It feels like I’m starting (in the workforce) all over again

It feels like I'm starting (in the workforce) all over again

I’ve been at my job for six months, and as tends to happen, it feels like I’ve either been here all my life, or just a short time.

First and foremost, it’s really challenged me in new areas – particularly my soft skills – and encouraged me to consider what I want out of work.

I’ve also had a jolt of hope that maybe having kids isn’t going to be as bad as I fear. At my first job there were hardly any women, and none with kids – only the men had families. (After I left there was a spate of pregnancies – as far as I know at least one of the women went part time; I’m not sure about the others. News is a tough biz when it comes to work-life balance.) In my second job there were lots of women but they were mainly childless or with older, more self-sufficient kids. My new workplace is overwhelmingly female and mostly young. Initially I assumed most were childless but over the months I’ve come to realise a lot have babies/toddlers and are still really put together and awesome at work.

On top of that, I’ve really had to get used to a different industry and different ways of working.

Communication

I’m used to jobs that are largely self-contained, where communication with other people is fairly straightforward and transactional. Now I find myself working on more collaborative projects and interacting with people in ongoing liaisons.

Even in a flat organisation, projects can get complicated when there’s lots of players. Collaboration gets more difficult with every extra stakeholder.I have never spent so much time re-reading emails trying to decipher them and tease out meaning. (I don’t count the countless inane PR pitches I used to get in a former life – that’s a different ball game!)

I think I’ve become a better communicator since working here, and become really aware of any times when I’m not being as empathetic as I’d like to be. I firmly believe that the best way forward is understanding where everybody is coming from, but even I find myself forgetting that principle in the quest to get things done.

I’ve also come to see what a tough job it must be to run internal comms – keeping everyone in the loop and engaged within a company. This was the one aspect of PR that most interested me at uni, and should I ever move into PR that’s probably the way I’d go.

Culture

Working with people in overseas offices has its challenges. Time zones, for one. Language barriers, for another. Cultural differences. For once, those communication theory classes I sat through at uni have come in handy. (We also had a handy workshop on cross-cultural communication recently that was nothing short of fascinating.)

It’s also made me realise how valuable face-to-face contact is. In so many cases, it’s just so much easier to have people in the same room. Email, phone, VoIP or video conferencing just isn’t the same. I’ve gotten a lot better at talking slowly, that is for sure. Even collaborating with people at our agency, who are less than a 10-minute walk away … sometimes it saves so much back forth when everyone sits down in a room together to hash things out. I’m all for remote working, but it’s certainly more suited to some types of work than others.

One thing I noticed when I came in for my initial interviews was that the super open plan layout had people even closer together than in any of my previous open plan offices – but that people were constantly breaking out and going off to tables and corners for chats and meetings. Having spaces to better facilitate these kinds of collaborations and watercooler chat is so important.

Coordination/Flexibility

I’m been used to having the same basic framework for my work days. It’s true that no two days are the same in news, but you generally know what you’ll be doing from day to day, even if the content is different. You’ve got a newsletter/broadcast deadline to work to, or you’ve simply got to keep a rolling homepage fresh over a shift.

In many ways my work is now more reactive. I often don’t know what the day might hold. And rather than essentially wiping the slate clean at the end of every day (except for when I was working on bigger feature stories), there’s no hitting the reset button now. Ongoing projects stretch out over weeks or months, with multiple timelines in play. I’m not a naturally organised person, but I’ve had to get a lot better at it.

Have you ever had to get used to a totally new field or style of workplace?

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– Labour Weekend! Huzzah!

– Lopped off a bunch of my hair! As always, wish I’d done it way earlier. What do you do while you’re in the chair? I usually close my eyes (especially if I’m not wearing contacts and can’t really see anyway). I don’t have a regular hairdresser – I just go to a weird Asian salon where they don’t speak much English, but know how to handle Asian hair.

– November is shaping up to be crazy – two work related trips. Looking forward to it.

