Friday, September 10, 2010

Gainful Employment

This past week I started a new job, just a week shy of the eight-month anniversary of my having been "downsized" from my previous gig of nearly a decade.

The new job continues a pattern that runs through my entire employment history: Only once have I landed a job that I saw advertised and then pursued; the rest have all been the result of the phone ringing and my answering it.

It's not what you know, and, it turns out, it's not who you know, either. It's who knows you.

I am back on the religion beat, and back among my Lutheran chums. After being thrown down the stairs in my previous position, I commented that I would not be in too big a hurry to work for a religious organization again. It was true eight or nine months ago, and I'd be kidding if I didn't say I approached what is now my current position with some wariness. Once bitten, and so on.

But it was nice to be thought of, and the interview went very well (you can always tell they're going well when you get offered the job on the spot), and the old exchequer acted like it could use some positive cash flow again, so...

The week has been exhausting, as I always find the first couple of weeks in a new job to be. But the people I am working with all seem very nice--more to the point, genuinely nice, since "nice" is a pretty cheap commodity, I've discovered, and although the week was colossally hectic (everyone kept telling me it isn't usually like that; sure hope so), I never had the feeling that I was in the crosshairs, which was a pretty constant feeling in the old job.

There is, of course, a great satisfaction in gainful employment, especially in an area in which one is experiences, which one likes, and which one can do reasonably well (specifically, communication: Publications and website, mostly). But there is a deeper satisfaction, it develops, in being in a setting in which one's contribution seems to be valued, where one's co-workers appear to respect and appreciate whatever expertise and experience one may bring to the table--even though one is still a virtual stranger to them. I'm only four days into the job, yes, but I have gotten the feeling from every single one of my colleagues--the top guns as well as my fellow staffers--that they are glad to have me on board and appreciate my contribution.

I felt that occasionally, and from certain individuals, in my previous assignment, but for the most part I felt that my role was viewed as merely another interchangeable cog in the machine, just some quasi-anonymous someone pulling one of the oars. That feeling was driven home rather keenly when I was informed that my reward for nearly a decade of loyal service would be the privilege of being the first to be thrown overboard when revenue grew tight. Nothing personal, of course, but we've decided we can get along nicely without your invaluable contribution. This way to the plank...

So it is refreshing--and, I must say, surprising--to feel that my work actually counts for something, actually has value in the eyes of someone other than myself alone, and to have that sentiment expressed in attitudes and demeanor rather than in platitudes that ring hollow since they come while one is simultaneously being given the bum's rush.

Yes, I realize that I am still in that golden "honeymoon" phase. But that hardly diminishes the pleasantness of it all.

Work should be about more than just a paycheck. This feels like work that could be that. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I'm very glad that my phone rang. Glad I answered it. And glad that, despite my recent sour experience, I did not dismiss the current opportunity out of hand.

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