Tag Archive | Work

Where Is There A Towel When You Want To Throw It In?

I started a new job almost two weeks ago, and let me tell you, a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Granted, I’m one paycheck down and my bank account is still in the red, but the next paycheck will put me back in the black. It’s just a matter of time, but things are looking positive just the same.

I’m a relay operator at a call center, so blogging is a bit of typing practice for me even though I have to drop punctuation and type everything as I hear it being said to me. It’s a fairly simple task.

Training went well. The first day or two, it had been said that training was the hardest part of the entire job. What seemed to be the hardest thing for me was the fact that there were countless macros, keyboard shortcuts that would automatically enter text to the deaf or hard-of-hearing caller to tell them what was going on with the call, and other macros that affected the call itself or the interface we use to relay calls. However, we had cheat sheets listing the macros and how they were used, which made things easy.

I suppose another difficult thing about the job is that there is a certain flow to each call, a certain procedure which needs to be followed. Press this button to start the timer, because that’s how we get paid for outgoing calls. Use this macro so the caller knows the person speaking is a male or a female. Record the recordings so you can relay them to the caller and they know everything being said. Yeah, I guess it’s not a hard job at all.

This past Wednesday, we went from practicing the call flow in the training room, to being on the call center floor taking actual calls. It started out easily enough, as there were four of us in the training group and we were paired up, one person taking calls and the other person listening in and being there to assist the other person if need be. For the first hour, I was on the listening end. It didn’t seem too bad, and I think I was either bored or maybe distracted, because I kept glancing around the room and taking in my surroundings. There was a window nearby, and I looked out at the businesses below and the rooftops of houses in the distance. The weather was typical for Syracuse, as it altered between being sunny and cloudy.

We went back into the training room for a bit, and asked questions if we had any. Then we took a lunch break, and came back after that to the training room. We spent some time in the training room before going back to the call center floor. When we went back, it was my turn to take phone calls.

I didn’t feel nervous or anxious, but I did feel like I needed to take a breath and level off. I needed a bout of confidence, I needed to relax, I needed… something. Most of all, I needed to tell myself I’d be fine, but with hardly anything to go on, I really didn’t know if I’d do well or if I’d screw up completely. I did my thing, logged into the system and started taking calls, and I let everything sort itself out.

I was terrible! Maybe I wasn’t completely terrible, but I forgot to assign genders, I forgot macros, I didn’t record the recordings to relay them accurately,… ugh. I had a call where I was going through automated prompts, and had to wait for the hard-of-hearing caller to give me the necessary response I needed for the prompt. By the time I got that info, the automated call would try to transfer to a live representative, but there was a half-hour-long wait if the caller wanted to wait that long. I was getting stressed, I felt like I wasn’t serving this person as well as I should have been, I felt like they were getting mad at me, and I hoped I wouldn’t be taking calls for much longer after that.

We went to break after that period on the phones. I took out my cell phone and went to YouTube, searching for a 5-minute meditation to somehow relax and calm down.

What was going on with me? The last time I can remember getting that overwhelmed from being on the phones, it was the second project of my first job when I wasn’t making any sales. I remember being on the verge of tears as I went to my supervisor and asked to quit that day. I didn’t give a two-week notice, but I just remember him seeming a bit disappointed that I didn’t try to stay on yet understanding that I realized it wasn’t a job for me, at least not at that point in my life if at all. Years later, he came through my line while I was a cashier at a grocery store, and he remembered me and was friendly to me and asked how things were. It was a step down, career-wise, but I was also working for a really great grocery store, and I think maybe he could tell I wasn’t the same person and was just doing what I needed to do.

But was I ready to quit this new job? I was thinking, at that point, that maybe it wasn’t the job for me. Maybe I can’t do relay services for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. It’s too much work, and the bosses are going to complain that I’m not doing things properly. And, I just had anxiety, even if it wasn’t a full-blown panic attack, even if I was still able to function at life. Do I want to have anxiety, day in and day out? I had anxiety after one hour on the phones, so what am I going to do when I have to spend 8 hours on the phones?

The meditation helped, but I still wondered if I could do the job. Somewhat thankfully, I had to stay late to make up for time I lost while trying to get temporary living assistance. My after-hours time was spent just shadowing another person on the call center floor. The woman and I talked for a bit, and she told me that the supervisors expect new recruits to make mistakes for the first few weeks or so. Yeah, that made sense, but I also wanted to be less obvious that I was a new person when people called in. I didn’t want to seem like I didn’t know how to do my job. The woman told me to give it a few weeks before giving up on it. I knew it was good advice, and I knew I wasn’t in a good enough position to give up my job so soon. I needed the money, and I didn’t have any other offers lined up. I had to stick with it, for better or worse.

