Career Tips for Anti-Socials
And People Who Hate Bullshit
Since I wasn’t born independently wealthy, I spent most of my life working at jobs NOT because I loved takin’ shit from “the man,” but because I had to.
Over the years, I took several jobs (lots ’n lots) that I didn’t want, but that I thought I should want… or that I thought I should want to want…because it might look good on my résumé so that I could eventually get another job I didn’t really want but was paid substantially more to do.
Still with me? I know. That’s what it’s like inside my head. ALL. THE. TIME.
This tendency to pursue jobs I had no genuine interest in led me to waste a lot of time trying to convince myself I wasn’t actually wasting it. I was desperately avoiding the fact that I was a square peg running amok in a world of round, corporate holes.
And it was all (mostly) because I allowed myself to be swayed by society’s rather simplistic notions of success:
- Graduate college (regardless of debt) = success.
- Get a good-paying job (that crushes your will to live) = success.
- Meet another human willing to be seen at social events with you (because being single makes other people sad for you) = success.
- Pull-off a pair of skinny jeans without looking like a dancing hippo in Fantasia (even if you are literally, biologically, a hippo) = success.
Career Tip #1: Don’t let other people — especially unseen masses — define what success means to you.
So, imagine my shallow, self-satisfaction when the head of HR called me and said those magical words, “We were so impressed that we’ve decided to merge the two positions into one… and hire you for both.”
I am a work GOD!
And so the delusion begins.
Job Tip #2: Be careful about accepting any position that comes with two or more supervisors. Imagine a couple who argues all the time and insists on dragging you into their fights. Welcome to your new job!
On a scale of 1-to-100, the company that had just hired me enjoyed a coolness factor in the very high 80s. I was now fully prepared for, and even eager to answer, that inevitable, shitty party question:
“So, what do you do?”
I could finally respond without resorting to the bleakness of my usual answer: “Get the fuck away from me.”
Translation: I’m a super frustrated artist who’s moments away from climbing into a dumpster and waiting for death.
NEW JOB, DAY 1: Training Day
At 4:00 AM I was startled awake by the missile launch, air-raid shriek of my alarm clock. I responded like I do every morning for which an alarm is required:
“WHATTHEFU@$%&#AAAAH!!” <Sound of alarm being beaten to death>
I was up before the rest of humanity because my new boss insisted I fly to corporate headquarters, despite the fact that HQ was only a three-hour drive from my front door.
The actual time I spent in the airplane including takeoff, in-flight and landing was a whopping 45 minutes. I spent an additional 18 hours (that’s approximate), fucking around with my luggage, standing in line, regretting my choice of high heels, sitting on coffee-stained (pleasebecoffeepleasebecoffee) shuttle bus seats, driving a rental car through a cluster-fuck of morning commuters while abstaining from playing with the satellite radio lest I crash into the median and die. And locating bathrooms.
I was beginning to think my new company had trouble with maps and possibly physics. When I arrived at the corporate office I imagined spouting some rage-induced nonsense like, “Ya know, to save time, maybe next year I could just cling to the underside of a UPS truck. I’m sorry, I’ve been up since four chugging coffee. Where’s your bathroom?”
My first thought was how much the office lobby resembled an impoverished waiting room in purgatory: 100% fluorescent lighting, ugly beat-up chairs and a lonely, sun-bleached photo of an oak tree. I’m not sure what I expected, but I guess my assumption about “cool” companies includes an office with more warmth than a Wal-Mart restroom.
The woman at the front desk checked me in without a smile, then led me down a boring hallway to a large conference room, occupied by 15 other newbies. We’d left the ambience of the “Wal-Mart bathroom” and entered some sort of panic-room with ugly green carpet. The high point of the space was a platter of fresh pastries, coffee and an array of juices. Being oddly shy about scarfing down a donut in front of a room full of people (I assumed I’d spend the next two hours with chocolate frosting caked to the corners of my mouth, wondering why no one wants to sit next to me), I just stuck to the coffee.
Finally the trainers arrived and the rally began.
I say “rally” because, if you’ve ever been to high school, you probably attended at least one utter waste of time known as a “pep rally.” No offense to cheerleaders and jocks, but holy shit. You dragged the rest of us out of class (that part’s fine) to sit on our asses while Minda and Tawny try aggressively (bordering on violently) to convince us to give a shit about a game whose outcome in no way effects our lives. Seems sadistic.
Career Tip# 3: If you’re surprised how much high school and your career have in common, you’ve done something wrong. Or right. I honestly don’t know anymore.
The trainers introduced themselves: Larry, Kathy and Dale. Dale was the leader and the most enthusiastic human I’ve ever encountered. He kicked off the morning by high-fiving everyone while shouting “Gooooooood Morning Everybody!” He then bounced to the front of the room with a grin on his face that said, “I get up super early and drink cocaine smoothies. I’m your worst goddam nightmare.”