– I’m thinking about keeping a ‘health’ diary (though next month is probably not the month to do it in). Basically I just haven’t been feeling at my best, and I think keeping track of my sleep, what I eat and drink, what exercise I do, and any digestive woes I have might yield some insights.

This week’s links

A truly horrifying, spine-chilling story about living in a mouldy house

Giving up on dreaming big (and my previous take on that)

My fellow anti-social hermits, let us unite in our frugality

Good managers are indeed hard to find, and there’s so many variations on the bad kind

The ups and downs of working from home

I thought this take on the new era of non-job stability was interesting

What Sex and the City needed more of: introverts.

“Six seasons didn’t make me wish I had a life similar to the SATC characters. Instead, six seasons made me wish I wanted a life like theirs and question why I don’t. Shouldn’t I want to see my friends more? Shouldn’t I have three friends to complete me? “

Let’s talk about failure

… and success, and how we measure and perceive these things.

Every so often I see updates in my LinkedIn feed from someone I met through work a few years back. He’s reinvented himself a few times. Since I’ve known of him, there was a job that didn’t work out, a couple of entrepreneurial ventures (at least one of which folded) and he’s now landed in another different industry. It’s the type of job people don’t do for love and I realised that every time I see a post from him, I feel a little sorry for him.

On the most recent of these occasions, I paused and asked myself if he would want pity. Somehow I doubt it. He’s providing for his family. And ultimately, what is more noble than that?

Often, we don’t write about failure until we have moved past it and gone on to achieve great things. It makes everyone feel good – the writer can comfortably pat herself on the back and the reader gets a warm fuzzy shot of inspiration. It’s much rarer to read about from right there in the trenches, as it’s happening.

So far, T has failed to get back into sales (the kind he wants to do) – at this stage, odds are it’s just not going to happen – and massively expanded the job search parameters. I have to wonder… how many people (including myself) who say they would do any job, even at minimum wage, would actually be able to pull it off and get hired at such a job? You may not consider yourself above a low level job, but you’re not the one who gets to make the hiring decision.

I haven’t talked to people at work about the struggle I’m feeling. The panic of falling further financially behind every day. The mix of embarrassment and resentment of the current state of things. I listen to the struggles they discuss – their partners’ demanding jobs and stress levels – but it’s tough for me to sympathise. I’d hazard a good guess they’re running on around $150k household incomes (maybe more in some cases), both settled in their careers, not worrying about living in shoddy rentals forever. I know everyone has their own problems, and at least we are fortunate to have our health and some awesome travels under our belt.

The best pep talk I’ve read lately comes courtesy of Seth Godin:

Make two lists.

One list highlights the lucky breaks, the advantages, the good feedback, your trusted network. It talks about the accident of being born in the right time and the right place, your health, your freedom. It features your education, your connection to the marketplace and just about every nice thing someone has said about you in the last week or month.

The other list is the flipside. It contains the obstacles you’ve got to deal with regularly, the defects in your family situation, the criticisms your work has received lately. It is a list of people who have better luck than you and moments you’ve been shafted and misunderstood.

The thing is, at every juncture, during every crisis, in every moment of doubt, you have a choice. You will pull out one (virtual) list or the other. You’ll read and reread it, and rely on it to decide how to proceed.

We recently had a death on his side of the family, quickly followed by a birth just a fortnight later. Both incidents really helped me get some perspective (though I must confess, they also induced a teensy bit of panic too on the finance side).

Sometimes, though, it really seems like everyone else has managed to ride a straight path to success and we’re still mired in the squiggly line.

 

 

Have you ever ‘just known’ something was the right thing to do?

Have you ever 'just known' something was the right thing to do?

I’m curious.

Because I haven’t.

When people get engaged after just meeting each other, or decide to move to a city after spending a few hours or a few days there, I just shake my head.

As a chronically indecisive overthinker, I cannot truly understand that kind of certainty.

I can’t think of any decision I’ve ever made that I was 100% sure about, from choosing a job to choosing a house to rent, from getting married to going travelling for an extended time.

Sometimes I think it must be nice to ‘just know’.