The next day, there was another hour on the call center floor. I still wasn’t amazing at this job I considered keeping, but I didn’t need the 5-minute meditation afterwards. Maybe I had better calls, who knows. I can’t really say what the difference was, but it seemed like it was just another day.

Friday, we spent at least 7 of our 8 hours on the call center floor. I was half-awake and a bit hungry as I had skipped breakfast. The first call that dropped onto my screen was a teletypewriter user who typed, “HURRY” and the number for me to call. As I was dialing, they told me they wanted me to press the button during the automated prompts to connect them to a certain department. My trainer listened in on the call to help me speed up the process, because she recognized the caller. My trainer told me that I had a difficult caller and that it would be a challenging call. A few expletives later, which surprisingly didn’t come from me in this instance, I was speaking to a different representative for one of the calls I had to make for the teletypewriter user. I had to make a few calls for this person, and some of the representatives just weren’t good enough for them. When the call ended, I wasn’t even exhausted. I was entertained, if anything.

The few calls I had that weren’t wrong numbers or hang-ups, I had a mix of rude people and sweethearts. I was feeling far more capable of doing this job after four hours than I had felt after the first hour of being live on the phones.

Towards the end of the work day, I ran into the woman I had shadowed on Wednesday. She asked me how things were going, and when I told her I was feeling pretty good, she basically said, “I told you so!” I explained that I didn’t know if it would be a few weeks before I felt more confident, and that I was surprised that I was starting to get comfortable with the job. She was glad to hear that I wasn’t giving up, not that I really talked like I was on the verge of throwing in the towel, just that I wasn’t confident in my ability to do the job until Friday.

Friday night, I got a text message. “You’re working with meeeeeee!” It was from a friend of mine who I met when I worked at Media Play back in late 2005, who I later worked with at another call center by pure coincidence. She saw my picture on the board of “New Graduates” and asked which section I worked in. She does CapTel, which is a captioning service for phone calls. I’m not sure how different it is from my relay calls, other than different software or equipment being used perhaps. All the same, it’s nice to know I’m working with someone I know even if we’re not working together.

I know I still have some performance issues to work out, and that a number of things will get easier in time (such as memorizing those macros). But I wanted to be challenged, I wanted to take job skills I already had and use them in a new way. So far, I’ve been challenged, but so far it’s also been rewarding. Learning Japanese won’t help me advance with this job, but it does give me the ability to work towards my dream of going to Japan. Hey, I’m not giving up on that dream, and I’m not giving up my job too easily. Both are a challenge, but both can be attained by stepping up and facing that challenge head-on.

Let’s do it!

Pounding More Than Pavement: My Frustrations of Job Searching

Unless you’re looking for work, there’s no way you could understand how difficult it can be just to find a decent job.

If I submit 20 applications in a week, you would think that at least one of those would result in an interview, right? It’s a 5 percent success rate. That’s what I hope for, and I’ve turned up empty-handed.

The hardest part is just filling out the application. I have to fill out information for at least 8 different jobs, more if I want to list repeat performances at the same employer. Some places expect a phone number and the name of a manager. My work history spans over 12 years, and includes a store that filed for bankruptcy and closed. At least one of my past supervisors has retired, while others have moved around to different store locations and others have just moved on to other companies. And then, one of my more recent employers happens to be the brother of my ex fiancé, so I’m nervous about any biases he might have against me. If I have to fill out an application where I can’t just import data from somewhere else, I’m spending an hour flipping between tabs in Firefox just to review all of my employment information, with another tab to Google for phone numbers for all of these jobs. And to be honest, I really don’t remember exactly what I had been getting paid, other than my lowest has been $6.25 an hour and my highest has been $12 per hour.

My experience puts me in a bad spot. I have a lot of experience as a sales associate and cashier working in retail environments. I don’t have a lot of management experience. For some places, I’m going to be seen as overqualified. With my experience, I could ask for higher wages. Unfortunately, companies could hire someone who they can pay less. So if I apply for a low-rung management job, I’m up against people with more management experience than I have, which looks better to an employer. In that sense, I’m actually unqualified. It’s like the fact that I have an Associates degree, in that I’m not seen as qualified for a position that requires a Bachelors degree even if I do have the knowledge and experience required.

