Monday, March 05, 2007

My Career Sucks

I have never been a big fan of work. I have never understood people who can’t wait to get to work every morning. I don’t live to work. I work in order to have a life outside of work. Sure there have been periods in my career where I really enjoyed the work I had to do. But I never loved it enough to make it the focus of my life. No matter how enjoyable the job was, I found leaving for home at the end of the day even more enjoyable. Despite my dislike for most of my jobs I have always endeavored to do them the best I could. I show up, I do whatever it takes to get the job done. I work as long or in whatever capacity it takes to get the job done. I have tried to be pleasant, and friendly to work with. I have always tried to not make too many waves or to keep the waves I do make from capsizing the boat. I can only think of a couple instances as a kid where my bosses were not pleased with my work. Some of my bosses have not liked my attitude, but they never had cause to complain about my results. Even though my personal satisfaction with my career has never been that strong, I have always tried to perform to the best of my abilities. After all, that is what I was being paid to do.

My current situation at work has reached a new low for me. I was let go from my programmer job about 6 weeks ago. This doesn't mean that I am unemployed. I still get a paycheck I just don't have any work to do right now. Because of the way our work structure is organized these days this happens quite often. Most engineers, like myself, work for a specific technical program. But organizationally I belong to a different management structure. So when a program manager decides that he doesn't need my skills anymore he simply sends me back to my management branch to deal with. When this happens my management chain immediately jumps into action and starts nagging me about what I’m doing to find a new project to work for. My managers don't do anything to help me find a new program to work for. They don’t see that as their job. Their job is to harass and intimidate me until I find a new program to work for. They do this because until I do find a program to work for I am paid out of their overhead budget. Managers don't like this very much. They don't appreciate us working stiffs encroaching on their territory and spending their overhead money.

In the past when this has happened I have usually be able to land another program to work for in just a couple days. This time however I am having trouble finding work. The most frustrating part of this is according to the friends I have who are trying to help me find work there seems to be a lot of work out there that needs to be done. However I have not been able to get most of the managers who are in charge of that work to talk to me. I have noticed that the procedure for dealing with people looking for work these days is to ignore them. I send out e-mails and make phone calls and I get no response. It is reaching the point where I would love a manager to call me back or send me an e-mail telling me to "Drop Dead!" That would be a great improvement over no response at all. The most frustrating of the people ignoring me is my own branch and division heads. My branch head was warned two weeks before my last job ended that I would be looking for a new job. He ignored it until I actually called him to find out what overhead charge number I should start using. His response was to "encourage" me to find a job quickly and to send him a resume that he could circulate. So I sent him a second copy of my resume in case the first one I had sent him two weeks earlier wasn't sufficient. This situation prepared me so when he asked me for a resume again, three days later I wasn’t too surprised and I just sent him a third copy.

I guess his apathy to my situation shouldn't surprise me, I have sent two copies of my resume to my division head asking him for some leads on work. He hasn't managed to find the time in his busy schedule to respond to me either.

Then two weeks ago when I had been on "down time" for 4 weeks my Branch Head started getting desperate. In order to get me off his overhead he started lining up little jobs for me. So now instead of spending my time sending out e-mails and leaving phone messages that get ignored while looking for some long term work I spend my time doing little jobs that won't last and only accomplish two things. They keep me from charging my time to overhead and they keep me from spending time looking for other work.

So in order to stay away from overhead money I’m now in a situation that has me really pissed off. A little over a year ago the missile program I had spent most of my career working for let me go because they suffered some budget cuts. I understand that sometimes programs have to do this but in this case the program manager and his assistant, both men who I had considered friends of mine, passed on the duty of firing me to my branch head. I would have accepted my removal from that program without any hard feelings if either of them would have been man enough to just call me up and tell me in person. But sending my Branch Head to tell me to stop work on their program immediately with no advance warning and no opportunity to finish the projects I was working on left me feeling very betrayed.

Quickly, I found a programmers position with another project. This project turned out to be very frustrating to work for. They had a massive software project that interfaced several programs written in C, C++ and FORTRAN and operating across several networked computers. I was assigned several tasks and put to work with absolutely no training what so ever. Then after 15 months of working totally in the dark I was let go from this program because they needed to hire someone who knew ADA, which I don’t. In order to make room in the organization and the budget they had to get rid of an existing employee. I was the logical choice. I was the new guy and I knew less about the program than anyone else.

So I'm suddenly on downtime again. My branch head lined up some temporary work for me back on the missile program I was fired from over a year ago. They have some urgent tests that need to be run and they need another engineer to help with it. So I'm back working for them for a while. The ironic part is that since this isn't a long term commitment of employment, management considers me to still be on downtime. So while I'm being harassed daily by my managers about finding work, I'm putting in 12 to 13 hour long days helping to get a program that fired me after I worked for them for 19 years back on schedule so that once the tests are done they can fire me again.