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This week’s high was … I should say that it was meeting my new niece (and that was cool) but really it was hearing that she was inheriting her mother’s surname.

This week’s low was … Being knocked on my ass by a terrible cold for days.

Search term of the week…Getting sick from living in rundown rentals.” Yup, that’s what happens. I can tell you almost without a doubt that my health has suffered over the past years and I would attribute no small part of that to renting.

This time last year… We were in Chicago and New Orleans.

This week’s links

Okay, so not surprisingly, I’ve got kids on the brain (and all you guys who left comments on my recent post expanded on points that have occurred to me too). Here’s a bunch of related links…

This week I came across Ann Friedman’s piece, What if you just don’t know if you want kids? which made me thankful that we are not both truly on the fence, because how agonising would that be? 

There’s also Laura June’s I dressed a girl and I liked it (I too always planned on opting for gender neutral colours – I really doubt I will find joy in dressing a little girl in nothing but pinks, so I hereby resign myself to having strangers assume her a boy. It’s okay, apparently the same happened when I was a baby)

At A Practical Wedding, the helpless rage and frustration one feels about bringing a girl into this world. I totally, totally relate. It’s terrifying. ALL the feelings.

A kiwi dude who doesn’t consider himself a feminist took his wife’s name and so did their kid, unprompted. Be still my heart.

Okay, onto a few other bits and bobs…

What if you just hate making dinner? *raises hand*

Surprise: life coaching can be kind of a scam

How do you handle the mental load of partnered life? (Not as well as I’d like)

Finally, Melanie at Dear Debt basically wrote the ultimate post on work I wish I’d written

“If you LIKE your job or even are lucky enough to LOVE your job, don’t buy this be-your-own-boss and live happily ever after crap. Because if you like or love your job, that is a damn near fairy tale in this day and age. Enjoy it! …  Focus on what your heart and body are telling you. Not what some freelance guru is selling or some 9-5 prisoner who wants everyone else to hate their job is selling too.”

 

Four crazy things to do in NZ

wacky-nz-activities

I’ve learned a LOT about New Zealand over the past few months in the course of work. Here’s a few zany experiences you can have here:

A luxury tent lodge in the mountains

Accessible only by helicopter. In a glacial valley. Insulated safari tents with ensuites and heated floors. THE MIND BOGGLES. Can I move there for next winter?

Flyboarding

In all honesty, this sounds like one of those things I would only do under duress (like skydiving). Swim like a dolphin, fly like a superhero?

Hydro Attack

On a similar note, apparently you can go skimming across Lake Wakatipu in what is basically a gigantic shark. Who comes up with this stuff?

Zorbing

Slight cheat on this one, as I actually have known about zorbing for years… but it deserves a mention, especially since I failed to include zorbing on this list of quintessentially NZ activities! Again, not really my thing, but I’ll happily come along to laugh at you as you bounce/roll down a hill in a giant ball.

Are low interest rates a good thing?

Are low interest rates a good thing?

As a saver without a mortgage, I’m all for rising interest rates.

But overall, I can’t help but think that overall, maybe low interest rates are actually a good thing.

After all, how much are you ever really going to have sitting in a savings account? Long term money is going to be put into stocks, etc.

On the flipside, the biggest purchases you’ll ever make are likely to be materially affected by interest rates. Property. Cars. (yes, in a perfect world we’d all only ever pay for cars in cash, but we don’t live in a perfect world). If you borrow money to start a business. If you have a student loan (and leave New Zealand, incurring interest – or live in a country when student loans are never interest-free).

Just a stray thought.

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And… it’s the weekend again!

This week’s low…  An update on the worst boss ever, from T’s friend who still works here. SO hopping mad, can’t even go there – it’s borderline slander on that douchebag’s part – and I wish his friend wouldn’t ever talk to us about work, but that’s impossible to expect seeing as work is where they met.

This week’s high… Some effusive praise from an offshore colleague that went all around my team – a nice ego boost.

This time last year… We ripped through New England and up to Canada, pausing in Montreal and Toronto.