So if I’m not getting interviews, it looks like I haven’t done anything.

That’s when people step in and offer advice, such as, “have you tried actually pounding pavement? Some places won’t post their jobs online.”

Thank you! I did spend a day trying to pound pavement. Between four different Asian restaurants, I filled out one application, left my name and phone number at two locations, and at the fourth location I was told they weren’t hiring and just sent away. I figured an Asian restaurant would give me an excuse to work on my Japanese, possibly even whipping up okonomiyaki in the kitchen if I was able.

At another restaurant, I asked for an application and was handed one to fill out, and then I was told to complete the form outside of the establishment. This was in the afternoon, and the restaurant was absolutely not busy, so they could have allowed me to sit at their bar or one of their tables and made it look like they were working. I’m fairly certain that my application was filed in the circular filing cabinet anyway, just based on how the one waitress acted towards me.

“Well do you have any waitressing skills?” No, but I could be a dishwasher, or I could bus tables. Does it matter what my skills are? You probably asked me to apply everywhere that was hiring, even though I’ve been trying to find work related to things I know I can do.

Which brings me to my next issue, and that’s the people who act like there is someone, somewhere, who is handing out jobs, but they can’t seem to tell you who that person is. I’m already dealing with my own thoughts about my debt, the bills I have to pay, the ways I’ve probably messed up an application, the fact that I’m not getting phone calls for interviews. Adding to my stress by making me feel like I’m not already spending enough time on job applications, or that I must be making mistakes that no normal person would ever make, is not helping my situation.

And then there’s McDonald’s.

Anyone who suggests that I should work at McDonald’s is the most infuriating person I could meet. I’m not saying the work is beneath me. I will say that there are easier positions that pay more. I just worked at a call center, getting paid $11 to sit in front of a computer and call people. If they were angry, I just had to hear them complain before they hung up the phone as forcefully as they could manage. If I work at McDonald’s, I might be lucky to make $9 an hour, but I certainly won’t be given a full-time shift of 40 hours a week. If I get 20 hours a week, I’ll have to deal with the possibility of hot grease burns on my skin, I’ll have to deal with customers who are irate,…

Actually, let’s talk about McDonald’s customers. People who unleash their temper over an ingredient being put on a burger that they didn’t want, even though they’re not allergic to that ingredient. People who throw things at the employees because things didn’t go their way. People who say the workers are incompetent, even if they make simple mistakes that can easily be fixed if the customer had any patience. People who leave their trash on the tables because they don’t feel like picking up after themselves.

A $2 cut in pay and being scheduled for half as many hours is not worth having to deal with all of that. I’d rather work at the porn store and deal with an armed robbery. If you work in fast food, I really hope the minimum wage goes up and you get paid what you deserve.

If you were wondering, I’ve been trying to work with staffing agencies as well. My last staffing agency hasn’t returned my call after I found a position I was interested in applying for. I just met with another staffing agency today which has two positions lined up that would work with my skills. I’m hoping for that to be my silver lining in all of this, and even if it’s not a permanent position, it should hopefully be something to get me back on my feet for a little while.

I want to be more than I am. I just need an opportunity to show what I can do in the meantime.

The Long And Short Of Why I Want To Travel Far And Wide

There are some things in this world that I shouldn’t have to explain.

Maybe I should rephrase that. There are things in this world that can go without an explanation.

No, that’s still not quite right. What about, once a person has made a few mistakes in life, they start to learn from them and can probably make better-informed decisions later on?

Well, I’ve made enough mistakes with this introduction. I guess all that’s left is to explain a few things. It seems counterproductive compared to the intro I was going for. Or, did I do everything as I wanted to do, and it’s now exactly what I was thinking?

Plotting and scheming aside, the point I’m trying to make is that I sometimes feel criticized for wanting to go to Japan. While it hasn’t been said in so few words, the statements come down to things like, “you should give up on going, I can’t understand why you would want to go to Japan, you will be disappointed when you get there.” I usually hear, “do you have to go now? Can you wait 10, 15, 20 years?” Why should I wait? I’m not getting any younger, my body isn’t becoming any more capable. I already have to wait until I get enough money put aside, and that wait will be long enough. But when I hear people ask why I can’t put off the dream of going, I feel like they’re really asking why I can’t give up on going altogether.

