work: What… Do I do?

I’m the best there is at what I do. But what I do best doesn’t matter much outside this place.

With all apologies to Stevie Wonder and Chris Claremont

Recently, a very good friend who works for a very good company put my name in as a referral for a job. This company, whose name happens to rhyme with the last name of the United States’ 16th president, was never really on my radar as a place to work for, however it was still pretty cool to get a call from a talent sourcer expressing interest in me. Even if it’s just going through the motions, hearing, “We’re interested in seeing if you’re a fit for our web development team.” without my having to do anything? Nice.

selfie taken at the Lincoln Memorial To alleviate any pressure or suspense, I’ll skip to the end part first, I’m not a good fit for the position and it was not offered. This much I already suspected halfway through the phone screening. I hate phone screenings. I realize they’re the most efficient way for recruiters to weed through the resumes that made it past the keyword scan, but so many of them nowadays involve open-ended questions, “Tell me about your experience with [keyword]…”

In a face to face interview, this isn’t so bad because I can get visual cues from who I’m talking to and better switch my train of thought. But over the phone, I just feel like I end up droning on and on well past either what they wanted to know or talking down a path they don’t care about. And for this screening, it became obvious that they were really looking for intermediate to advanced experience in a particular skill, even if that wasn’t the focus of the call. I tried not to let my disappointment overshadow my lack of qualifications. I’m still not sure which is larger. Add to that they want all their web developers on the other coast and it was more or less a done deal that even if something was offered, I’d probably turn it down.

Still, it was nice to be oddly thrown back into that game of career advancement, even if it might only be slightly sideways.

movie still from 9 to 5

I’ve been working where I am for 11 years, and in the same industry in this city for nearly 19 years. I am very good at my job, but… frankly that doesn’t mean a whole lot outside my job. Something another friend and I were chatting about over brunch recently. It’s like moving from elementary school to high school–I didn’t have junior high growing up. I’m an eighth-grader, king of these tiny little claustrophobic halls, kneel before Zod, etc. And then I go to high school, as a ninth-grader. We weren’t even called freshmen, we were “sub-freshmen”. That fear of a new environment persists.

And it’s not that I don’t know how to do anything. I can do a lot when it comes to web development, but what’s needed at my job doesn’t necessarily keep pace with other companies out there. Learning new skills is great… when you get a chance to use them on a regular basis. In the past, our bosses have been very excited for us to go to training classes and bring back certificates to hang on our cubes. At one point, I had a stack of them a half-inch thick, all for skills I did not and would never use at my current job. I’ve got to figure out a better way to keep myself current, skill-wise, and a way to actually practice and improve what I do know outside of work.

Still, overall it was a good reminder that while it’s great to be comfortable in your career, sometimes that comfort is both a blessing and a curse. I won’t be quite so terrified the next time I have an interview and, at the least, I’ll try to be better prepared. 🙄

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2 Responses

  1. This situation resonates with me to my core. I, too, am fantastic at what I do; but, translating those skills outside of my current employer would be a daunting task. I don’t have plans to leave and definitely want to advance within the company; but, if I had to, I would be terrified. Keeping up with skills is tough when you don’t use them in your day to day work. Have you thought of doing some freelance web dev work to keep you up to date? Maybe take on some small projects from friends/family?

    Good luck out there Blog Buddy!

  2. Bets says:

    This is one of the many reasons I felt I needed to move on. It’s comfortable and you could do that job forever but do you really want to. If you don’t, it’s time to hop before too many more years go by and it gets harder to find something in our field. You have incredibly valuable skills that do translate regardless of your usage of tech skills. The trick can be figuring out how to sell yourself to a prospective employer to illustrate your abilities and how you can use your experience in their situation. Much of what you do on a day to day basis is applicable if you just step back and think about how you would apply it to different type of work environment. The communication skills you have and ability to work through technical issues goes a long way. I’m surrounded by people younger than me and smarter in terms of their tech skills but they often lack the communication, organization, and general work experience to cope with some of the issues that come up. That is where you excel. You go above and beyond to work out customer issues and will work to find solutions and not just dump it on someone else to hand it to you. As we know, not everyone does that or wants to be that responsible. Don’t give up your search. You will find something if you want it!

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