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on being a grown up…

June 25, 2013

I have been a working adult far longer than I care to admit.  I babysat from the time I was twelve until I was 18.  I got my first job with a paycheck and taxes when I was sixteen, working in a McRory’s store in Albion, NY.  Somewhere along the way I picked up some computer skills and learned how to answer phones and research complicated records, and I did a stint at El Paso Natural Gas.

Sometime after I got laid off there, or more accurately, my contract ended and they declined to renew it due to budget cutbacks, I found myself working for what was then Rockwell International.  It too was a contract job.  I was brought in to do some pretty basic data trend work, reports on defects on the manufacturing floor, tests results and the like.

Of course, being me, over the next three years I learned a lot, I took on more work.  I taught myself statistics and data analysis.  And then, as the company was starting to grow again after a couple of lean years, I was made a permanent employee and other people were hired to do the stuff I’d been doing so I could handle new responsibilities.

I learned a lot in my ten years there, as Rockwell was bought out by Boeing, as I took on more of a management role, as I was tapped to lead a special project, then another…And that was when I got my very first salaried position.

Now, I had an impression of what that meant.  To be salaried.  I’m not one who was likely to take advantage of such things.  I have a work ethic that pushes me too hard.  But I was quick to discover that there, in that corporate setting, not much changes when you go from hourly to salary.  More responsibility, but no perks at all.  

Mind you, I was working 60 hours a week at a minimum.  Many weeks were close to 80.  I LOVED my job.  But then came a day when I wasn’t feeling well.  I worked nearly 8 hours, but ended up leaving about 45 minutes early.  The next day, I was told that I was going to be docked for those 45 minutes.  Even though I was salaried.  Even though I already had over 40 hours on my time card.

Why?  Because I didn’t ask permission first.

Fast forward to my first job in California, small start up that seemed like a LOT of fun going in.  Another job where I was salaried in name, but would get called on the carpet for having a five minute personal phone call.  Even when it was well after five, and I had been working since seven in the morning.

My next job was back to hourly, and it boggled me how grown, adult people were treated like high school kids; every bathroom break, or trip to the break room to refill coffee cups or water glasses watched, every lunch hour timed.

But I started that job more than 10 years ago.  I was there for 5 years…then I moved on to another company for the last five years.  Not much was different there.  It wasn’t quite as stringent, but it was still hourly.

I guess I hadn’t even realized how much I had gotten used to it.  Until now.

See, I got laid off back at the end of April/beginning of May.  And when I started looking, I was looking for another job…another dead end, treat me like I’m a child job.  Lucky for me, something better found me.

One month had passed since my last paycheck, and I was really only half-heartedly looking.  Just getting started, poking job sites and tossing resumes at jobs that would have been more of the same.  It didn’t occur to me that I was worth more.  That I’m a nearly 45 year old woman with a lifetime of skills and experience.

Then something amazing happened.  A recruiter saw my resume online (still not sure which site), and my skill sets, divergent as they are, seemed to be a perfect match to a position he had just gotten called about.  It was a whirlwind romance, and a week later I was walking into my new job.

It’s a small company, not quite a start up anymore, since they’re nearly 8 years old, in the heart of the financial district of San Francisco.  The amazing thing?  I’m a salaried professional who is treated like….a salaried professional.  It’s an amazingly liberating and powerful experience.

Each employee is treated with respect, expected to do their jobs, expected to be grown up and responsible.  Put it whatever hours the work requires, and if you need to take a slightly longer lunch to see a doctor or check in on a sick pet or whatever, do it.  Get the work done.  Work hard. Play hard.  Come back and do it all again.

There’s no on there timing how long I take in the bathroom, or if I pick up my phone to text my Mom to say hi.  I find myself suddenly believing that I actually am a grown up.

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