Personally I think this entire situation sucks. But until I find a long term commitment for work, I’m stuck. My kids have gotten used to having a roof over their heads and food to eat. So I have to keep working.

To make matters worse the few job opportunities that I am hearing about are looking for Mechanical Engineers. I quit being a mechanical engineer about 15 years ago when the base management started telling all us mechanical engineers that they didn’t need us anymore. We were just not a part of their long term strategic plans. So I got myself some training, earned myself a master’s degree in Computer Science. While earning my degree I took jobs as computer support and network design and installations. Once I got my degree I went to work as a simulations analyst for the missile program that I had previously been a mechanical engineer, program manager and computer support.

Now most of the computer science related jobs are being contracted out. The only jobs for government employees that I’m hearing about are for mechanical engineers. Trouble is no one really wants a mechanical engineer whose skills and knowledge are 15 years out of date.

Now I know a lot of people who think I should stop complaining and just be glad that I have a job. But I don't think I am asking for much when I say I would like a job doing something useful. I would like something interesting to do but I can live with useful. An added plus would be a little consistancy and some long term prospects for employment. I have less than nine years to retirement and having something useful to do would make them go by much quicker.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

all i can say is it must be tuff working at a place where you get paid whether you actually work or not. 9 more years to retierment, how will you ever survive? and no matter how you slice it of you actually did like your work you would do a better job and when budgets come you would be the last not the first to go!

Erik Rader said...

It's apparent that anonymous isn't a government employee, where tenure counts more than performance, even on the Demo Plan.

It's also apparent that they're a slack-jawed weasel, not knowing how difficult it is for those of us raised to work our butts off and provide for our families to have to sit idly each day when all we want to do is contribute.

David, sorry to hear you're going through this. I'd offer to help, but I know nobody out in the codes, since I'm just a Comptroller geek. If I hear of anything possible, I'll shoot you an e-mail.

Erik

David said...

Thanks Erik,

I have an interview for a position on Thursday. I hope it pans out because the 10-11 hour days with no lunch break where I spend part of the day outside in the sun and the rest in a building with a broken air conditioner is getting old.

At least I have something to do. It's physically demanding, hot, dirty and uncomfortable work. But its better than staring at the walls. I can only take a day or so of that before I go crazy.

So at least I'm earning my paycheck so anonymous won't have anything to complain about.

Anonymous said...

i lasted at a government job for 9 months, could not stand having nothing to do and getting paid for it. actually spent more time creating work to do than working on assigned tasks. and it was david who was complaining about his job in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Hi David,

While I can certainly empthathize with your frustration at not feeling useful, i definitely find it a bit hard to empathize with your situation.

Im sure there are a thousand guys within a 15 minute drive who would take your government salary and its tenured paycheck in a hot second.

I guess i see it as a bit of an insult to the people who are REALLY working for living (directed at Erik's ridiculously stupid statement)everyday to complain that you are unhappy with your 80k+ a year job simply because you have nothing to do.

Kudos to you for looking to a different job and for proactively looking to fill your time.

Honestly, while i may not agree with Anonymous here, he does make a point. "do what you like to do and your work will be happy"

I realize people end up in situations where they take a job based on a solid career plan and suddenly our paychecks and our benefits become so important to us that we end up basically chained to a job. Hey the kids gotta eat, everyone understands that.

In the end, if you are walking the halls all day looking for stuff to do and are upset enough about it to blog it...

CHUCK IT DAVID, start a consulting firm, hire out to one, start a business...whatever.

The thought of being in that situation, unhappy and unfulfilled with a tunnel view of NINE MORE YEARS to go just so you can get a retirement check is just SCARY.

I dunno what your personal situation is, but i can say i am friends with and hang out with many China Lake employees who are also in the "countdown" mode.

If i had to give advice to any of them based on what i know about them.

Id tell em to NOT buy the friggen 200k motorhome, NOT buy the boat, NOT buy the f-350, NOT buy the matching sea-doos that you take to the lake 3 times a year, NOT strap themselves to a bunch more "stuff" that only further chains them to thier job and the endless countdown.

Im not preaching to you man, and i definitely understand that shit, you work hard... Enjoy yourself a bit. but if you are unhappy.. put your energy, time and resources into something you LIKE and make that your living. Hell just the motivation of doing what you want is usually enoough to be succesful.

Never know if you never try man, alternative is waitin out the friggen NINE MORE YEARS of being miserable and retiring only to realize that you not only now dont have the energy or the resources to pursue your dreams.

Erik-

Erik Rader said...
It's apparent that anonymous isn't a government employee, where tenure counts more than performance, even on the Demo Plan.

It's also apparent that they're a slack-jawed weasel, not knowing how difficult it is for those of us raised to work our butts off and provide for our families to have to sit idly each day when all we want to do is contribute.

David, sorry to hear you're going through this. I'd offer to help, but I know nobody out in the codes, since I'm just a Comptroller geek. If I hear of anything possible, I'll shoot you an e-mail.

