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September 2, 2010, at 1:29 am — Blogs

ADAPTING TO CHANGE: REJOINING THE WORK FORCE

Clack, clack, clack!

I take off my headphones and look up from my computer and over my shoulder towards the cubicle wall behind me. Listening for the sound…

Clck, clck, clck.clck,clck!!

I stand up. And look up and around the maze of cubicles trying to locate the sound. I turn just in time to see arching up and over the cubicles nerf arrows flying, piercing the silence as their plastic machine gun hosts clack and click away.

CLACKCLACKCLACKCLACK

It must be 6 o’clock. Time to go home for the day.

Thus was my re-introduction into the work force this past April.

I got a job with a major company working as a contractor on a project – a thirty day job that has turned into nearly six months of steady employment.

I was worried, having been unemployed since January of 2009, that I would have trouble rejoining the working world…the daily nerf war kinda helped ease that concern.

– There were two tribes in the great room –

On one side of the large room that made up my work environment was a nest of cubicles filled with the Nerf People, as I called them. A mighty tribe of warriors, albeit nerf warriors, who also seemed to enjoy the collection of various toys and nick knacks (An Original Voltron caught my eye – I was, and am currently still, jealous of that Voltron) These mighty Nerf People wore t-shirts and jeans and fired their weapons not at some enemy of their tribe but at each other! Seemingly enjoying the simple mayhem of Nerf!

Now the neighbors to the North of the Nerf People were a quiet group of thinkers who mostly wore buttoned up shirts and often, in place of the Nerf Cannon or Nerf Machine Gun, could be found wielding a laptop….perhaps two. These were the, well, the Laptop Buttoned Up Shirt People. Nice folks. Know them real well now. Back then though – well – they were the Laptop Buttoned Up Shirt People.

And then there was our cubicle… which at the time, I shared with another newly re-employed friend… but we had no tribe of our own. And we were unsure of which tribe we should belong…

….so we kinda kept to ourselves.

And we were grateful. Are grateful. Amused often but deeply grateful.

It’s hard to describe the terror of being unemployed. Feeling part of the world but not quite. Feeling like you are somehow below those who have jobs – as if you did something wrong and failed. Certainly felt that way anytime I heard folks disparaging the unemployed or talking down to us.

Now, several months later, I was able to pick up the phone and give some more folks a job – not permanent work mind you – but what is permanent work in 2010? Anyone who’s been unemployed for any stretch of time will tell you there is no such thing.

In 2008 I met with a professor at USC named Ed Lawler – great man – looks like Mark Twain – he said that we were moving away from the time of working for a company for thirty years and towards a time of unique individualism – where the individual worker had to represent him or herself rather than rely on growth inside one company. Given the rise of social media as both social and vocational – I think he’s right.

So now it’s about doing the best job you can for who you work for that day. And maybe that will become a long term employment relationship or maybe it will become one step of many in a long career.

Either way – I recommend carrying a nerf gun…

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