Maybe if I’d met this guy after ten o’ clock in the morning I wouldn’t have wanted him dead. But having already dealt with airports and rental car agencies, I could no longer recognize excitement as anything other than an annoying cry for help. Plus, Dale was so into the company propaganda that I worried for our emotional safety. Would he, like the high school cheerleaders scream, “YOU GUYS SUCK!” if we couldn’t match his balls-out, corporate-enthusiasm?
It was also immediately apparent that none of the trainers were over 25. Since I was in my (very) late twenties, I had the paranoid feeling that they saw me as a sort of ancient, almost thirty year-old, elder. Which made me even more self-conscious about my chosen attire.
While everyone else wore comfortable t-shirts and jeans, there I sat, all decked-out in my lifelong, fashion nemesis — business-fucking-casual. If I was a superhero, my adversary would be dress slacks, blouses, high heels and flats. Fuck dry-clean only.
I looked like an uptight asshole. I wanted to stand up and shout, “I’m NOT! I’m not an uptight asshole! My favorite outfit is boxer shorts and a t-shirt that says, ‘New York City Marathon 1980’ that I got at Goodwill because I would’ve been a badass toddler when I ran it and that makes me, and no one else, laugh. I’m actually a slacker, guys! Goddammit.”
Career Tip #4: Please sign my petition to legally require all company dress codes to include sweatpants.
After the obligatory introductions, I quickly surmised that I was surrounded by outgoing types (I‘m married to one of those. They‘re great, but they need an OFF button). Which made sense, as my job fell under the HR umbrella and I would be responsible for disseminating whatever fascinating information I gathered here, to other employees.
DAMN MY OSCAR-WORTHY PRETENDING SKILLS THAT CONVINCED THE HIRING MANAGERS I’M AN EXTROVERT WHO LIKES PEOPLE! <Wail of regret>
Career Tip #5: To thine own self be true. Basically, read the job description. Thoroughly.
I think it’s important to cut to the chase here and tell you the most memorable thing about the entire event.
Dale wore a dark blue sweater and baggy jeans. Every time he lifted his arms, his sweater crept above his jeans and exposed his Ron Jeremy-esque, muffin top. As I sat there trying to concentrate on his words, his attention-starved, midriff kept playing peek-a-boo.
Unless his nerve-endings were all dead, I’m absolutely certain he was aware of this and markedly unconcerned. Perhaps it was some PSYOP’s management tactic that I’m just too literal to grasp. Bottom-line: I remember very little the man said because I was too busy imagining the HR meeting wherein they created a dress code just for Dale.
“No sweaters that become tube tops when you raise your arms above your waist… DALE!”
Career Tip #6: Don’t put a wool sweater in the dryer. Actually just skip the wool altogether.
DAY TWO: Just like day one, but with bagels.
DAY THREE: May I be excused. I feel sick.
I’ve always been resistant to unproven dogma and I’m not what you would call a joiner.
I don’t join. I repel.
- Oh, everyone’s seeing that new movie? NOT ME.
- Everyone likes this new restaurant? I’M NOT GOING.
- Everyone who does Yoga is healthy, happy, and can touch their toes without bending their knees? YEAH, WELL PPPPPPTHTTHHHTHTH!
I’m not entirely sure from where this stubbornness comes, but it runs deep.
So, when Dale started in with the company indoctrination, I got uncomfortable.
“This company is changing the world!”
“Our CEO cares about you!”
“Money? What’s Money? We just want to spread love and joy and… dominate every last marketable crevice of humanity on this planet!”
Replace a few words and that rhetoric sounds eerily similar to a dictator or cult leader’s programming.
Part of me, since I was now three days deep, wanted to believe just so I wouldn’t be the lone idiot who took a seemingly good job, and in less than 72 hours, had serious regrets. But the much stronger, alienating part of me was all, Fuck off.
Career Tip #7: It’s not a question of “Will there be bullshit?” It’s a question of “How much bullshit can you take?”
Finally, on that third day of training, we were released into the wild of the big city. My cohorts wanted to go to dinner, but I was exhausted and filled with doubt. In hindsight, I probably missed out on some serious bonding over Dale’s pop-up sweater, but I drove back to the hotel and hunkered down with cheap take-out and an $18 in-room viewing of Eastern Promises. That shit was dark… and the highlight of the trip.
As I sat at the tiny hotel room desk, hunched over a box of noodles, the heartbreak settled in. Quite simply, to be effective in my new role, I had to believe the corporate hype and become an evangelist. The trouble was, I wasn’t a true believer. And I’d made a promise to believe… or at least fake it.
And faking it felt too much like lying.
As before, I tried to convince myself I should find corporate line-towing palatable. But ultimately I couldn’t. I couldn’t do it “for the money” or do it because “it’s what people do”… at least not if I wanted to respect myself in the morning.
Because at some point, you have to accept responsibility: if you don’t want to shovel bullshit for a living, you should probably stop applying for “Bullshit Shoveler” positions. Otherwise, you’ll eventually lose the ability to smell your own bullshit.
And then no one will want to hang out with you because you stink.*
*This assumes the current job market isn’t all bullshit and the only available jobs are for Bullshit Shovelers. In which case, unionize. Or get a degree in psychotherapy because something tells me there’s a need.
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