Home > Leftovers > Four years, two offices and a cubicle: my job odyssey continues

Four years, two offices and a cubicle: my job odyssey continues

For the first time in my professional career, I just rolled past the four-year mark at a single job. It’s strange to think that, until now, I haven’t held a job even as long as Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush were president. On the flip side, my term at this current company hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster, so… I got that going for me. Which is nice.

Granted, I always go into any job thinking I’ll be there for several years. It just never worked out. My first gig right out of school went for three years, and it was, without a doubt, the most exhilarating, exhausting and educational run I’ve ever had. I went from a 24-year-old kid with no real-world experience to a 27-year-old PR manager for a publicly-traded company. I’d never do it again, but I wouldn’t be anywhere without it.

That first job only ended when the missus and I decided to move back to North Carolina. My second job was, well, a terrifying ordeal that lasted all of six months. Why was it bad? Imagine an office run by Michael Scott from The Office, except instead of the boss trying to make people laugh, my boss wanted to make people miserable. Mission accomplished.

My third job was quite enjoyable… until the money ran out in the summer of 2002 (who didn’t work for a company that ran out of money in 2002?). After a summer of gainful unemployment, I landed a one-year contract for a big blue software company. Job 4, while a good experience, can be summed up in one word: meh. As a contractor at this place, no real responsibility was a double-edged sword. It was liberating after handling PR duties and constantly being under the gun. But, if nobody knows what you’re working on, you can never really shine. So, meh.

Then I joined my current company in the summer of 2003. But this one has managed to stick. And the anniversary got me to thinking… what separates a good job from a bad one? More importantly, how can you tell the two apart when you’re interviewing for the gig? After five jobs in 10 years, I feel like I’m more than qualified to take a stab at that one.

  • Are you desperate for a job? If so, don’t let that cloud your judgment. In my haste to move from job 1 to job 2, I neglected to look at some rather glaring warning signs. The soon-to-be horrible boss looked ok in an interview, but I didn’t pick up on his weird management vibe. It was obvious – in hindsight – but I overlooked it because I wanted a job in the area, and this company was interested in me. Should’ve been more careful.
  • Request to speak to other employees who will be your peers – and be careful if they don’t allow it. Again, with job 2, if I had spoken to anyone for more than a few minutes, I would have seen some warning signs. Not sure it could have made a difference, but it’s a good strategy.
  • Is the company struggling to find itself? If so, warning! For job 3, I walked in on a company in transition. It was a specialist marketing agency with some technology that wanted to be a marketing technology vendor. So, it hired a bunch of people on the marketing side to make it look and sound like a software company. Unfortunately, nobody wanted to buy the software, no matter how much we lipsticked the pig. Just 15 months in, they cut half the company, including all of marketing. Good times… good times…
  • In the end, do your best and leave it up to fate. In my current gig, I wasn’t the top candidate. The guy they originally hired ended up starting his own PR firm, so they offered the job to me. I couldn’t foresee any of this, but four years later, I should send the guy a fruit basket.

So, as I enter my “second term” in this job, I’m now suffering from a little “been there, done that” mentality. It’s hard not to. I’ve been doing essentially 2-3 jobs for the past 48 months, and after you’ve walked the tightrope that long, that danger doesn’t feel real.

On the flip side, I want to see where this company can go – plus I’m a year away from being 100% vested in my employer’s 401k contributions. That’s a helluva reason to stay put.

Next up? Some stats on the amount of emails I’ve collected at this gig. The numbers are mind-boggling. Turns out, this email thing isn’t going away.

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Categories: Leftovers
  1. TK
    August 14, 2007 at 3:40 am

    Congratulations on the second term. I’m half-way through my second term (PR manager for mid-sized public company), and thankfully its going better than that of #43, and I stay away from women in blue dresses.

    I was lucky enough to get a new professional lease on life my moving to Europe for a bit… Nevertheless there’s an interesting point in time when you’ve been with a company for a certain period of time when *you’re* the one telling stories about that one crazy rep or the night you saw Tone Lōc kareoke his own song at a dive bar off sunset strip… but I digress.

    Staying fresh against the siren song of familiarity is tough. Good luck.

  1. August 17, 2007 at 11:35 am

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