Clearly, I need new friends. Or I’m overthinking things.

The short answer is, Japan makes me happy. I feel like people who care about me should want me to be happy.

Why does Japan make me happy? It just does. I can’t really explain it, and I know if I try to explain it, I might lose the magic. But of course, I apparently need to explain the whole thing.

It didn’t start with Wakkanai.

My Dad was stationed in Wakkanai while he was in the Air Force. I don’t remember if there were slides. For you kiddies out there, slides are basically physical photos that you can shine light through, and you put a tray of them on a special projector to help a room full of people fall asleep quickly. Anyway, that’s not important right now. He was in the Air Force as a Russian linguist. For you kiddies, the United States had a grudge against Russia for a number of years, and it was called the Cold War. My Dad basically translated radio transmissions.

When his time had ended over there, he brought home some stereo equipment that probably still works to this day. I was raised with the knowledge that Japanese electronics were superiorly made in comparison to American electronics. I watched the movie Gung Ho, and admired the Japanese work ethic. I think I watched Big Bird Goes To Japan as a child. But, I barely knew anything about Japan, I barely had an interest in Japan.

I had an interest in the Moon.

By the time I became a teenager, I loved looking up at the moon and stars. Astrology interested me, and I learned that my sign, Aries, was a fire sign. And then I was flipping through the channels on TV one afternoon and saw a cartoon with these girls who defended Earth in the name of the name of the moon or one of the planets. I saw a bit of myself in the title character, Sailor Moon, but my favorite character soon became the one who’s a fellow Aries, Sailor Mars. When they weren’t saving the day, they were living their lives in and around Tokyo.

I started watching Tenchi Muyo as well, and even a bit of Yu Yu Hakusho. Eventually I watched Fullmetal Alchemist.

One time, I was near the comic and gaming store and decided to drop in. I found manga, and bought one book as that was all I could afford at the time. But after I started working and driving, one volume of manga turned into over one hundred. I was a bit addicted.

When I was still in college, though, I started getting into L’arc en Ciel. I remember looking up song lyrics and translations in the computer rooms while I was between classes or after I had finished up whatever I was working on. After I graduated, I bought an iPod while working at my first job, and I had some Sowelu and Utada Hikaru songs along with some L’arc on there.

It wasn’t an interest in Japan, just in Japanese media, but I was happy. Life seemed to be going well for me, I had both of my parents, I had started working and had a car to get around.

And then I met a guy.

When I first met him, he kind of had a significant other. She didn’t really want him, and had ended things with him by the time I saw him again. They were both at a party that one of my friends was hosting, and I was there as well for no reason other than I was invited to a party. He was there because his now-ex was going to be there, but he felt a need to heal his wounds by getting drunk and crying on the sofa. I had knelt down next to the sofa, the armrest being all that separated me from his feet. I wanted to help, I wanted to be supportive. He ended up calling one of his friends who drove over and picked him up to bring him home.

This guy’s life was a bit of a wreck. Someone broke into his station wagon and stole things from him. He was driving a station wagon because that’s all he could afford at the time, and it was already falling apart. He was also living with his brother, who looked Korean. He actually looked Japanese to me, but was apparently half Irish and half Korean. His brother had a different father and was full Korean, if memory serves me correctly.

Not that it mattered what he was, because to me he looked pretty good. I really didn’t feel worthy of being around him. Oh, I should mention that after checking up on him the next day, one thing led to another and I started going over to his place nearly every day. I thought things were going somewhere, but I had never had a boyfriend before and I had nothing to base my experiences on.

One day, he started talking about looking at newer cars, and had his heart set on one at a local dealership. Knowing his struggles, I did what any foolish girl would do. Well, because I felt a bit guilty for enjoying Japanese stuff while I had an interest in an Asian guy, I sold the manga and gave him the money to put towards the car.

After about a month, he didn’t want to see me anymore. I learned a lot in that one month, more than I really care to explain. But I lost my interest in manga, and my interest in everything else waned as well.

The second time wasn’t as good.

Eventually, I bought more manga, though my collection wasn’t as impressive as it originally had been. I didn’t read the volumes as often or as quickly. But I met a guy at work who became a bit of a friend, nothing more. To some degree, he got me back into anime, but I wasn’t as interested as before.

