Friday, February 7, 2014

My Place in the Sun

Place in the Sun
I graduated from college with a degree in English (Creative Writing) and Communication Arts. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but to be honest – they were majors for undecided majors. My dad put it, I have Bachelor’s degrees in written and oral BS or as I put it, I can communicate with you effectively in English. No matter how you slice it, I graduated with a “now what?!” expression on my face and almost 8 years later, I am still looking for my place in the sun.

Now, I haven’t been floating around aimlessly since 2006. I got my Master’s in Higher Education which shed some light on a whole world of professions I didn't know existed and I haven’t been waiting tables, but I am ready to be excited about my job again. I thought I found my “career” at Ross. I was there for almost 5 years, but hit a wall when the time came to move up, over, or onward. Despite efforts to create positions to move laterally, it wasn't in my stars. I floated for a little and am now working at XX (name changed to protect the innocent). When I applied, and later accepted, the position – I think it was for the wrong reasons. For me, XX was education's equivalent to Google. They have a nice little benefits package, they are the makers of prestigious and well respected education tools, the office is right near AAA BBB, and I would be the international department. How sexy!! Wooed by all of that, I neglected to really read the job description (which didn't make much sense anyway).

For days I came to work not knowing what my role was and thinking my supervisors didn't know either. Who did I report to? What is my 30-60-90 plan? Why is everything in Excel? Is it 1999? Although there were a lot of “Elizabeth will do that’s”, they were all menial tasks that required an update to a spreadsheet, an email to be sent, or a meeting set up. Am I a secretary? A data entry specialist? A liaison between the international institutions and our website? The glitz and glamour I had created in my mind was quickly fading.
Additionally I was/am amazed by how antiquated the processes and practices are here. Aside from the fact that there is no web-based or other modern data management software, there are spreadsheets upon spreadsheets of contacts, numbers, enrollment goals, and facts. There is no rhyme or reason to this duplicity only that there is the Elizabeth's Spreadsheet, the Master Spreadsheet, Tom's Spreadsheet with Enrollment Numbers, and Spreadsheet 2010. All of which contain similar information but are  just different enough  that a new title must be created.  Equally frustrating is that if Kristen is looking at the Elizabeth's Spreadsheet on her computer and I would like to make updates, I have to kindly ask her to close it. I am the least tech savvy person and I have no interest in it in my personal life, but c’mon man! This place is supposed to be a leader in academics and they don’t even have a Student Relationship Management System.

AND because there isn't a website system, working from home is blasphemous. I asked about a flex schedule when I was hired or forgoing a lunch and you would have thought I asked if we could bring hookers to the holiday party.

All of this angst is further fueled by the hell that is New Jersey Transit. How this operation still runs is beyond me! Coming into the city for work, I am quasi at peace because, to be honest, to start the day – what is the difference between walking in the door at 9:00, 9:05, or 9:10 – especially when most of the office is relying on similar means of unreliable mass transit. It is getting home that kills me for the following reasons:

1.       Our office hours are 9-5:30 which means I have to bolt out of my office, down towards the subway and over to 34th/Penn Station to catch the 5:45pm home.
2.       Said 5:45 train never leaves on time so every night, our little conductor who thinks he is funny has to apologize for leaving late. Screw you, sir. I got here on time so you should leave on time.
3.       NJ Transit is expensive. When I was considering acceptable salary options, I had to ensure I would be earning enough to cover the cost of commuting and still “make” money. Getting to my office from Metuchen, NJ is somewhere in the range of $5000/year. Gross.
4.       Paying this much for commuting would not be as gross if NJ Transit didn’t suck.
5.       There is no rhyme or reason to the crappiness of NJ Transit. We are delayed in the snow, in the cold, in the heat, in the spring, in a Leap Year, during Passover, and the Christmas season. Delays on NJ Transit are not racist, prejudice, sexist, or biased. They are equal opportunity and daily.

I understand my gripes with work and NJ Transit are two unrelated issues but with their powers combined, I have truly been forced to reevaluate my life choices.  The Olympics are staring this week and as they interview the athletes, I am envious of the passion they have for their sport, their desire to practice and improve.  I want to have that mentality at my job. I want to shine when people as me what I do for a living.

Some math: I am commuting at least 3 hours a day with 8 or so more in an office. That is 11 hours a day allowing me a solid hour with Austin before and after work and an extra hour or so with DJ. Fifty-five hours a work week doing something I don’t love versus 15 hours spending time with people I do……