Crossroads

Is it time to leave, in order to find success and sense of worth?

Last week, I attended a going away party. In the midst of the fun and the enjoyment, a long-held thought crept into my mind again. It was hard to dismiss it.

My gear is stuck in neutral. I’m at the proverbial crossroads of what the rest of my life will end up being.

Everyone around me, friends and acquaintances, are landing new jobs, careers, getting married, starting families, you know, all of the good things that we celebrate. I celebrate for my friends when great news arrive, and I’m there when bad news hits the door.

Then there’s the feeling of “why is it that everyone is having the best year of their lives, and I’m going nowhere?”

I’m a positive person for the most part. I try not to let anyone in on how draining and depressing it is when you feel that no one understands how much you struggle to survive each day. There is no such thing as living life to the fullest, because life isn’t perfect.

It never was perfect.

Is it that everyone is afraid to understand, because they don’t want to “feel” the emotions that you are experiencing? Are we doing all we can to deny being vulnerable to these feelings, because we have to suppress them, to appease everyone?

When someone asks me about my job search, I tell them my current status. Then, they conclude with “…well, I’ll keep my eye out on anything (for you).”

Please do me a favor: stop doing it.

Most of you will never keep an eye out for any job openings for anyone, not even for a friend. No one is willing to risk their reputation and credibility if they recommend a friend.

Someone I know said “it’s not who you know, but it’s who knows you.” The people in my age group, and the non-profit/volunteer world, knows who I am.

The business community doesn’t know who I am. To most of them, I’m a 37-year old Generation X single professional male, who is “invisible” to them. I’m not the superstar up-and-coming vice president, account manager, event planner that they can groom to be the new leaders.

I’ll never be picked to be in the class of Forty Under 40 or be profiled in dsm Magazine. That’s reality. I’m willing to accept that as fact.

I have done everything to build identity capital: volunteer, network, being active in different professional and social circles. As Meg Jay pointed out, “identity capital begets identity capital.” (Note, Jay’s talk isn’t just for 20-somethings. 30-somethings need to watch this too.)

After nearly four years of doing this, the result has come up empty.

In my personal life, time is running out on me to find and start a family, and establishing “solid” roots in the community. I’m 37 years old. I shouldn’t be single and lonely. I don’t mind doing things alone, but loneliness is a silent killer.

It infuriates me when friends and acquaintances blindly utter the “if you don’t think about it, it’ll happen” line when it comes to seeking a mate. If I “don’t think about it”, it will never happen.

From my standpoint, it’s the worst advice ever to offer to a person. It tells that person several things:

  • You don’t think they are worthy of dating or having a mate. They’re not worthy of love.
  • You’re discouraging them from trying, intentionally or unintentionally, and
  • If they did find that person they choose to be with, you would be jealous as hell.

Saying that I’m better off single is an insult, if you want my honest opinion. I don’t tell you that being married or dating is a waste of time or a huge mistake. The time to pick my family (importantly a mate) is now. I don’t have the time to “take as much time as I need” to find someone to be with.

Everyone’s “got the right to love”, right? Why deny anyone that?

There is a point where I have to ask the inevitable: should I leave Des Moines, in order to find success personally and professionally?

Because I feel nothing is going to positively happen for me here. I’ve been patient and have kept my sanity in check long enough. I’m tired of being the one to see someone get a new job, watch someone walk down the aisle, and get noticed for business achievement.

When will my “best year” happen?  Today? Tomorrow? Never?

Interchangable Titles

I’m confused.

No, seriously, I am confused.

For a long time, I felt I needed a “mentor” to help develop and guide me through my professional profile and create opportunities with respects to a career.

Not too long ago, someone mentioned that a “coach” is better than a mentor because that person will coach you to be the best in your chosen or new career.

Then, I was told “you don’t need a mentor. What you need is an ‘influencer’, who can influence your career.”

A few days ago, someone tossed all of that aside and suggested that I need to find a “sponsor” to advocate for me in the workplace.

I raise a practical question: where am I going to find a “mentor”, “coach”, “influencer”, and a “sponsor” all at once?  Are they the same person? Different individuals?

Which one is a better fit for me? Or will I benefit from all four? 

As a self-admitted late bloomer professional, being stuck in neutral, career-wise, with no true compass to follow is “no way to go through life” as Dean Wormer famously said.

Am I mentorable, coachable, or worthy of sponsorship in the workplace? It doesn’t feel like it, since I have no established record of success or anything that would “wow” others thorough influence or power.

Charitable things notwithstanding, what have I really accomplished in the business world?

There is some pressure to do something “big” and important.  As a Gen Xer, if you haven’t achieved or “made it”, then all signs point to failure and missed opportunities.

Are the terms “mentoring”, “coaching”, “influencing”, and “sponsoring” interchangeable or separate terms?

Is Creating A “New” Job Really A “New” Job?

For as long as I can remember, the idea of creating new jobs to help resolve, or least smooth over, a struggling economy has been an interesting mystery to me. 

Just exactly, how do you “create” new jobs?  How do people who have lost jobs end up in these “new” jobs? 

Frankly, what are these “new” jobs? 