I went to an anime convention with him, my second ever anime convention. I remember feeling like I had outgrown anime. I was surrounded by people cosplaying characters that I didn’t recognize. There were anime titles I had never heard of. The finest moment was meeting Vic Mignogna, voice actor extraordinaire (seriously, look him up on IMDB or something, he’s in nearly every English-dubbed anime you can think of). Aside from that, the day was a bit of a waste.

Eventually, I was rescued…  by food.

While working at a well-known grocery store, I bought The Manga Cookbook. Unfortunately my ingredients were limited, and I could barely make anything in the book despite the grocery store having an Asian food section with imported goods. I did try my hand at making udon noodles, though, which turned out alright.

While working that job, I lost my Mom, which caused me to move to New Jersey. Okay, a lot of things caused me to move to New Jersey, most of which were bad decisions. While I was living in New Jersey, my boyfriend at the time introduced me to Mitsuwa Marketplace. At first I was interested in going, but after going I was in ecstasy! All the ingredients I couldn’t find before, I could find at Mitsuwa! And there was a bookstore nearby where I could buy manga in the original Japanese! And I spent more money than I should have, but it was necessary.

I returned a few more times after that. I always made sure that I ate something from the food court, because there was no way I’d be able to make anything that tasted quite like it should. I loved the feeling I had while I was there. I came home after my first visit, and realized that I didn’t have any L’arc songs in iTunes, just a couple of Hyde’s songs. I started tracking down all of L’arc’s albums on Amazon and eBay, which gave me a bit of an endorphin rush when I bought another album and when it finally arrived.

I had forgotten how happy I once was to listen to Japanese rock and pop music. I listened to Horizon, and it reminded me of a dream I once had. But the food also made me happy, because everything was new, and everything I tried was amazing.

Japan was where I needed to be.

The search for a job can make anyone go a bit insane. The thought eventually popped into my head that I could move to and work in Japan, so that became the plan before I even knew what I was getting myself into. But a plan like that is good to have when you think of all the angles, and in my case I realized that my then-fiance and I were two entirely different people. Ignoring what I had to consider for myself, I realized I couldn’t have my fiancé travel with me to Japan because the flight would be too lengthy for him to deal with his disability, and then he probably wouldn’t want to go out and do anything with me once we were there. Not only that, but leaving him behind meant that we were back to having a long-distance relationship.

I like to think that the entirety of that discussion was one of the many factors why we broke up. Our relationship left me broke, but it also left me with the freedom to go and do what I want to do once I’m not poor. Since I put more thought into going to Japan, I know what I need to do to go, and I don’t see a reason why I shouldn’t go.

So what else?

I’d like to think I’ll eventually meet someone while I’m in Japan, and maybe I’ll give in and have children, thereby helping out their birth rate and keep it from declining further.

If I’m in Japan before the Olympics, maybe I can get into hospitality and be of some use when the place is mobbed by tourists who speak more English than Japanese. Otherwise, I could always just assist in teaching the language.

My interest in Japan isn’t anime and manga. I might go to a concert, if time and finances allow. I might do some video gaming-related things. Or I might decide to be boring and check out as many temples and shrines as I can. If I lose interest in Japan, I could go elsewhere.

I’ll have to go over on a student visa and go to a language school, then work part time to make a living. I can’t get on a work visa because I don’t have the right credentials, and it would be cheaper to get my bachelors degree in Japan. But it is possible for me to go to Japan, I just need to get my finances in order before I can go.

Tomorrow, I think I’m going to make a PowerPoint presentation of this entry, then save it onto my phone so I can make the argument at a moment’s notice. Basically, the Japanese stuff makes me happy, and so I’d like to go to Japan and live there for a while. I know what I need to do to get there, and unless you’ve travelled abroad, you can’t say that I don’t know what I’m doing. But there are things I can’t plan for just yet, because airline tickets change prices, tuition costs increase, rent goes up, so those things will have to wait until I’m at a point where I have to consider such things.

This is what I want. This makes me happy.

I’ve spent enough time trying to make others happy. Now I want to do something for myself.

Bravery To Know The Truth

I haven’t posted anything in about a week, and that post was on the serious side. What can I really say? I’m back to the desperate job seeking, money is tight, so I’m not really going anywhere and doing anything special. Not only that, but one of the cats is routinely urinating on the blankets I use at night, and my friend thinks it’s funny because “he’s just an animal who doesn’t know any better.”

