Monday, April 12, 2004

Better Late Than Never

Hmmm . . . in order to answer today’s Friday Five I must violate one of my sacred rules of blogging: NEVER write about work. Really, the only reason for this is sheer paranoia; after 6 years at my job I would hate to get fired for a completely stupid rookie mistake like blabbering about my company and coworkers on a publicly accessible website. But hey, I have nothing else to write about so . . . . .

1. What do you do for a living? This is one of my least favorite questions to be asked at a gathering, for a number of reasons. For one, it is hard to explain what I do, and the more I go into detail the more boring it sounds, until the asker has long since lost interest and started looking over my shoulder for someone better to speak to. If I had a more recognizable job, a lawyer or a teacher or, I don’t know, a claims adjuster, people could at least follow up with intelligent questions (What grade do you teach? What area do you specialize in?) rather than getting a glazed look in their eyes and inching towards the bean dip.

For the record, I am a technical recruiter. In industry parlance I am an agency recruiter, meaning that instead of working in-house for a specific company, we work with several different clients, competing against other agencies to fill their open positions. We specialize in high-level technology positions with very specific skill sets, things like QA Project Managers with WinRunner and TestDirector experience, or NetX, Unix, C++ Programmers with Merchant/Credit Card processing.

This is the other reason I hate telling people what I do. Once they find out the gist of my position, I will inevitably get asked “Great, can you get me a job?” Until I started being deliberately vague about exactly what I do, I constantly got calls and resumes from long-lost acquaintances and friends of friends, typically new graduates from DeVry or entry-level techs with minimal experience, wanting me to pull a lucrative position out of my big bag o’ jobs for them. It was always a no-win situation. If I told them up-front that I probably won’t be able to find something for them, they got all insulted, but if I politely accepted their resume and promised to “keep them in mind,” I’d get annoyed phone calls two weeks later saying “Hey, I thought you were gonna find me a job!”

So now I resort to mumbling a confusing mass of buzzwords to obscure my real occupation, saying “We leverage project teams in order to analyze client needs, develop a strategy and execute knowledge transfers.” Jeez - it's no wonder people aren't sidling up to me at cocktail parties!

2. What do you like most about your job? We have awesome coffee. Even through the lean years, our company’s commitment to Starbuck’s Dark French Roast never wavered. With two young kids at home, the ONLY time I can count on a leisurely, uninterrupted cup of joe is when I arrive at work each morning.

The other reason, of course, can be summed up as “location, location, location.” My job is about 2 miles from my house, and a mere block and a half from my parents’ house, where Baby Bee hangs out with my mom during the day. I can pop over for lunch with the kids, show up at Bug’s school for holiday parties, shop for groceries after work and still get home by 6:00. Aside from that, I like most of my coworkers, mostly my beloved cube-mate Chelle, and I must admit – I love a job where I can sit on my butt and surf the web for a couple of hours each day. I don’t think I could handle a job like Chef’s, who has to be on his feet all day with no down time.

3. What do you like least about your job? As much as I complain about my job, when it comes right down to it, it isn’t that bad. The pay is decent, it’s not too taxing on the brain, I am pretty good at it and I can leave the office at 5:30 and not give work another thought until the next morning. The main thing I don’t like about it is the absolute tedium, the endless frustrations in dealing with an unpredictable commodity like people, the inherent purposelessness in what I do – if I didn’t place these people or fill these jobs, there are hundreds of other firms who would – and the nagging feeling that I should be doing something more meaningful with my life.

4. When you have a bad day at work it's usually because _____... One of my placements falls through, leaving me with egg on my face and my agency looking bad in front of the client. It doesn’t happen often, but just enough so that all of us recruiters are very superstitious about announcing, celebrating, or even speaking of a placement until the person has actually arrived on site for their first day of work.

5. What other career(s) are you interested in? I think I would like to be a librarian, but for the lousy pay and shaky job security. I’d love to get paid to be around books all day, to research the latest publications and make recommendations to others, plan activities and programs to get people excited about reading, and to indulge my compulsion to obsessively organize and categorize shelves full of reading material. And if I had known how much I would enjoy being around kids, I might have gone into Jewish education, maybe running a pre-school class or teaching at a Jewish day school. How great would it be to wear jeans and T-shirts every day, and to do fun projects with macaroni and yarn and glue, and to work with others who share the same values? Plus, I wouldn’t always have to go through the trouble of taking time off for Rosh Hashanah or explaining why I need to leave early for Rock and Roll Shabbat.