Permanent Employee

“Have a seat, Natalie,” the HR Director said, gesturing to the uncomfortably stylish chairs facing her desk.

I sat and crossed my legs. The skirt I wore tightly squeezed my hips when I sat, as if they were encased like polyester-covered sausage. I seemed to have gained weight in the seven months since I’d started temping at the sleek marketing company. Perhaps it was the coconut cake I scarfed every day as a “snack” to get me through another painfully boring afternoon scouring the web for tech resumes…or maybe the hazelnut latte that went with the cake…or maybe the lack of exercise from working two jobs and going to grad school at night…

“How would you feel about coming on as a full-time, permanent employee?” she asked. “We’re really feeling the need, and we could use you in so many more capacities.”

I felt myself surge. Permanent! Full-time! Benefits! A new car! A new wardrobe!  A real job at a real office!

Too naïve to know I should dial down the wide-eyed enthusiasm, I gushed, “Wow, that would be incredible!”

She smiled warmly. “Of course, you’ll want to think about it. We would need you as a salaried employee, which naturally would require overtime.”

I immediately got the hint. I thought about the days I had to take off occasionally during finals week, the crazy speeding necessary to get to my 5:30 Modern Lit seminar on time.

“Plus, we would like to place someone in this position who is in it for the long haul. This could really be a great opportunity for you. There’s a lot of money in recruiting,” she added with a glint in her eye, as if doling out an insider-trading tip.

She didn’t have to tell me, though. I saw her enormous bi-weekly paycheck every time I stuffed the envelopes on payday. I had also googled her beachfront address. She made more in one year than I would in ten.

Despite my naïvete, I understood her suggestion.

“Uh, yes, I would need to think about it,” I concurred.

I looked at her, really looked: her smart haircut, her plump frame, her windowless office that drove me crazy after an hour of filing. I thought about her sixty-hour work weeks, her inability to squeeze in any exercise or social life, her endless board and budget meetings, her thrill at finding just the right candidate to fill the empty executive position.

Then I thought about me. The tedious hours staring at a screen, the scheduling and re-scheduling of interviews, the never-ending mounds of paper to be sorted, copied, printed, filed, collated, hole-punched, wrestled with into binders. How each day I left the office drained of my humanity.

How I restored that humanity again at night by strengthening my mind with lively discussions and writing. The harmony of words, the soothing palliative of art, this saved me everyday.

I knew my strengths. I also knew I wouldn’t work much longer in HR.

 

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Comments

Permanent Employee — 48 Comments

  1. Good for you! The great dilemma always seems to be: settle or not. Settle for a crappy job that pays the bills, or hang on to the free time that allows you to do what truly makes you happy? It can be a difficult choice. But in the end, happy always trumps settling!

  2. Having this dilemma right now while I search for a career versus just a job. Money/security but soul-sucking or something fulfilling but not well-paying? So hard! Loved this. x

  3. My current job is so boring, but I love having a set schedule and being able to leave and forget about. After my last job of overtime and a horrible boss, I’d much rather have the boring.
    For those people that have found the perfect job, I wish them well. For the rest of us, we have to decide what is most important to us.

  4. I love my work. I make some compromises for my job. But not so many that I can’t love my work. It wasn’t always this way for me. You made the right choice.

  5. For love or money, sigh. I know this feeling, and I’ve always chosen the least profitable option. You really captured the stifling feeling of sitting in that office with her. Jobs with mountains of paperwork are so tedious!

  6. Please tell me you walked out, grabbed the 3-in-one malfunctioning printer, took it to an abandoned field and beat the holy living overtime/board meeting crap out it while listening to culturally insensitive rap music. You did that right?

  7. Oh, how I get this. I just left a job that was, um, hassle-filled (if I’m being polite) and the new job I’ve taken on is a whole different animal. “Drained of my humanity.” Yup, that says it. It’s so important to end the day with our humanity, isn’t it?

  8. Coconut cake, yum. Good for you for recognizing that the job may not have been right for you. I understand so well how hard it is to turn something like that down, but in the long run, we’re happier, aren’t we?

  9. Sometimes when there are expenses like a child’s education, mortgage and spouse’s employment situation, we do have to take the good-paying job and be thankful. I am very thankful that’s not something I have to do at the present time and that I can make a little here and there and help pay for things. Good luck in your search. I’ve done that before and found what I really wanted to do when I least expected it.

  10. Oh, I’ve had some soul crushing jobs too! It’s nice to know what rejuvenates you and lights that spark with you. In my experience, it’s hard to find that in a job though. And sometimes when you do, the job turns suffocates the spark. I used to be a lot more idealistic about it, but now I’d be happy to find a job that respected my work life balance (left room for my passions), was with people I enjoy and that I felt was doing more good than harm. You’d think that would be easy?

  11. Great story! I would have been sooo tempted by the money and the fact that they wanted me. You’re a wise woman to know what you need to keep your humanity and sanity. Congrats on a great decision and a well-written piece!

  12. Decisions like that are so hard. Money vs. Life. Of course money *shouldn’t* matter but financial security is nothing to sneeze at so it’s gut wrenching to walk away. That being said I’m like you: I can’t hack the Dilbert life. Well worded post!

  13. Oh, how I can relate! I do freelance work, so how much work and what kind of work I take on is entirely up to me. I learned long ago that my sanity is not worth more $$. Good for you for knowing your limits.

  14. I totally feel you!! Whenever I think about abandoning my teaching dreams for an office job, I get a sinking feeling. As nice as it would be to have more money, it’s not worth it to give up happiness and a life outside of work. Good for you on turning it down!

    • Yes, the desolation is overwhelming when I’m tempted to give up on what I know I’m called to do. That’s how I know sticking to it is the right thing! And the world certainly needs more teachers like you – don’t give up!

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