Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Compromise and Fulfillment

I'm still thinking about what I want to do with my life. My last post about parenting and my role as a mom, individual, and spouse, has made me realize that my "career path" is not going to be typical. I can, therefore, make choices that someone pursuing a "normal career" might not make. I haven't figured out yet what this means.

I have worked in a human resources capacity enough to know that when hiring, a resume that has large gaps of unexplained time or that shows the person moving from one job to another frequently raises red flags. It does not necessarily prevent a good candidate from landing an interview, but especially for jobs that have hundreds of applicants, those kinds of things are often used to cull the group.

I had been worried about this somewhat. I haven't held any job for more than two years. Our choice for Donald to go back to school meant that I left one job and got another. I moved within that job to a different department. Then we moved in with his parents and I got another job. If he gets the position he interviewed for, we would move again. I don't know whether I would be able to keep my current job or not.

While this pattern can easily be explained and does not actually indicate a lack of loyalty on my part, on the surface, before anyone talks to me, I look like a flight risk. And I know that I have been dinged in previous interviews because I gushed about how wonderful it was to be a young, newly married woman. Assumptions were made about how quickly I'd get pregnant, take maternity leave, and then leave for good. The same thing happened when I happily shared my excitement about Donald's degree pursuit. It branded me as a two-year employee, no more no less. Both assumptions completely unfair, and if provable as the reasons I was rejected, illegal, but it didn't matter.

Every job I have had has taught me something valuable about myself. My first job (#1) out of graduate school taught me that I prefer to work with other people and not alone, that I like collaboration and a balance of quiet time. I also stretched my wings in creating policy and procedure there, even though it wasn't in my job description.

My next position (#2) was largely a nightmare. I worked for a very difficult person and for a year and a half, I functioned without a backbone, a very detrimental experience, but one that also taught me what I can survive and what I should never, ever tolerate again. I also realized that my health suffers when the way I spend my time is not in alignment with my values (a Susan Scott connection).

I transitioned from there to a much better environment (#3), which, while still not very challenging to my skills and abilities, gave me opportunities to grow that I had never had before. I was encouraged to get training, to hone my skills, to think about what I really wanted to do. I was engaged and supported. I had never felt this before. It showed me what could be and it helped me recover from the previous position.

And now I am here (#4). I am still not very challenged and I have quite a bit of down time to myself. I know that I am valued, but the nature of the position seems to be very laid back. I know that I am doing good work - the project I am connected to is very meaningful and worthwhile - and I also know that I am not doing enough. I am underutilized. I am not growing. I am not using my education and abilities to my potential. This is the third job in a row that has been this way.

I excuse myself by saying that jobs #2-4 were "temporary". I didn't work hard to find something that fit me or used my skills because jobs like that were either unavailable or because I figured that I could just take something easy since I was "only" going to be there for two years or less. I cut myself short. I tolerated job #2 for so long because I thought it was going to end soon. And then we didn't leave. So I looked desperately for something else and found #3, an improvement, but not enough of one. When it came time to look for #4 I was simply looking for an income and health insurance, something to tide us over while Donald continued his job search.

I have spent the last four years compromising.

My question for myself now is what I do whenever Donald's next career move takes us elsewhere. The plan I outlined in my last post has me working until we have a family. So do I get another "temporary" job? What if I get pregnant right away? What if it takes us years to conceive? What if I end up with a job I love and don't want to leave? What if I hate my job and it affects my health and my ability to have children?

Forty hours a week is a lot to sacrifice on something that has little meaning for me beyond a paycheck and health insurance. What if Donald's income isn't large enough right away and I have to work AND leave my child with someone else for the day? I already know that the job better be wonderful for me to have any satisfaction with that arrangement. None of the jobs I have had in the past would make the cut. And I have no idea what I am looking for or whether I would even be qualified for the position if I could find it.

My concerned thought pattern dumps me back into "maybe I'm just supposed to be a mom" and "maybe I'm not cut out for the workplace" and "maybe no job will ever be good enough for me".

How do I figure this out? How can I say that I want to fix things around me, to help people help themselves, when I haven't figured out how to help myself?

I'm apparently feeling a bit unhappy today. Sorry for the downer.

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