice cup of good coffee is in order too. ;-)

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    1. My post was specifically about the career aspect of my life, and not all parts, and certainly I don't put my entire life's self worth on my job. After hours, my focus is on my family, friends, health, and hobbies, and I'll continue to put effort there. I can't deny though, even though I try, that with an average time investment of over 46 hours a week, and the fact that my family relies on my income to cover more than 50% of our expenses and savings, plus health insurance, being stalled/plateaued matters to me. I think I'll have that coffee now!

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  2. I feel your pain. We are in a similat situation with my husbands job and quite frankly it sucks. (Sorry about the language). I left my former job due to similar reasons and am now struggling to build tutoring clientele. It is so hard and I feel like you that we have plateaued and it stinks. Sorry just wanted you to know you are not alone in feeling that way. Hope you have a good weekend!

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    1. I know I made the right choice to leave my last job,but was hoping it was to improve my work part of life. I wish you and your husband luck and I appreciate knowing I'm not alone in my feelings.

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  3. I'm a competitive soul and when I finish second I always feel like a loser even if it was something I didn't really care if I won. As to catering to the young and "vicious", they do, no doubt about it.
    Hope it all works out for you.

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    1. I'm sure I was probably perceived as young and hungry in years gone by. In my head, I feel so much younger!

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  4. I do understand the being passed over and around bit. Self-worth is part of everything, including salary, unfortunately! It is a bitter pill to swallow. Some in your position say that going to a different company works best. I don't know what that would be in education! I was going to apply for a job with a space industry in a position because the money from Washington required there be an educational element. I was not necessarily going to teach. However, I needed to know how to make lesson plans and teach others how to implement my plans. Of course, I am close to NASA in AL. Unfortunately, I got another job which was miserable.

    Can you get a job at a college as a professor, teaching what you do and know?

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    1. Wow, that sounds like it might have been interesting at NASA Nice idea about teaching, but not probably anything I could realistically do.

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  5. Since I am like Sluggy and have had jobs but not a career, I am not really in a position to understand your angst fully. However My Beloved Sister has navigated the career ship since she was right out of college, putting it all into her job. Over time it has become obvious her advertising career path's plum positions are populated by younger people. (Sorry for the alliteration but I couldn't stop myself)
    We keep saying we will go into some cottage business together when she retires.

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    1. Alliteration works for me. I bet advertising is probably pretty tough to move ahead when so many young people go into the field.

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  6. Hey all. I get that career and work are not life affirming, and I partially wrote this for catharsis. Just venting through the keyboard is sometimes enough. I am fortunate that I have a good career, a loving family, and life outside of my job. It just has gotten tiring to be seen as both indispensable (words I hear regularly) and be passed over. I like Anne's cottage initiative idea, and may be the direction I go.

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    1. "Nobody is irreplaceable" is the phrase that was often bandied about my workplace.

      There is no need to explain why you wrote your post .. it's your blog! (Thank goodness you only explained and didn't apologize for the post!)

      Being passed over in the workplace is bad enough, it's also hard going to interviews where you are old enough to be the interviewer's parent and at the risk of sounding arrogant, can run the whole interview process better than the interviewer can. And not even get a courtesy reply that you weren't chosen - most likely because the job was given to a friend of the interviewer - and you notice the same job being advertised again within 6 months. Repeat x 3.

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  7. Sorry to hear you didn't get the job. I know what it is to get stuck with only lateral or downward moves and it does such! I don't believe the same thing happens to men, at least to the same degree. It was the main reason I opted for an early retirement. I'm so glad I did!

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    1. While returning too early isn't financially viable, I want to use these "rejections" as fuel to create an opportunity for myself. It is hard in the moment though to think of a rejection as motivation.

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  8. Hugs. It is hard to feel like things aren't progressing in your career, regardless of if the job is a perfect fit. I recently applied for a job & didn't get it, and they went with a much more junior candidate. I was pretty surprised, because I have an extremely strong performance trajectory. It happens, and I'm not going to lie - I was really sad about it. Probably not helped by the fact that I found out on a business trip, and was insanely jet lagged. I wasn't exactly at my emotional best. ;-)

    Even though I'm not planning on staying long in my current company (less than a year is the plan), & then hope to downshift a bit, we are going through a major reorganization, and I still scoped my job to be very senior (more leadership than I even have now). Stepping back isn't in my DNA, and while I'm there, it's important for me to be making progress & to be successful. I will likely go up for promo again in the fall. So, my extremely long winded . . . I can very much relate. It's okay to have these feelings, and they are totally rational & fine. I typically decide how I want to deal with it (training, coaching, mentoring, do nothing) & come up with a plan, because it gives me a feeling of control after a setback.

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    1. In the reorg fomr my last comapny, I relaly though my job was going to be made more senior-all the writing was there. Then a complete new direction, with someone who was hired form outside to do further operations work, and he and I did not connect at all. After I left, and my position became two, they are both now restructured to VP positions, which again, created a lot of hurt and can't help make me feel I was targeted. I agree though, I have to use the set backs and figure out how I want to deal with them. No one is going to hand anyone anything. I feel like May is a good time for better focus on things that put me entirely in the drivers seat.

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  9. So sorry to hear that the job did not work out. I have been there as well. I interviewed for a position that appeared to be a good fit, particularly since the CEO of the organization (whom I had known for years) saw me awaiting my second interview and told me that he was looking forward to me joining them. Had a really good second interview and discussed salary, etc. Then politics happened. I worked for an outside vendor, and the CEO of a major competitor of my film was on the Board of the organization that was trying to recruit me. He was a golfing buddy of the Board chair-they visited the
    CEO of the recruiting organization days after my interview and told the CEO to look at more candidates. At the same time, the competitor CEO had one of his subordinates reach out and try to hire me for his own organization. They wanted me out of the way. The original organization where I interviewed keep stringing me along for more than a year and apologizing for the delay in getting me an offer. In the end, they hired a male 15 years younger than me. I cried my eyes out...but after licking my wounds, I began to enjoy my existing job more. In the end, I was glad that I did not get the other job offer. Time heals most wounds.

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    1. Wow-that was major crappy. I guess if they treat candidates that way, they might be pretty difficult to work for. I'm starting to think the first dream job wasn't so much a dream.

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