This week’s links

While I don’t love airports anywhere near as much as I used to, there are still a few things I like, and Tonya sums them up nicely

Berrak explains why she stopped looking for her ‘tribe’, which I totally relate to

At the Wireless, everyone’s talking about leaving, coming back to or staying in New Zealand. I missed the Twitter chat, but I’m still here because I’ve been around the world and didn’t find anywhere that ticked more boxes for me than Auckland. (For the record, I’d love to live in NYC for a couple of years, but it’s too big of a risk for me to stomach for too little reward. I love my career and don’t want to derail it or go backwards financially)

And a hilarious acceptance speech:

10 books that left a big impression on me

top 10 books that left an impression on me

When Ms Pear first tagged me in this, I seized up. How could I possibly come up with just 10 books that have affected me? Or, if I took the tack of choosing books that were truly life changing, how could I come up with that many?

Anyway, I decided to go for a mix – some books that truly changed my life, and some books that affected me in one way or another.

Sloppy Firsts / Second Helpings (and the rest of the Jessica Darling books) by Megan McCafferty

Jessica Darling is my smarter, wittier alter ego and I wish I could be her, or have her as a best friend, at least. Our lives have had a few weird parallels, and I kind of think of her as my fictional guide in regard to adolescence/adulthood.

If you’re cool with YA fiction featuring an overly precocious narrator, firmly dated pop culture references and the most hilarious, original acronyms ever, give the series a go.

Related: Some of my all-time favourite books

How to be a Woman - or anything by Caitlin Moran, really

I wish I had a quarter of Caitlin Moran’s badassery and way with words. I find it basically impossible to disagree with her on any of the big issues. She has a way of boiling down things to the most basic level – I have never read a more relatable explanation of feminism.

Related: Just call me a Caitlin Moran groupie

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

Is this book a load of bollocks? More or less. But regardless, this book changed my life. It convinced me to start trying to adopt a more positive everyday outlook on life, and that has done wonders for my general happiness.

Related: The best decision I ever made

Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher

A good friend’s mother lent this to us and we’ve just never gotten around to returning it. If you’ve ever thought that there’s no way you could imagine being in the same line of work for your whole life – if you get bored easily and struggle with traditional work/career structures – you need to read this. There are many flavours of ‘scanners’, as she dubs them, from the dabblers to the serial experts. It turned me on to the idea of good-enough jobs that subsidise the overall life you want to lead, and parlaying diverse, transferable skillsets into many types of work. Not so much for me, but certainly for T.

Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin

I genuinely really like (even love) my work and early retirement isn’t a goal of mine. That said, financial stability (financial independence would be grand, but not realistic unless I wanted to go into something lucrative and could actually succeed at it) is certainly a top priority of mine. So while not all of this book really appealed or applied to me, it got me thinking about values, ultimately, and how personal finance fits into your broader life – the one you’re living, the one you aspire to live.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

My parents were a weird mix – part tiger in regard to the strictness and high expectations, but minus some of the filial piety baggage. They were still too far down the tiger spectrum for me, and based on my own experience growing up plus what is outlined in this book, I know I will be extremely sensitive about knowing how far to push with my own kids. Everyone is different, and parenting needs to take that into account. I think this book demonstrates that sharply – balance, as with everything else in life, is usually the key.

Related: Chewing over Tiger Mother

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This book had me enthralled from the very start, and bawling at its conclusion. Although it is far from original – the tale of a young girl whose life is derailed by war – and gets off to a slower start, I found it utterly flawless.

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

Something about the wrenching descriptions of wartorn Russia and this improbable love story grabbed me by the heart. I think my desire to visit St Petersburg stems solely from this novel.

Related: Reviewing The Bronze Horseman trilogy

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This is a story, as you might know, built on manipulation and lies. I thought the structure was bold and gripping, but beyond that, it also really drove home for me how subjective the truth can be. How the two parties in a relationship can perceive things very differently. And I think that’s a good thing for anybody to understand.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Now, I wouldn’t say this was a straight five-star book for me. I wasn’t in love with the prose, let alone the characters. But it’s the themes of the content that lingered with me long after. What is it to be ‘gifted’ or ‘talented’, and what is that actually worth? How do you know if you’ve chosen the right person, and what if you wind up with the wrong one? Why do some creatives succeed and other don’t? How does money affect relationships? What makes a good friend vs a good lover? How do you cope with feeling jealous of your closest friends?

