They Got Me Good…

Posted: January 29, 2016 in Professional
Tags: ,

Things stick with me quite a bit, but not always. There are just some things that linger, that never seem to go away. My mom is one of those—she is never far from my mind, always there. Now, even 11 years after she passed, I still think about her at least once per day.

But, don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those posts.

Because another thing that has stuck with me more than I thought it would is my experience with my previous employer. In some ways I wonder if that’s because I feel there’s some sort of unfinished business there that I haven’t been able to reconcile, likely a result of the circumstances under which I left. And as I’ve said before, I will choose my words wisely because I know those circumstances have a factor on folks’ perceptions on me, and I maintain a great deal of respect for all of the people that I once called coworkers.

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple months now, as things have started to settle at my new employer and time has (hopefully) begun its work healing any wounds I may have caused with my departure.

When you start at a new job, you have three things available to rely upon to get you through: your experience, your personality and your appearance. My previous employer had impacts on me in all three areas, and those are the things that I find really sticking with me.

Experience is the obvious one—I am far from any sort of technical certifications, but the time spent there between project meetings and “water cooler” conversations dramatically increased my vocabulary and knowledge of technology that previously I had no experience with whatsoever. These are things that I use literally every day with my new employer.

And as a side note, there was a fixation at the last place on acronyms…they had acronyms for EVERYTHING. I now know that acronyms are an industry standard…but because of my former employer, I was again set up for success in the future.

But experience goes beyond what little technical knowledge I have been able to gain…it’s also about the job itself. Project managing is in some ways very cookie cutter, but in other ways a more consuming thing when it comes to industry-specific projects. So in technology, a project manager will require knowledge and skills that a project manager in the financial sector would otherwise not need (and the reverse is true as well I’m sure). In that sense, the time I spent in that role had a significant impact on my ability to do what I now do on a daily basis with far less supervision.

Another thing I notice myself focusing on constantly is my need to “get out of the weeds,” which was a huge thing where I used to work. And it’s a great thing, and it’s a thing that’s really hard to do—to get out of your “every day” mindset and think about what you’re doing, reflecting on process and purpose, and making changes when they’re needed to help streamline your work. Getting out of the weeds will never, ever go away.

Your personality in the workplace isn’t always the same as your personality at home. In our various roles we tend to be different people—so “dad” Jake is different from “employee” Jake, and vastly different from “best friend” or “brother” Jake. The thing that is really nice, though, is when those different personalities can bleed comfortably from role to role, allowing (for instance) my coworkers to get to know me a little better as an individual, or my kids having a better understanding of how I act at work. Those things, though, always happen organically and can’t be forced. In that way, I am far from having at my current employer the connections I had with my former coworkers. And while I’m not eager to push things along quicker than they should be, I have said before that losing the friends that I had is not exactly how I saw this whole thing going. I understand (a little, I guess) why it is the way it is—but it doesn’t make it any easier. Fact is, I had a few people there who I would consider very good friends that I’m sad to have lost.

Maintaining any sort of friendship outside of your norm (work life, home life, etc) is an increasingly-difficult thing to do as time moves forward. Physical proximity is a very large part of friendship, and while it’s not required, friendships tend to form more naturally (and are easier to keep) when there aren’t location-based barriers. So, without any additional effort, it’s unlikely that any of those friendships wouldn’t degrade almost instantly. Such is life, I guess.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I miss them—all of them, even the ones that I was less fond of. I think about them a lot too. They were a big part of my every day, and I miss the conversations about the non-work stuff that we had all the time. They were without a doubt the best bunch of folks I’ve ever had opportunity to work with, making the bar for my current coworkers a lot higher than it probably should be.

Reading this, maybe you’re thinking that “appearance” is vastly different than the other two topics and doesn’t really fit—but I think about it every day because of my time with the previous employer. The dress code there was very relaxed; they allowed jeans and polos basically every day and that was an exciting thing for most people who worked there. I remember coming into that environment leaving a business casual environment and having to buy all new jeans because I only had a couple to begin with. And, I had similar struggles with my new job for the same reason—returning to a business casual environment, I had to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe (I feel obligated to mention that some weight change also impacted that need).

I remember one of my prior coworkers speaking adamantly about the importance of looking the part at work. And we certainly weren’t required to do it there (unless clients were in the building or you were going to a client site), but that stuck with me more than I thought it would. There are things that I do now—shine my shoes, get my shirts laundered and pressed (professionally)—that I never would have done if not for that speech.

We are all built on our experiences, shaped by every interaction and responsibility we have. Maybe none of my former coworkers will ever see this, and that’s ok too—but in the event they do, I want them to know how much I value my experience with them. And like

I said, I miss it. Of course, it wasn’t always good…there were obviously enough negative things to affect my departure. Regardless, it was a big part of me for a couple years, and it will stick around for awhile.

Happy New Year to you all. I’d like to write more this year than I did last year, so we’ll see where that goes. Be well, and stay tuned.

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