Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hostage

Saturday, I decided to test the waters to see whether I was at the point to start training again. I did a 3.5 hour ride at a very easy pace. I rode with a friend who was just trying to spin his legs in preparation for a road race in Santa Fe the next day--one that I planned on doing as well before being hit with this ailment. My head was still swimming and congested. Every time my friend said anything, I responded with a "Huh?" My left ear is still plugged. Every time, a car would pass, it sounded like a high-pitch buzzing.

The ride was good, but I'm not sure I should be pushing anything just yet. I came home and rested briefly and decided it was time to try a short, easy run. I ran on the treadmill for 20 minutes at a 10-minute-mile pace. No pain in the leg. Now that's some great news. As I ran, I was overly cognizant of every twinge of pain trying to detect any lasting or lingering shin splints. There was nothing in the shin department. My chest was very tight with congestion though. Twenty minutes of running was the most I wanted to push at this point. I'm a bit superstitious, but three weeks off of running just might have done the trick. More to come.

So, all this time not training has given me lots of time to think about my current work situation. Here's a brief summary of whats transpired over that last year. When I came back to my present employer, they were struggling with financial issues--isn't every company? They announced a 500 person work-force reduction along with numerous organization changes to cut costs, eliminate redundancies, and realign tasks. Right off the bat, 200 bodies hit the floor. My organization was consolidated with another organization--capital budgeting and analysis. This was a change I was excited about because capital is my niche, and my boss insinuated that I'd be able to transition to this area. In the meantime, I took on a temporary task, which was supposed to last 3 months at the longest. The task was very "accounting" in nature, but I could handle that if it was only 3 months. That 3 months grew to 9 months. I was able to do the job fairly well; I just kept telling myself "it'll be over soon" to get by. Finally 9 months after the first round of lay-offs, all the individuals in our organization (minus 1 who got laid-off the morning prior to the meeting) gathered and the director provided an org chart with the new org structure and job descriptions...but no names were put in the boxes. Oh the suspense! Instead, the director informed us she was going to meet with each of us, one-on-one, and tell tell us what our new role would be. My time came, and I was told I would be a manager of consolidations. She tried to sell it like it was a great opportunity. Two things came to my mind: 1) this is not capital nor budgeting, 2) this is an accounting job. At this point, I couldn't keep a poker face and the disappointment was evident.

In the corporate world, you're supposed to embrace change with excitement. If you don't, you're considered static or an obstacle in forward progress. I was in dangerous territory now. Up to this point, I've tried to be enthusiastic about the challenges presented to me, but this one was different.

By formal training is in accounting, but my true passion is for financial analysis. Give me a spreadsheet, and I'm in hog heaven. I model cash flows, income statement impacts, net-present value calculations, capital acquisitions, whatever. I like to deal with future possibilities and decisions. On the other hand, accounting is historic; it's meant for those that like to balance check books. It's not sexy. It's the past. I disdain accounting!

From the moment I became aware I didn't like accounting, I've tried my darnedest to transition away from it into finance. The last five years, I've steered clear of any accounting functions and have been involved in financial analysis--primarily capital. This new challenge would negate my efforts and suck me back in. When I asked what functions I'd be doing, the response was assist with external reporting (i.e. SEC reporting) and provide input for other internal reports.

This new "challenge" was very disappointing. I trusted my director. On numerous occasions, I told her how much I disliked accounting-type jobs--she agreed. Yet, without asking me, I was slotted into a roll that met her needs at the expense of my career choices--at least that's how I viewed it. Furthermore, this isn't an optional deal--it's my new role in the organization whether I like it or not. I wasn't the only person this happened to; there were many others as well.

So this last week, I've been pondering how to deal with the situation. Do I throw up my hands and take on the next challenge? Do I try to steer my career in the direction I want? There are a lot of things at play right now. After being laid off just over a year ago, I'm a little gun shy about making drastic choices (it's nice to get a paycheck)--and my wife isn't willing to discuss anything. More importantly, what will a job change really accomplish? I've tasted the grass on the other side...it's still grass. I think there's an element about my line of work that's distasteful regardless of the organization. When I talk with others in my field, there is an inherent discontentment. We work long hours; our work is trivial in the grand scheme of life; we're hostages to our paychecks; we work with people who are mean or taxing in nature. I fear that I have spent the last 10 years racing my bike, running and swimming in an effort to supplement or smooth over what's lacking in my career.

So my mind has been wrapped around settling the career conflict--the same conflict I've struggled with since I started working. I get to a point where I think I have the answer, then the money factor weighs in. Honestly, it's nice to have money, especially with hungry children. I'm sure millions of people struggle with this same conflict. We're all hostages.

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