The Search for Something Else
Okay, so at this point I knew I needed a change. Frankly, I wanted to run away from the whole mess.
But what were my options? It wasn’t like I could just make a mad dash away and things would work out.
I took a look at the facts, which follow. My net worth was at -25K. I had $400/mo student loan payments. Plus I had $1,100 in rent and an expensive lifestyle full of restaurants and convenience to maintain.
Something interesting happened at this point. I was just about to talk to my manager, Mr. Data, to see if I can do something other than support, even if only for a couple of weeks to get a break from it, when I was moved to another team. A peer of mine had been recently promoted to management and he was building out a special team of employees which had particular strength in soft skills and customer handling. I had some of the best customer satisfaction numbers on our team, and he wanted me.
I took it. Let’s call my new manager Friendface because he was friendly to my face. I talk to him and thank him for the opportunity, but tell him I’m approaching burnout and am looking for a career step which gets me out of the direct line of customer fire.
To my surprise, Friendface says no problem.
Join my team and let’s do good work in this area for a while. We’ll tackle some of the trickiest customers and most challenging problems, both technically and politically, and after six months, I’ll work with you and other people in the company to facilitate your career change.
What do you think about me going into a training role after half a year?
Absolutely, I know you have good skills in that area. We can make that happen.
I was elated, because I derived real enjoyment from cross-training peers and writing technical documents, and it appeared to be less stressful.
So me and Friendface, we set some specific targets on my performance numbers. I feel good. Things are looking up. I can do anything for six months. Anything.
I hit it as hard as I can. I want to get out of working directly with customers and this is the path that has opened up for me. It’s merciless, but I can see that carrot dangling within reach. I’m still traveling in this role and although I never grew to enjoy it, subsequent trips are not quite as difficult as that first trip to TX, at least partially because of my shift in attitude. I persevere. I do nothing but work. I’m on fire, a machine made of molten metal, blazing through an ocean of problems, leaving nothing but evaporated particles of H2O in my wake.
Six painstaking months go by and I have the review with Friendface. I mention I’ve met the target metrics and ask what the next steps are to moving me to another role.
The training role has been filled by <coworker>, he says. We had a need a month ago and addressed it. We can put you in line to replace <coworker> if they leave the company. Or if there’s increased demand and a new position opens up in that area, you’ll be the first in line.
Wait, what? <I’m dumbstruck for a moment and there’s an awkward pause before I find my words again.> Friendface, you said that we’d make this happen. I held up my end of our agreement. I’m expecting more here.
Well, why don’t we wait another six months and see if the landscape changes. Maybe there will be something else open at that time.
Why didn’t you keep the training position open another month until I could take it? Or, alternately, allow me to exit this support role earlier so I could make the switch?
At the time, we needed a trainer and <coworker> was available. You, on the other hand, were not. We needed you at <client>.
Why, exactly, did you pick <coworker>? And why, exactly, didn’t you let me know you were doing this? We could have had a discussion about it.
My hands were tied. We needed someone immediately. Plus, objectively <coworker> was a better fit for the position because there they held a bit of background in teaching.
I leave the meeting shaking. I can barely stand up. My legs are jelly. I don’t know if I’m angry or depressed or excited or some combination of negative emotions that have congealed into a goopy bacterial soup in my mind. What I do know is that I met my metrics. It took everything I had but I met them.
And I’d been betrayed.
That night I go out with a few co-workers and tell them everything. I couldn’t keep the story bottled up — I thought my brains would start leaking out of my ears if I didn’t relieve the pressure. Friendface needed to be exposed.
After I get it all out, one of my co-workers, the guy I’ve been closest to since I moved to San Francisco, makes a huge reveal.
Dude, remember that Christmas party three months ago? The one downtown where we all brought our dates?
Yeah, I do.
Well, his gf broke up with him the day after. Do you remember talking to her?
Um, yeah. She was good looking.
Friendface noticed you two were chatting for like more than an hour. He complained about it to me even that night. I told him to get over it and if it was a problem for him just go and get involved in the conversation instead of bitching. But he didn’t listen, he just got another drink and watched the two of you talk.
Wait, so you’re telling me that Friendface is jealous of me? That he blames me for his girlfriend breaking up with him?
We didn’t even do anything! I never saw her again! Holy shit, we were just talking for crying out loud!
He doesn’t know that.
Welcome to the real world, where your fate is not decided by you. Hard work is not enough to get you where you want to go, and actually, it’s best to not want to go anywhere at all. Chomp on that bit and feel the pull of the reins, spurs in your stomach, and the weight of your manager in your saddle. His whims are the only direction you’ll ever need.