ca • reared

  1. reared to pursue a career as a primary objective in life.
  2. duped or screwed by a career, or by the pursuit of a career.

On the Job Archive

Memo to HR: We are Not Family

May 13, 2011 | File under: On the Job

Sometimes, one’s work colleagues can feel like family. In small offices, or among close-knit groups in larger companies, people tend to form tight bonds that are either facilitated by the actual work performed, or simply by proximity to others and non-work socializing. These connections, when forged by the employees themselves, and having nothing to do with top-down management engineering, are authentic and really can mimic family bonds.

On the other hand, it is exceedingly irritating to me when companies (especially large, impersonal firms) latch on to this “work as family” concept in an insincere attempt to boost employee morale when morale is shown to be severely lacking. They publish glossy newsletters filled with smiling pictures of office birthday celebrations and numerous other suggestions that “we are all one, big happy family,” but behind all the overcompensating propaganda lies the truth that many people are truly unhappy in their jobs. It is all an illusion —- a gesture that masks the symptoms of disease without looking to its causes.

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Ending the Pity Party

February 25, 2011 | File under: Advice and LessonsOn the Job

People love to complain. It’s a coping mechanism, I suppose, but sometimes it can get out of hand. Not only is complaining contagious; it is nearly always unproductive and can even be counter-productive, leading to a crippling lack of motivation in nearly everything. And after a while, listening to the same complaints over and over again becomes very irritating to other people. Especially when the complainer appears unwilling to do anything to change the situation giving rise to the complaints. At that point, complaining simply becomes a waste of time.

I used to be one of those people that complained constantly that I hated my job. I complained at work to my empathetic friends, I complained at home to my husband and I complained to my family when I spoke to them over the phone. I spent so much of my time thinking about work and complaining that my free time away from the office never felt like free time—-I carried my misery with me wherever I went and allowed it to overshadow the experiences I should have been enjoying. It was not a healthy way to live.

Very quickly, my negativity grew tiresome to others, and to myself. I was tired of ruminating over things that would never change, people who would always be difficult to deal with, and situations that were unavoidable evils in the profession I had chosen. My family was tired of counseling me out of my funks, a process that sometimes monopolized large chunks of the weekend days I was supposed to be enjoying. It was a state of mind I could not sustain.

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When Choosing a Career, the Devil is in the Details

January 26, 2011 | File under: Advice and LessonsOn the Job

Sometimes when I get an idea in my head I tend to overlook the realities of the situation I am imagining. I do not recommend this approach. Case in point: for years, I had a “vision” of what it would be like to be a lawyer that turned out to be completely wrong. This vision was heavily influenced by the fictions I observed on TV, leading to a completely skewed conception of reality. But even aside from pop culture’s manipulation of my impressionable mind, my perceptions of the day-to-day realities I would face in my career were dominated by big-picture abstractions that ignored the mundane, everyday details of the job. And we all know the devil is in the details.

Let’s glimpse into my 20-year-old mind for a moment. I am in college, without any real working experience in my life aside from a few summers of part-time retail work and short-term internships. I have no idea what it’s like to work a nine-to-five (or more) desk job, or any kind of job for that matter, for an extended period of time. I know how to be a student. I get this idea in my head that I should be a lawyer. I’m a good writer, I can articulate my points well, and I have an interest in political and historic issues. Essential skills for a lawyer, right? Put my talents to use “making a difference” and “defending justice.” Or something like that. Everyone thinks it’s a good idea. I commit to this path with only a vague notion of what lawyers actually do on a daily basis.

What exactly did I think I would be doing as a lawyer? Reading, researching and writing, mostly. That’s actually what I did end up doing most days as a lawyer. So where had I erred in my predictions?

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Feeling the Career Brain Drain

January 19, 2011 | File under: Advice and LessonsOn the Job

Sometimes, a career can actually diminish one’s mental capacity. It happened to me. Before I became a lawyer, I was a fairly creative person. I immersed myself in activities that required a good deal of concentration, patience and free thought. I read deep philosophical books, I knitted an intricate stuffed elephant toy for my niece, I baked bread by hand, and I even experimented with watercolors despite my lack of natural artistic talent. And then, I started my job and my after-work and weekend activities took on a decidedly more mindless quality. I just didn’t have it in me to think very hard after thinking so hard all week long, and my creativity levels and desire for self-improvement plummeted.

Part of becoming careared is feeling worn down and defeated by a job. This is exactly how I felt. Not only did my job affect my attitude and thoughts during the time I was at work, but it also dampened my spirits and left me mentally spent when I was away from the office. While I was once ambitious with my free time, I found myself spending more and more time watching movies and engaging in mindless activities that wouldn’t be too taxing on my fried brain. I began to perceive many of my former interests as chores, requiring too much creativity and concentration.

