Monday, April 05, 2004

Going Back to Work: Some Helpful Pointers
So, young American worker of the W economy, ya got laid off, huh? And you spent the first month of unemployment in denial, the second month licking your wounds, the third month surfing online job boards, the fourth month at Starbucks pretending to write a blockbuster screenplay, the fifth month reading reviews on of advice books written by personal life coaches, the sixth month Google-searching for career-profile tests, the seventh month lowering your standards, and the eighth month lowering your standards some more.

And now, three trimesters later and in the throes of extreme self-esteem contractions, you're about to give birth to the fruits of your slackerdom: You've accepted a job you hope will be your ticket back to the top. Congratulations.

And you stand before me today, seeking my advice on how to keep your new consolation-prize job from sucking out your very soul.

You have come to the right place. I have everything you need to know and I can sum it up in three words:

Lower Your Expectations.

Seriously. Don't wait. Do it today. If you have lingering optimism from the gentler, more sensible, more sophisticated, more efficient, more compassionate, more progressive, Clinton-era prosperity, it might trick you into overestimating what's to come. You must not let this happen. In your new job, people simply will be crabbier, less competent, less patient, and less personable than you expect. Expect it! The sooner you lower your expectations, the happier you'll be.

First, ask yourself: does what I'm doing matter? Of course it doesn't! Once you admit that, your new co-workers' little failures, sabotages, and extreme ham-handedness will seem much less significant. Ask yourself what is more important, that ten-million-dollar client your co-worker lost the company and blamed on you or your restful night's sleep? Trust me: it's the sleep. Calgon, take you away.

So please, take a look around your new workplace and familiarize yourself with the most extreme pockets of idiocy. Start with any computer-support personnel. Might as well take a sledgehammer to your CPU as ask any of those losers for help. Think of the time you'll save! And how about the HR staff? Monkeys with questionnaires, every one of them. Sales staff? Who knew slime could be so greasy? Quality Assurance? Be assured: there is no quality. And the people you work most closely with? They have issues. Not just major issues that practically live on their shoulders like anti-Mr.-Bluebirds, but specific issues with you, even though they barely know you. They do not like the cut of your jib. After all, they were in their crappy jobs all along while you were riding high in your hallucinathon. Yes, they are jib-haters. They have storm clouds overhead and if you get close, you will get rained on. At best.

And the boss? She seemed so smart at first. She seemed to really have it going on. Well, no. Not only is she slow on the uptake, she is also burdened by extreme greed and utter self-confidence. Count on your new boss to make the wrong decision, time and time again.

Is there a secretarial staff? They run the place. Do not cross them.

And, finally, the work. More than anything else, here is where you should Lower Your Expectations. I cannot emphasize this enough. You told yourself it was interesting and challenging, didn't you? Even important. But you knew even then you were fibbing to yourself. (You could always spot a liar, even when it was you.) Please admit to yourself today that the work is meaningless, irritating drudgery. When you have time to pace yourself on a project, it will be extremely boring, but that won't happen because you will never have time. It will always be urgent, but it will never be important. Just remember: some day you will look back on this job and you will be laughing too hard to vomit.

Oh, and try to eat right. Lots of fresh fruit. And carbs won't hurt you; don't believe what they say about carbs. Stay away from the red meat. No iffy fish! Avoid competence. Competence is out of fashion in the Bush era. Learn which keyboard commands will popup Excel to cover up Pretend your hearing isn't good. But above all, Lower Your Expectations.

Once you've successfully attuned your mind to lowered expectations, what then? Perhaps you will meditate on the suffering of others and foster loving kindness. Maybe you will write an epic poem of such beauty the world will weep. Or you could start surfing the Web for your next job.

I hope this helps.