So my self-worth has tanked. I was sitting on the sofa last night, staring randomly towards the floor, while my blankets were in the wash, and I was thinking there was no point to washing the quilt covering the sofa if it was going to get peed on again, that I might as well just deal with it since my skin never actually touched the part that got wet. Maybe I should just stop caring when the living room smells like cat urine, and let my friend deal with the smell while I’ve been blessed right now with a sinus infection. I didn’t feel worthy of sleeping with clean bedding. I didn’t even feel like my friend cared, like she would think differently if it was her things getting ruined and she had to clean her bedding before sleeping, but I just had to put up with it.

But that much wasn’t important, other than to say I was feeling pretty miserable. My phone, which was sitting on my lap, alerted me to a new e-mail message: “I can talk in about 30 minutes, if you would like.” It was from my friend in Japan.

We hadn’t talked in about two or three weeks. There was a disagreement between us, which resulted in the usual bout of silence. I had the last words, which I used to get a few things off my chest which had been bothering me, but I knew those words could also be my last words ever so I stressed that what I was saying wasn’t out of anger or spite but my own concerns.

If I hadn’t thought about him every day, then it was every other day. I thought about what I said, and I know how it sounded. When I was feeling weak, I considered apologizing for the things I said, but then I reminded myself to stand behind my words. I had concerns, I needed to address them, and I did, so why turn around and wave it off like I wasn’t bothered? I imagined conversations with him and how they would go. And I often looked out the windows towards the street and towards my car, on the off-chance that he got the nerve to come all this way to see me just to say what he needed to say. At night, I just had to pull the blankets over my shoulder and tell myself to stop trying to imagine that I’m living in some romantic comedy.

I really didn’t think that I was going to hear from him again. I questioned how long it would be before I would stop thinking of him. But then his message was met with a bit of uncertainty on my part, so I responded with an “okay.” When he messaged me later to say he was ready to call, I responded with another, “okay.” It’s not the greatest way to begin a conversation, I’ll admit, because I could have been in any kind of mood to give a simple “okay” and he wouldn’t know if things were fine or if I’d bite his head off. The phone conversation started with telling me he was only going to be on the phone for about a half hour. When he got into what he wanted to say, which was his response to my last e-mail and a few things left unanswered, I started to interject and he told me not to interrupt him. He had things he wanted to say, things I didn’t quite understand, and he wanted to make sure he said as much as he could in the time he had.

At one point, I noticed his voice was a bit shaky. I’ve thought about that a few times over the past day. Was it hard for him to say what he did? Was he nervous? Was he determined? Was he scared that I would escalate the argument and start screaming at him?

After two hours, he said he was ending the call. It was only the fourth or fifth time during that call that he said he was going to hang up, so part of me wondered if he was going to think of yet another thing to talk about with me. We got past the worst of the call, as we started talking about my job search. I was laid off a few days after our argument, and I never wrote to him to tell him about that. I just wanted him to think I was still doing okay, that I had a grasp on life and was taking care of things. So when he mentioned me working, I had to let him know what happened. I think it changed his mood a bit, because the conversation did shift gears. It wasn’t about resolving conflicts and having courage to do so, it was about realizing that I had more pressing issues than how things were going with him.

And then we talked about Himuro, which was the most fun part of the conversation. So it’s no wonder that the conversation as a whole lasted almost two hours. It wasn’t spoken, but perhaps we just miss each other at times like these.

I went to bed feeling a little better about things between us. Well, that and my blankets were fresh from the dryer and they were amazingly warm and cozy. I desperately needed the pick-me-up, and my Japanese friend will never realize how meaningful it was to hear from him at all at that moment.

Well, the sun is coming up. I’m not even tired, but this is exactly what my friend would complain about: my habitual bedtimes that fall in the early hours of the morning. It’s only 6 pm in Japan, which means if he finds this before he goes to bed, I’m going to wake up to a potentially unhappy e-mail from him. So… nighty-night!

Gotta Be Coached

Just when I thought things were picking up, I learned there was an emphasis on the word “temp” in the phrase “temp agency.” I was hoping for a longer run, but the work dried up and the need for me was no more.

A lot of good came from having a job again. Probably the most important thing was being able to pay off one of the smaller creditors. Unfortunately I also had a $500 car repair bill, which would have helped to pay off more of my debts if I didn’t need the repair. It is what it is.

