Maverick

I’m sitting here waiting for the phone call confirming that I have a new job. I’m curiously unmoved by it. I need it desperately, I want it, but it doesn’t seem to have filtered down to where I live. I think that’s natural caution: I’ve been burnt before. Until the phone call comes it’s not real.

In actual fact I expected to hear before now. The delay has been in the usual rigorous HR practices, such as checking referees. Once it got to that point I knew I was just about home free, assuming no nasty surprises. I found it odd though. They were at once very specific in what they required, and quite relaxed. In the first instance they requested that the referees should be from recent roles, then in the next breath suggesting that some mutual friends might be adequate referees – people I’ve worked with, but not for many years.

It was not easy for me to come up with referees that met their criteria. My main referee, and the referee who would be most informative, dates back to a job I had over 5 years ago – outside the nominated period. I gave his name anyway. Otherwise the scant work I’ve done in recent years has been consulting. Much of that has been quite short, specific roles, not appropriate as a reference. The more significant roles had their own issues. One referee I could have used is travelling, and in Istanbul as we speak. Another is now living and working in Istanbul. There was one more I could give, but I was not prepared to do that.

He was the CIO of a very large corporation who I worked directly for. On his behalf I managed an IT budget of $52M. I was not prepared to give his name as referee for a customer service job. Good luck getting him, in any case.

I gave a couple of more names, and know they were called and everything seemingly tickety-boo.

I was also asked to give a commitment that I would see out the 6 month contract to completion. I understood that completely, but it troubled me. I’m pretty well having this job served up to me on a platter, all thanks to the interference of my contact – and this for a role I have no real experience in. Quite naturally she wants to be assured that I’ll not let her down.

I hesitated, all the same. I’m ever reluctant to make blanket commitments like that. I don’t know what the future holds is my first line of argument – but then I expect if I get hepatitis B, or the earth gets hit by a meteor, then I’ll likely get an exemption from the commitment. Acts of God count for something.

Other than that my hesitation was both practical and philosophical. On a practical level I can get by on the salary they promise, but only just, and only if I set aside the debts and commitments I have to meet some day. It’s a great short-term fix, but ultimately I have to go bigger than that. Given my recent history it’s unlikely to happen in the next 6 months, or even 12, but the fact is that there are roles out there I can do that pay $100K plus more than what is on offer here. I’ve been striving and waiting so long. What happens of one of those opportunities finally falls into my lap? It’s money I need to try to claw back some of what I have lost, and if it’s a long-term career opportunity, then even better. I’m grateful, but how could I turn my back on something like that?

Then there was the philosophical angle. If I’ve been lucky I’ve been living in a small box the last 14 months. With this job I can manage to graduate into a bigger box, but a tight fit still. Of course I want to get out of the box altogether, and free range – and I’m not talking about money here, I’m talking about exercising those intellectual muscles and striving to test my potential. I get told that this’ll be the perfect gig for me because I can take it easy, etc, but I’m not a take it easy sort of guy. No matter where I am I’ll push the envelope. Now there may be opportunities to do that i this job, and it appears that things are happening there which I might be able to get involved with. I’m hopeful and optimistic about that, which I expressed in my reply. Ideally that can be the case. Otherwise though, a commitment like that is limiting – which is anti-H – and anti-human (which is the phrase that came to me in pondering this).

In the end I responded by expressing my gratitude, referring to the potential opportunity, and making a commitment that I would not search for other roles in those 6 months. I’ll stick to that, but if someone comes to me…

I’m sorry if it sounds churlish, but ultimately this is my life. I don’t want to be damned by a promise that becomes self-defeating. All this might be academic anyway – I may not get the job.

All of this has been in my head the last few days while I’ve been waiting for it to be finalised. The thought of being back and part of a system is invigorating to me, but the implications of it have slowly settled in at the same time.

I’ve changed in the last couple of years. Some of it is superficial, and other parts more fundamental. Some can be rewound, if that’s necessary, but other parts I think more permanent. Much of it is attitude. I can tell you if I get that job that I’ll be the best customer service officer in the business. That’s not changed. I’ve always (bar one, odd patch) had that self-competitiveness, and the expectation that goes with it. I’ll drive myself to be that because that’s my expectation of myself, and because it will make what potentially is a dull role more interesting.

I look in the mirror though and I look different to what I was. I look like a viking surfie. It’s just a look, and I could easily have a hair-cut and the rest of it, but it’s a look that is reflective of who I’ve become. I’ve always been individualistic, but circumstances have given it free rein. There’s been nothing to show for it, but my mind has been vibrant and searching throughout. Because no-one would have me my thinking has spilled outside of the box, and I don’t know if it can be put back in it. You might think, as others do, that finally back in a job I’d be happy to quietly toddle along, humble and happy to play my part. Part of that is part true – I’ll be thrilled to be working again, and humble that the opportunity has come my way – thanks to others. But quietly toddle along? I haven’t got that in me.

I’ve set myself on a road, and it looks likely to take a diversion, but one which doesn’t divert me from what I’m looking for. Ultimately all of us should strive to be ourselves 100%. I’ve become aware and conscious of that, and that’s what I want – no matter what it means. I know I can’t meaningfully abrogate too much of that for too long just to be conventionally ‘practical’.

There’s been freedom in my situation. I’m happy to exchange much of that for a degree of security and comfort I’ve done without. I can’t give up the freedom of my mind though.

Edit: 1 hour later, it’s official, got the job.

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