I’ve often been told I need to be more proactive, particularly at work, but on the job, I tend to be the opposite, waiting for something to happen, then reacting to it. So far, this strategy has served me well throughout my professional career, while those who counseled me otherwise are no longer around. Admittedly, I’ve not enjoyed a meteoric rise in the corporate ranks, but I’ve managed to stay employed through several periods of economic instability with steady increases in salary.
I have my own style of working, which is an outgrowth of my own style of living. I like to examine situations and get a lay of the land, so to speak, before diving in head first and sorting out what needs to get done. I typically favor action over discussion, while at the same time making sure I have leave to accomplish something in my own way, and in the process, learning the job by doing it. It was in this way that I learned web development in the mid-1990s, though I never mastered it to the extent that I could make an independent living at it. Still it allowed me to get a job with a company I’ve been with for quite some time and I know it well enough to maintain my own online presence.
Over time, I’ve held a great many jobs where how one presents oneself is almost as important as the work being accomplished. Whatever happened to be occupying my time, work related or not, as long as the appearance was given that I was hard at work, no one really minded. This is not to say I was goofing off, but many of my jobs have fallen under the category of “support” and when there’s no one to support, there may not be much else to do.
My first job, when I was sixteen, was working at Six Flags over Georgia. When one is sixteen and gets a job at Six Flags, one thinks, “This is the greatest place in the world to work!” It’s not. I worked Grounds, which means I scrubbed toilets and cleaned up vomit. The second year, they promoted me to assistant foreman and it was here I learned, for the first time, how much I hate being in a position of authority. One might think, being a first born, that leadership would come naturally to me, but while I often feel the need to be in charge, I much prefer being responsible for my own work without the hassle of worrying about what someone else is doing, or having to motivate others. Needless to say I don’t really regard myself as much of a team player, though I can adapt when need be.
In general, I like having a well-defined assignment where the parameters are clearly indicated so there’s not much guesswork to it. I find I don’t respond well to ambiguity and jobs that aren’t clearly defined worry me as they leave a lot of room for redefinition and extra responsibilities. Equally so, I don’t like to volunteer my time to my employer, and when I’m not on the clock, work is the farthest thing from my mind. Being a writer, one might assume I’d enjoy a job where my creativity is put to good use, but while I do, on occasion, enjoy opportunities to express myself at work, I find trying to be creative full-time for a salary just takes away the energy I have to devote to my other projects.
At work, I’m often asked what my career goals are, and typically, my response is something along the lines of continuing to draw a paycheck. I really have no specific work-related aspirations and tend to remain flexible to whatever comes along. I frequently find myself accepting assignments no one else wants to do, with an eye toward job security. Sometimes this leads to tedious or repetitive work, but I can often take comfort in the knowledge that it’s a job that must be done, that no one else wants, and as long as that remains true, I’ll never be out of work.