Work Like You Were Being Let Go
I found out last week that despite my best efforts and my supervisor assuring me repeatedly that I was “doing a fantastic job”, my internship would not be converted into a full-time position. I remember leaving the meeting feeling little to nothing, like I had already made peace with the news before I received it. The next two days were filled with self-reflective thoughts concerning my role in the company and my place in the world.
Knowing my end date was just over the horizon, I felt like a ticking time bomb. I don’t want to make light of people whose situations are far more dire than mine, but I compared myself to those diagnosed with a terminal illness who were told they only had a few weeks left to live. Then I remembered a song the band at my church performed on a Sunday years ago, sung by the father of a daughter (my friend in high school) who died way too young. It was “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw and it has stuck with me since.
The chorus describes how a man in his forties responded to finding out he didn’t have much time left on the earth:
“I went sky divin’,
I went rocky mountain climbin’,
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull name Fumanchu.
And I loved deeper,
And I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying,
And he said someday I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dyin’.”
The music video is the cringe-worthy product of the 90s, but the message of the song itself is powerful:
If you’re running out of time, make the most of it.
Not wanting to subject myself to Tim McGraw’s pasty chest hair in vain, I asked myself how I would make the most of the time I had left at my internship. I’ve come up with a couple ideas to squeeze everything I can out of the limited time I have left.
1. Decide what doesn’t matter and what does and then do what matters.
This is the easiest one because somebody else did part of this for me. Somewhere along the chain of command, someone or someones made the decision that my job was not essential enough to pay someone a full-time salary for it. I don’t take it personally; it’s a business decision made by people who know a lot more about business than I do.
However the point is that if they’re treating my job as non-essential to the company then I should too. I’m still fully dedicated to the day-to-day operations of my job, but I’ve learned that there is a lot more to work than being a cog in the machine. Because the reality is that I’m not a cog at all; I’m a human and I go to work with other amazing humans every day.
So what doesn’t matter? My job. And what matters, or rather who? My coworkers. So what do I need to do? My coworkers. Wait, no. I didn’t quite mean it that way. Maybe this is why they’re not hiring me…
2. Network, network, network.
I work at a very big entertainment company and my specific department specializes in internet media. As someone who wants to make a living as an internet content creator, I work in the perfect place to talk to people who can help me achieve my dreams whether that’s by introducing me to someone who could potentially hire me or even just learning from their own experiences.
My company has built an awesome culture that encourages interns to set up coffee dates with full-timers. I go to work with some of the most talented and creative minds on the planet. I see it in their work and in their smiles every day. But lately I’ve become so consumed with my work that I haven’t reached out to the geniuses who literally sit right next to me. With my impending end date, I have made it a priority to meet as many influential people as I can.
3. Learn everything from everyone.
The entire purpose of an internship is to learn about the job you’re doing and the industry you’re working in. In my daily work, I do business with people from the social team, the video team, the art team, the web development team, and more. At any given moment, I have access to an unlimited amount of knowledge that is shared between the people on these teams. I can’t afford to take that for granted anymore.
I don’t need to know how to run ad campaigns for my role, but because a coworker took the time to show me how she runs ads for her job, I’ve been able to use that knowledge to get my foot in the door somewhere else.
Next I want to learn how to operate the fancy cameras the video team uses for their productions. Instead of just looking at the camera operators in amazement at their technical skills, I should ask them to teach me those skills. It seems obvious in retrospect.
4. Chat. Just because.
There’s a new girl at work who I talked to only once or twice before. The other day I sent her a meeting invitation through Outlook that simply said, “Let’s chat. Just because.” She accepted and by the end of our conversation I made a new friend.
In most workplaces there is an expectation of checking your emotional baggage at the door. No matter what you’re going through, you’re expected to bite the bullet and not let it affect your work. If your issues are that bad, don’t even bother coming in to work at all. Unfortunately, these aren’t practical expectations. Humans can’t completely turn off their humanity from 9 to 5 and sometimes missing work only creates more problems for somebody.
I think there needs to be more space for humans to be human at work, not the worker bees we’re often expected to be. People often use their breaks to isolate themselves which can be good to decompress at times, but usually when someone is overwhelmed it’s more helpful to have someone to vent to. Even more so, it’s nice to just take some time to personally connect with another person face to face versus through an email chain.
5. Help people.
Another way I want to show more support for my overwhelmed coworkers is to underwhelm them. Wait, no. That’s not what I meant either. What I’m saying is that I want to be more proactive about taking on the burdens of others when I can. And it begins with a simple question: Is there anything I can do for you?
Sometimes, I’ve learned, that asking that question is enough to help someone feel supported. During the last couple months of my internship, I want to be an expression of the love that has been given freely to me my whole life. I want to make myself available to help out anyone with their work even if it is entirely outside my immediate role. And now with no hope of my internship turning into a full-time position, nobody can say that I’m doing it to get the job.
6. Become friends with my coworkers outside of work.
History is repeating itself. In high school, I was the kid who bounced around from social group to social group but didn’t really have a group to call my own. I feel the same way at work. I have good relationships with most people but I often catch wind of the fun things my coworkers do with each other when they clock out for the day.
My office is relatively young. It is filled with people around my age and I’ve often wondered why I’m not invited to all these weekend adventures. I’m a very introverted person and I have trouble putting myself out there. But if I want to have meaningful relationships outside of work instead of just going home to an empty room every night, then there’s no better time than now to start being the kind of friend I want to have.
It will be challenging for a shy guy like me, but I’m going to start reaching out to the people I work with and make plans with them. Maybe, just maybe I’ll land myself a couple of buddies who will hang out with me even when I don’t work there anymore.
7. Find a job. The right job.
This one should’ve been first. I’ve got less than two months left before my contract is up and while I would have loved the opportunity to stay on my current team, I see this as an opportunity to evaluate what I want my career to look like.
I don’t think there was a single moment when I knew I wanted this, but sometime in the last couple of years I decided I want to work in the video game industry as a journalist. I also considered becoming a booth babe at conventions, but those opportunities are long gone.
I’ve decided that wherever I work next, it needs to support my dream of working full-time as a member of the video game press. I’ve been living the dream for the past two years on a small scale with my website Top Shelf Gaming, but I’m far away from financially supporting myself through it.
All the jobs I’ve been applying to this week are writing jobs. I have full confidence in my ability to convince an employer at a video game publication/media outlet that I am knowledgeable about video games, but nobody will take me seriously unless I already have a large portfolio of quality work under my belt and can demonstrate both consistency and ability.
If you’re looking to hire a writer, freelance or otherwise, consider hiring me and consider my Medium profile as my list of writing samples. Yes, this is shameless self-promotion in an otherwise heartfelt piece. But it really wouldn’t be a Medium article if I didn’t plug myself, now would it?
Oh and if you wouldn’t mind, would you click that little heart button if you enjoyed anything I’ve written here? Thanks in advance! #HireMarcus
Marcus Garrett is the creator of Top Shelf Gaming, an editorial website that seeks to use the power of video games to impact online and local communities. He enjoys playing guitar, taking naps, and eating tacos. His idea of a perfect day is one where he gets to do all three. Follow him on Twitter @marcus_media.