Have you ever reached a point in a job where you feel that you've done about all that you can and it's time to either move up or move on? Have you ever found yourself in a position for which there really is no place to move up to, so you're left with the obvious conclusion that you have to move on?
A year ago, I wrote a post on this blog regarding my annual performance review. This past week, I had my performance review for 2007. It went about the same. Everybody got a 3. Period. When I got my Bachelor's degree, I asked my manager to see if the company would do something for me. The company's official response is "We hired you to do this job. A Bachelor's degree in IT has nothing to do with this job." Honestly, I don't believe they bothered to look at the curriculum that I took. In any case, that pretty much defines my new short-term goals for me.
I've had two jobs in the last nine years. On both interviews, I asked if the company had a healthy "promote from within" policy. I asked if the company was a suitable environment to plan for a long term career. It turns out that I was asking the wrong question. I should have asked "Does THIS position have a logical and reasonable career path?" Obviously, they'll tell me that they like to promote people from within, but I tend to end up in dead end positions anyway. I'm getting tired of that. Most companies seem to think a career is one of two things: find one job and do it for 40 years, or find a new job every 3-5 years. I'm not happy with either option. I would love to find a company within which I can expect to grow and rise. I'm tired of having to start over with a zero vacation balance, and I'm tired of having to make sure my family's doctors take the new insurance.
It's not that I haven't tried to stay with this company. I have tried very hard. A friend of mine works for the government in Washington D.C. He had a contract with my current company and a couple of Systems Analyst positions opened up. He submitted my resume to the program manager and things looked really good for me. I was obviously qualified for the position but one thing got in the way: for some reason, this program manager was TOO BUSY TO HIRE SOMEBODY FOR AN OPEN POSITION. My friend, as the customer, was demanding that somebody be hired because the open position was affecting his operations, but this guy was too busy. I kept being told that they were interested in me, but I never got a call. Eventually, the position was filled by another contractor. In the meantime, my personal requirements have changed to the point where I need to stay in south Jersey, as painful as that admission might be.
I've tried to move within my current organization. In 2006, an employee of another company that works on the same task as I do left. I applied for his position. I was told that it would be a conflict of interest to hire me to another company within the task, but I could help out. My company has several people on that effort. I ran into a problem though: that effort works in another office, on another network. There was no desk available for me, my company would not buy me another computer to use in that office even if there was a desk, and I couldn't get VPN access to the network to access from my current cubicle. I had a lot of fun helping out and I got an award for my help with a cash incentive, but after that I gave up. I could only help with testing but could do little with the documentation and preparation that led up to testing because I can't get on the network and carrying files back and forth an a USB stick was highly inefficient. I eventually gave up even though I really enjoyed that work and would love to have moved over to that task.
I tried last year to move to our Systems Engineering group. I talked to the manager in September while I was finishing my final class at the University of Phoenix. I was told once again that he was very interested in me, and would check with our Department Head and my current supervisor and would get back to me by the 1st of November. It is currently February 15, and I haven't heard anything. I see him in passing. Another guy from my group has been moved over there, but I haven't even been given the courtesy of "no". I think something is seriously wrong with a company when a manager is too darn busy to hire people, but I also see this as a serious lack of integrity and professionalism. When a manager-level employee says "I will get back to you by a certain date," should you not be able to depend on a response by that date?
What is all of this leading up to? Well, let's just say I'm waiting for a phone call. I've been in this position for more than three years. I've done all I can. Obviously, there is always something to learn, but for the most part I'm ready to move up or move on. I doubt anyone from my current company reads this blog, but I'll leave things vague. Let's just say that I'm waiting for a phone call from somebody who is both interested in my experience and has enough integrity to "get back by". I have also come to the conclusion that just like my previous company, when I asked this one during my job interview if they have a healthy career program, they lied to me when they said yes. I used to joke when I was in the Navy that my Navy recruiter never lied to me. I said that he left out a lot of details, but never lied to me. In this case, I'm starting to think I've been lied to. I've tried in three ways to make a career move within my company, and hit a brick wall all three times. I work in a wonderful office with wonderful people, and I truly appreciate the freedom and flexibility I've enjoyed in this position. I am able to set my own schedule. When my son Caleb stuck his hand in the car door as it was closing and I had to meet my wife in the emergency room, I literally just got up and walked out. I came back a couple of hours later and worked late that night. I didn't tell anybody and nobody asked. That kind of flexibility is priceless, but when job satisfaction isn't very high and there is NO POSSIBILITY OF ADVANCEMENT, that kind of flexibility doesn't go very far. It definitely doesn't pay the student loans for the degree that apparently has nothing to do with the position. Looking back, I took this position based on two very short term immediate goals. I needed to:
- Make enough money to allow my wife to stay home and raise the children
- Get out of my previous organization as quickly as possible.
I also hoped to move into a position from which I could expect a long and fruitful career, but the entire subject of this post is why this position did not meet that goal. It did meet the other two though.
Someday I may write about my previous organization and the turns that were taken that led to my decision to leave. I was hired in 1999 for what was originally a fun and fascinating technical job that over the course of 5 years changed to the point of being intolerable. A coworker of mine took a job in Iraq to get out of there. I'll leave the story hanging there for now.