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The Interview Wining and Dining Facade: A Sociological Experience

January 11, 2011 | File under: Advice and LessonsOn the JobSchooling

For people who enter law school to secure a job at a law firm, those three years are really just an extended interviewing process. At least the first two years are, as many people enter their third year with a job offer in hand. And law schools waste no time: the search for a job begins practically the moment one enters their first year. From then on, it’s a nonstop parade of career fairs, campus visits, cocktail parties and fancy meals.

Of these events, the wining and dining ones are particularly illuminating. You can learn a lot about the Big Law Firm life by observing people sipping glasses of fine wine and munching on expensive crudités.

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The Sunday Dread

January 3, 2011 | File under: Advice and LessonsOn the Job

You know the feeling. You are enjoying a relaxing weekend. Although it took a bit to wind down from the work week, by Sunday your mind is decompressed and you are in full-out weekend mode. This state of bliss lasts for approximately three full hours, until late Sunday afternoon when you are inevitably reminded that you must enter the rat race again in approximately twelve hours. Enter the Sunday dread.

During my years as a lawyer, I became intimately acquainted with the Sunday dread. I hated the work week. I lived for the short time I had at home each night after work, and —- more significantly —- the weekends.

The countdown would begin on Monday morning. Like running in a marathon, the thought of the distance that separated me from Friday afternoon seemed daunting and insurmountable. How would I make it? Did I have it in me? I resorted to tactics that would allow me to mentally break down the week into smaller, easier palatable increments: I just need to make it until lunch and there will be relief; okay, one day down, four more to go; Wednesday, we’re halfway there. Slowly, the hours would pass, a day or two, then Thursday would come around and the finish finally appeared to be in sight. I would collect every bit of strength I had in me to push through to the end, breathe a big sigh of relief, and congratulate myself on completing the journey.

The next two days were a reward for my perseverance. A mix of recreation and necessary household activities, those two days would fly by at lightning speed, a pace unknown to me during the work week. Sometimes the lingering effects of work called for a brief detox to rehabilitate myself from the week. Saturday mornings were often spent flushing out negative thoughts and massaging out annoying kinks.

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Common-Sense Skills for Managers

December 8, 2010 | File under: Advice and LessonsOn the Job

Many of the people I know who have experienced burnout in their careers attribute their dissatisfaction as much to unpleasant people as to unfulfilling work. And most of the time, the people who present the greatest challenges to work with are supervisors who exhibit extremely poor managerial skills. Few professionals who hold supervisory power over others are actually trained in management. And even those who are often fall short in adhering to the rules of basic human respect that should be common sense to anyone having passed through kindergarten. I’m not sure what sort of people skills are taught in management courses, but having myself experienced the burnout that comes from dealing with inconsiderate people, I can offer a few reflections on the common-sense behaviors that should be mandatory for any manager.

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It’s Okay To Say No

November 11, 2010 | File under: Advice and LessonsOn the Job

A colleague and friend of mine at a law firm where I previously worked admitted to me once that she had a hard time saying no to the persistent and increasing demands that were placed on her by people in our firm. It was clear she was being taken advantage of by some partners who took for granted her diligent work habits and her willingness to sacrifice personal and family time when client needs appeared pressing. As it usually goes in a law firm, the partners were apt to interpret “client needs” as requiring service at all hours, and my friend was repeatedly the one called to duty because she was perceived as always being available. Understandably, her stamina was depleted after many years of this and she ultimately left for greener pastures.

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Feeling the Career Brain Drain

October 27, 2010 | File under: Advice and LessonsOn the Job

Sometimes, a career can actually diminish one’s mental capacity. It happened to me. Before I became a lawyer, I was a fairly creative person. I immersed myself in activities that required a good deal of concentration, patience and free thought. I read deep philosophical books, I knitted an intricate stuffed elephant toy for my niece, I baked bread by hand, and I even experimented with watercolors despite my lack of natural artistic talent. And then, I started my job and my after-work and weekend activities took on a decidedly more mindless quality. I just didn’t have it in me to think very hard after thinking so hard all week long, and my creativity levels and desire for self-improvement plummeted.

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Sitting

October 22, 2010 | File under: Advice and LessonsOn the Job

One thing all my years of schooling never prepared me for was the massive amount of sitting that would be required by my entry into professional life. Eight hours or more a day, confined to a desk in front of a computer, total idleness. It’s just one of those details of a career that evades notice until you find yourself doing it all. day. long.

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A Career Cannot Provide Happiness

October 11, 2010 | File under: Advice and LessonsOn the JobSociety and PressuresWell-being

Growing up, I was always a bit uncomfortable in my own skin. I was constantly trying to live up to some social ideal, simultaneously pursuing notions of intelligence, beauty and overall worth that I believed would make me valued and special in society’s eyes. I thought acceptance from sources outside of myself would fuel my happiness, oblivious at the time that real happiness would remain elusive unless it came from myself, not from other’s affirmations of my embodiment of any ideal projected by society.

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