What books have made the biggest impact on you?

Why I’m way more worried about buying a house than retiring

Why I'm more worried about buying a house than retiring

New Zealanders have not traditionally been great at saving for retirement. (I doubt we are the only country in this boat.) KiwiSaver was only introduced in the last 10 years and still has a lot of skeptics.

Honestly, if I’d never come across personal finance forums and blogs, I wouldn’t be particularly worried about retirement savings. I might have left my contributions at 4 percent and never increased them.

But here’s the thing. Governments have proven they are unwilling to tinker with NZ Super. And the only parties willing to do anything about the state of rental housing have wound up on the wrong side of power.

To me, then, the logical and pragmatic thing to do is to continue to pursue home ownership. I’m not counting on the government to do anything about quality, affordable housing, either rented or owned. Current policy encourages buying – the latest change would double grants for first-time buyers who are building a new house, not unlike the Homestart first home buyers grant in Perth – and nearly 10 years of renting has well and truly turned me off renting in New Zealand. I see buying as the more likely route to securing a healthy and stable future for me and my own. Our chief human rights commissioner summed up things pretty succinctly in a recent speech: “…If you can do so you will do what it takes to ensure your family live in an adequate home … many people are not fortunate enough to find a landlord that they would trust to do that.”

Since the government seems far more likely to cater for me in my twilight years than ensuring healthy housing in my best ones, I’m going to prioritise getting into a house over retirement for now. I used to be pretty set on not touching my Kiwisaver account for a down payment. (I don’t personally think it’s a great idea to enable people to withdraw even more money from their Kiwisaver accounts to buy a house, as new rules will soon allow.) But I’ve changed my mind. I’m not going to rule out drawing on it – that’s drawing from, NOT draining it, to be clear – if that’s going to mean the difference between owning and renting.

I’m tired of the terrible quality of rentals. Mushrooms and mould do not belong indoors, ever. As property owners get richer selling houses to one another, people priced out of buying have to make do with substandard rentals and no legislation to protect them from shoddy, unhealthy properties. For a country that’s been at the forefront of things like gender and marriage equality, it’s well past time we got onto the basics of housing equality.

I’m tired of being on the wrong side of rising prices. Just a few years ago when I graduated, $360 a week could get you 3 bedrooms in my area. Now it only gets you 2 on average, and I guarantee in another year or two, it will only get you 1 bedroom (and a lot of the smaller 1-bedders forbid couples. AWESOME). This is an untrendy fringe area; prices are much higher in more central suburbs. Our city is growing and there’s not enough housing. Auckland is the Sydney, London, or New York of New Zealand. I do not see this trend reversing. I think high (and rising) prices are the new normal – here to stay.

I’m tired of the uneven playing field. I have the privilege of having the kind of job where I can duck out of work during the day to go to a viewing, but even I can’t do this all the time, and you need to do this at the drop of a hat when you’re actively hunting.

I’m tired of the instability. At any time a landlord can decide to cash in and sell out, displacing you, (and of course increase rent).

Like marriage or having kids, home ownership will be bloody hard … but I believe with all my heart it beats the alternative here.

Not every rental is crap and not every owned house is warm and dry – there are always exceptions. But in broad terms, there is a divide. When you’re an owner, you have the option of taking action to address the root causes of issues with your house. I can’t wait to have (or install) decent insulation and maybe even a heat pump. When you’re renting, you simply have to put up. I personally tried to do my bit for the cause by going beyond the numbers and highlighting the quality issues in a recent magazine article on renting vs buying, but what we need is sustained mainstream coverage.

There’s a reason multiple political parties put their support behind standards for rental housing this year. There’s a reason people are talking about this issue (though as has been proven, Twitter/the internet are far from representative).