It feels as though these “new” jobs are basically the same recycled jobs we have always done, but supplanted from one place to another place.  Teacher, firefighter, desk job, or any other job we have had in the past are not “new” jobs, despite the goals to increase the number of these positions. 

They’re the same old jobs we have done forever.  Retread and recycled.

A “new” job is something that is created and has never been heard of before.  Social media strategist, new media reporter, are two that come to mind. 

I think of startups and entrepreneurs as part of the “new” class of jobs.  They are providing a service, niche or general, that is in need today.  From creating new apps for phones, or providing a new way to order concert tickets, these “new” jobs are in demand, but need to be created and shaped before they become a functional part of our daily world. 

That’s what “new” jobs, to me, is defined.  Sure, if you land a new job, it simply means you have changed locations, job title, and company.  But, is it a “new” job, or a recycled gig that someone else used to do before they left and you walked in? 

Searching for a Direction

Dallas J. Moore is one of the most thoughtful and wisest individuals you will meet.  As CCO and CEO of Social Republik, Dallas has a strong and deep interest in helping his clients be successful when they convey their message through marketing.

Today, he posted a tweet recommending anyone who is on the unemployment sidelines to watch a movie called “The Company Men.”  I did not know about this movie until today and after seeing the trailer on You Tube, it didn’t take too long for the trailer to hit a nerve for me…in a sobering way.  I’m looking at myself in the mirror, wondering what direction I should go.

There is no compass to follow.

We, as humans, have defined ourselves by our work, job title, and accomplishments.  When all of that disappears, you are left to ask where is your place in this world.  In the case of Ben Affleck‘s character (Bobby Walker), he questions his self-worth and whether he will ever return to the world he knew.  In Bobby’s case, he is reminded of what he has at that moment:  wife, family, and a will to get back on his feet.

Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) searches for directions, when his compass is shattered.

I don’t have a wife or a family of my own.  It feels like a lonely trek.  You don’t have that buffer or the person at home to talk to and get support from.  You wander around on the internet and networking, asking and begging not just for a job, but for someone to give you a chance to tell your story.  A story of what you are good at and the value you give to a potential employer.

It’s a difficult and frightening position to be in.  Even now.  Most of us who are out there, searching for anything to maintain a sense of normalcy (which we know that there is no such thing as “returning to normal”) and a measure of self-confidence and self-worth that we lost. 

A job, any job, will do.  Bobby makes the decision to work with his carpenter brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) as the only way to provide for his family.  For him, he hopes for someone or something to throw him a life-preserver to keep him afloat.

I hope that there are enough life-preservers out there for those who are hanging by a thread and losing hope.  I want them to get it before I do, even if I need it the most now.

Quitting a Job Has Now Reached a New Level

Yes, you can fire your boss, if he or she out of line.

I want to thank Reid Travis (@reidbtravis) for this link.  Reid manages social media for Panchero’s Restaurant.

A girl finds a new way to quit her job and put her supervisor on the spot.

I wonder why the JetBlue flight attendant didn’t think of this?

Is Generation X the “middle-class” generation?

Will Generation X become extinct in the workplace?

On Tuesday, I listened to David Stillman’s presentation “Generations in the Workplace”, hosted by the Business Record and Merit Resources.  I would write up an entire blog about it, but an acquaintance of mine, Isaiah McGee, beat me to it.  His Iowa Biz column will explain more about the different generations in the workplace.

Several things stood out to me about the presentation.  Right now is the first time in history that all four generations (Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials) are working together.  With respects to all of the columns and talks about Millennials, as an Generation X-er, I have a few things I need to say.

As a generational group with the lowest population size (46 million), Gen Xers tend to be the group that isn’t talked about much in the business community anymore, sandwiched between the Boomers and the Millennials. My assertion before Stillman’s talk is that Generation X are the generational “middle-class”.  We were the ones who were labeled “slackers”, the “latch-key” kids, the most skeptical, and in turn the most independent.

David Stillman of Bridgeworks. He spoke in Des Moines on Tuesday about how all generations can coexist in the workplace.

As someone who is between jobs and is a X-er, there is a strong feeling that Generation X is considered “washed up” in the workplace.  That can be attributed to the number of Boomers and Millennials (80 million and 76 million respectively) who are in the workforce and is competing for jobs once the economy starts to improve.  It’s not hard to see the changing culture in the workplace.  Human Resources is filled with Millennials fresh out of college; Boomers are still in middle management, and Traditionalists are the CEOs.  In larger and smaller companies, Gen Xers are being replaced by Millennials and for some, the chances to find another job is somewhat small.

Douglas Coupland, one of the leading voices of Gen X. Click on his picture for his website, Coupland.com.

Stillman pointed out that Gen Xers have hit the “gray ceiling”, meaning Gen Xers have the education and the experience, but they have no place to go in the workplace.  The Boomers are not leaving the workplace anytime soon, and Gen Xers’ chances of moving up the ladder has been stunted.

Call me crazy, but I think Gen X is in a precarious spot as a generational group.  However, there is a growing trend that has developed.  As a generation of self-sufficient and independent individuals, Gen Xers created more start-up companies since 2002. Gen Xers are adaptive and have a zest in learning new things at work.  We’re resourceful, and are not afraid to be skeptical and point out something that can be fixed.

And we’re still hire-able.