Before I left New Jersey, when I had just started with an insurance job, there was one day during training when one of the owners of the agency came in to our class and spoke to us. He gave us four things to remember to do:

  1. Write down your dreams
  2. Be coachable
  3. Have a good attitude
  4. Let go of fears

At the time, I wasn’t writing down my dreams even though the idea of going to Japan was at the forefront. I did have a good attitude, as I was convinced, even while I was watching everything fall apart, that I was doing just fine and that my problems at the time were starting to turn around. I didn’t even think of my fears, so how could I let them go? What was I even afraid of at that time? As for being coachable, I wasn’t in a position to be coached, so I didn’t have to worry about that at the time.

I was coached once in this past month. When I was told I would be coached at some point during that day, it felt like the equivalent of saying to me, “wait until your father gets home.” I was a bit nervous, wondering what I had done wrong in my calls and everything else.

It wasn’t as terrible as I had anticipated, though. To begin, one of my calls was audited and I scored a 92 out of 100. That came later during the coaching session. The coaching actually started with trying to overcome rejections, people telling me they weren’t interested and me accepting that as an answer. I was also asked to change the tone I used for the introduction script, as I was far too cheerful and also sounded like a recording. My boss played one of my calls, and it was one where some woman answered the phone with a curt, “What do you want?” I went into the introduction, completely broken out of the tone I had been using.

“You were talking so naturally,” my boss remarked.

“Yeah, because I was scared of her!”

My boss talked about how I could carry on conversations rather well, as he had asked about my umbrella earlier in the day and I was telling him that no, it wasn’t actually a sword even though the handle looked like a katana. I love that umbrella because it always sparks a conversation or at least catches someone’s glance.

But the meeting wasn’t entirely me being told what to do or what I was doing wrong. If I had questions, I asked them. Sometimes I asked if I was doing something right, or if it was acceptable at all. Sometimes if I was given advice, I would slightly question that advice or explain why I was doing things my way, because I was looking to understand the methods used instead of just blindly doing things a certain way.

I walked out of that coaching session feeling pretty good about things. Better still, I applied some of the advice I had been given, and I noticed an improvement in my metrics, my number of completed surveys per hour.

So understandably, I was sad when work dried up because I’m not working there now. I feel like things had just begun, you know? I was honing my skills, and now I have to see where I’ll be going next.

But I was coachable. And it worked out well.

There is another side to this. Not that there was a time when I wasn’t coachable, although I’m sure I’ve had stubborn moments when I just didn’t understand what I should have done and then didn’t change.

I had one job where my immediate supervisor actually refused to talk to me.

I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting a uniform shirt. Someone said I had to “earn” the shirt, but no one told me what I needed to do to earn it. My first shirt was a pink shirt, for breast cancer awareness month, which meant I still needed the regular blue shirt by the end of the month, but it was a start and I wouldn’t need to wear my own shirt anymore. When I got my name tag, my first name was split, and below that it said “Media” while everyone else in my department had a name tag that said “Media Specialist.” After a year, I was no longer on the schedule, despite my willingness to pick up extra shifts when people couldn’t work when they were scheduled. I knew exactly who my immediate supervisor was, and we were rarely scheduled at the same time, but when I did see him, he was always too busy to talk to me. So I never knew what, if anything, I was doing wrong. All I knew was I wasn’t getting the best treatment, but I stuck with it because I thought things could improve or that I could show that I’m actually a decent employee.

Of the four points I mentioned, while I agree with all of them, I think being coachable is so often overlooked and forgotten. I think people get into this mindset of doing things how they want to do them, or they might do their own research to see how to improve, but I don’t think people actually invest the time to talk to others who could point out their flaws and how to change. Even if a person allows someone else to tell them what needs to change, I don’t think enough people actually try to understand what’s being said, they might think they know the advice they’re being given but they don’t know how to apply it or how to change.

And also, write down your dreams. I think I’m going to go do that now. Oh wait, isn’t that why I have a blog?

Alone With My Supervisor And Coffee

One of my supervisors at work is a lot of fun to be around. At first, I knew I was just more comfortable around him but didn’t seem to have a reason why, nor did I need a reason. When I noticed his computer wallpaper was of the Pokemon Mew, and he talked about some of his geeky interests, I realized we had similar interests, and that was probably one of the reasons why I got along well with him.

When he was building interest for a project that was based on the west coast, I volunteered to be one of the people to work on that project. It guaranteed that I would have something to do with the company beyond the project I was hired to work on, so my motivation was that job security. Not to mention, because of the difference in time zones, I would be working later hours, which didn’t bother me because I was usually awake during that time anyway.

