Advice to my 30 year old self

Posted by Marlinee on Sep 24, 2011 in Middle Age, Work |

There seems to be a proliferation lately of ‘advice to a younger self’ articles and posts. Typically these involve 16 or 18 year old selves. I think that exercise is a waste of time, since none of us would have listened anyway. Even my 20 year old self would have been more than a little sceptical about advice her future incarnation might offer. At 30, though, you are old enough to see the world and its possibilities in a different light. And after spending time well wasted watching the complete DVD set of Thirtysomething, I am now well armed with a few suggestions.

1. There is no such thing as a perfect job, only jobs that don’t completely suck. And unfortunately many are truly awful.

Of course you will not know how awful a job is until you have been there a few weeks, because the recruitment process is rife with fictional and delusional information. One of my early jobs was at a large Canadian bank that will remain nameless. It sounded like the most perfect thing for a newly minted MBA: producing monthly briefing books on corporate financial performance and the competitive landscape for the office of the chairman. The problem was my boss was a control freak. I don’t know why he had bothered to hire someone for the job, since he had no intention of letting me actually do the work myself. I also don’t know what the rest of his responsibilities were supposed to be, because he didn’t do anything except hover over my desk while I compiled facts and figures, and helpfully point out when I had literally not crossed a ‘t’. Since this was in the 80s, the briefing book was a physical bound book that got distributed in person to the grey-haired suits in the penthouse offices. On production day, I had to spend hours down in the basement copy centre looking at every page as it came out of the copier to make sure it had no smudges, skews or other flaws that might offend the readers. I lasted about 12 months before I ran screaming. The good news is I learned how to spot a control freak at 20 paces.

2. When you are thirty, you may believe you are pretty much a grownup and completely competent in all aspects of life. This is not true.

In fact, unfortunately you will never be completely competent in all aspects of life because a new spanner gets chucked into the works every day. As thirty-something yuppies, our grownup-ness was demonstrated by elaborate dinner parties to show off our matching china – a clear demarcation between youth and maturity. We also had swanky cocktail parties that required cocktail dresses, and heeded the fashion magazine advice to always have a change of shoes and accessories at work to take our day wear into evening. One fall, while working at that same bank mentioned above, I sent out invitations (on paper of course) to a house warming party for our first house (another sign you might be a grownup). Because one of my friends worked at the bank, I decided to send her invitation via interoffice mail rather than waste a stamp. I enclosed it along with a post-it note that said “L – hope you can come – M”. A week or so later I called her to make sure she had received the invitation. She hadn’t. I couldn’t figure out the mystery until a few days later when I received a message from the chairman of the bank (whose name happened to start with ‘L’) saying he appreciated the invitation, but could not attend my party. Apparently I had forgotten change the destination for the envelope, and he had been the previous recipient. Of course I felt like a complete idiot, but it could have been worse: he might have showed up in a tux to my lame yuppie party.

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