Erik


If i had a nickel for every time i've heard the term "slack-jawed weasel" parroted by a pseudo intellectual, wearing sandals, shorts and a white t shirt with some type of mexican cantina advertisement on it... I would have a shitload of nickels.

There is so much wrong with Erik's comment, (other than the offer to help)I dont know where to start.

Im just going to let it go before he "shoots me a reply"

Again, good luck,

No Balls
No Black Chips.

Brian

David said...

Wow, what a bunch of clueless bullshit....

"Im sure there are a thousand guys within a 15 minute drive who would take your government salary and its tenured paycheck in a hot second."

I'm sure that there are thousands who would take my job. But you can probably count the number of people with the education, experience and qualifications to properly do my job, who don't already have one of their own, without needing to take off your shoes.

"do what you like to do and your work will be happy"

I have spend many years of my career doing things that I like to do. That is why I became an Engineer and Computer Scientist in the first place. But my best day ever at work wasn't near as good as my worst day at home with my family. I work because my life goals require it - not because I in any way, love it.

"The thought of being in that situation, unhappy and unfulfilled with a tunnel view of NINE MORE YEARS to go just so you can get a retirement check is just SCARY."

Gee, all this time I thought that is what grown-ups did - whatever it takes to take care of your family the best you can. If I have to spend the next nine years of my life "unhappy and unfulfilled with a tunnel view of NINE MORE YEARS" in order to make sure that my children are healthy, comfortable, educated and that they grow up to be hard working decent people then it was a small price to pay. If being miserable at work means I have the resources to enjoy a comfortable retirement some day and that I can spend time and money on the things I love doing in the evenings such as coaching volleyball, golfing, woodworking etc. Then it is more than worth it.

"Id tell em to NOT buy the friggen 200k motorhome, NOT buy the boat, NOT buy the f-350, NOT buy the matching sea-doos that you take to the lake 3 times a year, NOT strap themselves to a bunch more "stuff" that only further chains them to thier job and the endless countdown."

I don't own a motorhome, matching skidoos, fancy cars, or other such extravagances. My truck is 20 years old and falling apart around me. Our other vehicle is 10 years old. We don't take extravagant vacations. We don't live beyond our means. I intend to retire the same year that my youngest children start college. So most of our disposable income is invested towards that goal. The only chains holding me into this situation are the one that attach my heart to my family.

"Enjoy yourself a bit. but if you are unhappy.. put your energy, time and resources into something you LIKE and make that your living. Hell just the motivation of doing what you want is usually enoough to be succesful."

I don't think I could afford to raise and educate my children on what I would make as a small middle school volleyball coach, a golfer or a bowler. I doubt anyone is going to pay me to read books, play computer games putter around in my woodshop or BBQ with my family and friends in the backyard.

The three messages I seem to get from the last two people here is that being a government employee makes me a lazy drain on society or that I should quit my job and do what makes me happy, or that I should stop whining about my situation and be thankful for what I got.

To the first comment - I have worked civil service for over 22 years. I have turned down several better paying opportunities in the private sector because I believe that the work I do is important. In 22 years I can count the number of days that I have sat around staring at the walls, or wandered around looking for work, or wasted time making up work to do on one hand. When I say that I don't have work to do right now it means that I don't have a long term (more than 6 months) commitment from a specific project or program. So until I get such a commitment I'm doing little jobs for lots of different programs. This is frustrating because a long term commitment allows me to get intimately involved in the fine details of the project. These short term jobs are just wham-bam-get-it-done-and-move-on. This provides even less job satisfaction than usual.

As to the second comment - any suggestion that I should put my own desires, feelings, or satisfaction ahead of the welfare and future of my family makes you an idiot who I will no longer waste any time dealing with.

Finally, it's my blog and I will complain, bitch, rant and rave about whatever I want to. You are welcome to never visit here again if you disagree.

Anonymous said...

clueless bullchit on my part.

maybe.

The point you missed completely is that it IS possible to secure your financial future while at the same time enjoying your worklife.
I wont argue, or reply to your insults.

If you feel you are doing what grownups do, obviously I have no right or reason to try and offer you advice.

My post wasnt meant to insult your education, your life, or your ambitions.

Im sure your goal when you graduated college wasnt to be explaining yourself to some random stranger why your work life sucks.

EVERYONE puts thier family first.
Welfare of your family and an enjoyable, productive worklife ARENT mutually exclusive.

Its YOUR blog, you CAN do whatever you like with it. I will take your advice and not visit again.

You arent alone, there are dozens of guys at CL in the same boat with you.

keep repeating this to yourself and it will make you feel better.

"if i can only make division head everything will be better"

Suggest red X'es on the calendar to mark each closer to retirement.

only 3300 more days to go!

Best of luck David.

Imagine even being receptive to an idea that differs from the status quo.

Enjoy your blog, Make sure and talk about how stupid my posts are at the next barbecue.

Brian