That project had five people volunteer to work on it, four people who could commit to the schedule, and three of us who did most of the work. It wasn’t as large of a project as the two other projects I’ve been working on, with about a third of the number of call lists, and each list being about one-seventh as long as the other lists I was used to working with. Even with two or three of us making the calls per night, we breezed through the lists of phone numbers, and my supervisor was able to get more lists from the client as a result of that. However, one cause of our speediness has been the fact that so many people have hung up on us or not even answered the phone. Because of that, I developed a habit of wasting even less time on those calls because I can tell what the resolution will be, I know the tones for a number that’s not in service, I can tell when an answering machine or a voice mail service is starting.

For whatever reason, either because of scheduling and availability or because of how awesome I am at making at least 60 calls per hour on this project and overcoming objections, I managed to be the only one scheduled for the project last night.

Just me… and my supervisor.

And a pot of coffee.

This is how things start, isn’t it? You get a man and a woman alone in the same room, two people who get along well, have similar interests, all of that. It starts getting late. One thing leads to another. Before you know it, I’m telling you how I’m not his type, and you’re wondering how I know I’m not his type and telling me that I shouldn’t say things like that, that I should be confident. Well, I’m not his type, because before last night, he had already casually remarked that he was gay in front of the whole call center.

It wasn’t even much of a surprise for me. He speaks in that effeminate manner that is usually associated with gay men, but it’s rather subtle and not backed up with flamboyant hand gestures or slang. But it’s not like he figuratively wears his sexuality on a frilly sleeve; he actually dresses like any guy would, wearing plaid button-down shirts when he has to dress more professionally and athletic hoodies when he’s cold or is just dressed more casually. I don’t mean to resort to any stereotypes, however I do know that some people base their “gaydar” on superficial things, like a man’s interest in musicals. And, my supervisor actually prefers the non-musical Disney animated movies like Finding Nemo, if you must know.

It’s not like his sexuality even mattered to me, because it wasn’t something I thought about. It did help, in a sense, to know his sexuality prior to last night, because then I can talk about last night and say, “I know how this sounds, but nothing happened and nothing would have happened.”

But oh, I’m making a big deal out of this, aren’t I?

In a dream I had last night, the earlier events now being a forgotten haze, I was listening to a phone call directed at me, and it was as if I was listening to a voice mail as it was being recorded. I don’t remember everything that was said, but one of the last things that was said that I do remember was something like, “… and I saved that voice mail of you and play it back just to hear your voice.” As that’s being said, my supervisor is ascending the stairs in a stairwell, and he’s the one saying these things as I hear them over the phone. When I see him and he sees me, I’m smiling because it’s so romantic to me to have someone admit the silly things they do because they’ve fallen for a person, and in this case it’s someone who has fallen for me. Once he has climbed the stairs and is in front of me, he kisses me softly on the lips. The rest of the dream was spent not far from him. I was giddy over the idea of having a significant other again. He slightly evolved into Giovanni Ribisi by the time I woke up, but in my defense I was watching Lost In Translation before going to sleep, and they’re both similarly-dressed skinny white boys.

Upon waking, I had to remind myself that my supervisor is gay, that none of that would happen. And yet, it’s something I want to have happen, maybe not with my supervisor, but I like thinking that someone can’t quite get enough of me. It silences the thoughts that are in direct opposition, suggesting that I might be bothering people or they’re really not interested in spending time with me. It reminds me that I’m not the only one who does silly things when the relationship is new, or barely budding, or even just to think that a person might be someone worth keeping around for a while.

So now it seems awkward to do so, but I want to ask for my supervisor’s phone number. I sincerely hope you understand why I would ask for his number, and why my own mind has sabotaged the retrieval of an important bit of information, before I even explain. I want to ask for his phone number as a future reference for job applications, nothing more. Unfortunately I feel like I’m going to overly explain myself upon asking, when even I know I’d question someone’s motives if they had to explain that, “I won’t call or text you, ever, it’s just to use you as a reference for future job applications.”

Special thanks to my mind, for taking a completely innocent, professional experience, and turning it into an awkward situation that I have to deal with in the real world. The idea to write about it all might not have been the most brilliant of ideas, as now it’s possible for my supervisor to find this and things can become even MORE awkward. However, I’m pretty sure that others have had similar experiences, so I have to remind myself that I’m only human and that I need to roll with it. After all, the worst that could happen still isn’t that bad.