Jan 28, 2010

In limbo doing the backstroke

A big Thank You to my regular commenters and to usually silent readers for responding to my post "Now what?" on January 3. I'd like to say something is different since the last time I wrote, but there really isn't any progress to report on.

I am struggling with focusing on working on the issue, and yet I have been working at it, if not with the focus a pen and pad of paper and pot of tea offers. At home I've been going through the tutorials offered by W3schools and surprised myself by how much HTML and CSS I actually know. I want to learn more (and I'd like my employer to pay for it ;-) ). I do blog, but not here. For Norwegian speakers, there is my weather blog, and the astrology behind that takes up a lot of my time, as does the related mailing list I'm on. The mailing list is full of wonderful people, so my weather astrology brings nothing but delight, even with all the work (and hits and misses).

At work we have finally started having customer feedback meetings, meaning a few of us from my department are meeting with our in-house customers in small groups at a time to find out what they need from us in the future. We've had three such meetings so far and have another four (at least) to go, two of which are tomorrow. This afternoon's meeting was with customer representatives from Sales that I have worked closely with, and I found myself feeling weird. No, annoyed.

Rihanna recently visited Norway and said in an interview here that what she didn't like about getting beaten by her boyfriend was that she was now seen as a victim. And that feeling is exactly what I got briefly during this afternoon's meeting: There was a moment when I became aware that the others were thinking that this meeting is about more than feedback on future needs for printed material. For a moment it seemed the air was vibrating with thoughts about our job security, about the futures of several co-workers - people our in-house customers have worked with for years. And it annoyed me that I was in that position - risking pity, risking worry. The moment past but these in-house customers had a lot experience working with sales campaigns and all the materials needed for such things, and made a point of being both very happy and very dependent upon our in-house printing and graphics department.

Great, now I'm annoyed again as I write this. Everybody's happy with us. Everybody thinks we do great work. So why do we have to defend ourselves? Why do we have to justify our existence?

Patience, Keera. It's a process and it takes time and the outcome will reveal itself in due course and all this meeting activity and information-gathering will pay off.

But it's a bit frustrating that we have to go through this with the threat of a negative outcome in the back of our minds. Although my co-workers and I all stay cheerful and pro-active, we keep revisiting the threat of down-sizing or outright disbandment; it is one of the two dozen topics of a typical coffee break.

I find I am grateful we have now been joined by a union representative at our customer feed-back meetings.

Jan 3, 2010

It's 2010… Now what?

My dear blog is 7.5 years old. And I have no idea what to do with it. I am not happy keeping it artificially alive via Wordless Wednesday posts. (Ironically, Wednesdays are usually when I feel like writing.)

There are things to write about but because I've given myself the rule of not writing about work (at least not in recognizable detail) the one biggy in my life cannot be shared.

Oh, what the heck. Here goes (warning, astrology ahead):

Once again, I face downsizing. Now, astrology tells me that our department will continue and I'll land on my feet. I want to tell my co-workers that we will be fine, but I don't. We all need to create our future and the best motivation for that is to believe the one we thought we had doesn't exist. We are all aging. I'm the youngest at 49 (eep!). Advantages and disadvantages abound for those of us who are young enough to be used somewhere else in the company and/or have been with the company for over 10 years, and preferably over 25. My age and my seniority are now my assets. Good assets.

But how to create a new future when there is nothing concrete to go by? No decisions have been made; 2010 will be about the process of arriving at a decision. In the meantime, what skills do we need if we are to work elsewhere in the organization? When can we get those skills? And do we really want the job that goes with them? Also, if we do apply for other jobs in order to be pro-active or just safe, leaving the department early would definitely cripple it and perhaps speed up its demise. We have been told to be utterly selfish and ignore our loyalties to each other. Sad but true.

We are a bunch of craftsmen working for a company that has nothing to do with our craft. We service all the others by operating our inhouse printing department, which also offers prepress services, like graphic design. Since we are not part of the core business, we have always faced the threat of outsourcing. Our boss made the brilliant move of documenting all our work. We can show our productivity, our costs and our earnings (being a cost center that charges other departments). And because we have been able to consistently document our efficiency and low costs, we have survived.

We work so well together. We back each other up, help each other, enjoy each other's company, try to compliment each other, teach each other, and generally get along very well. We are annoyed that while the head honchos of our company want to encourage a working environment where team spirit reigns, we seem to be completely undiscovered as the poster child for that. And now they're trying to figure out what to do with us because we aren't core business.

I understand business is about the bottom line. So's my job. It's about my bottom line. So now the question for 2010 is where do I go from here? What would be the smart move? Stay and maybe get an entirely different job? Start looking for work in other companies (that would require overcoming a huge amount of inertia after nearly 27 years in one place)? Go back to school?

School. Heck, at age 49, I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. My co-workers have pretty much the same feeling. If any of us wanted to do something else, we'd probably be doing it. I love doing typography and graphic design. If I am to move into a different area, it'll be web design. I can't stand the idea of making nothing but business cards until retirement. So, does my company need an (at this time) unskilled web designer? What about learning Flash or Javascript? I never did get the hang of computer programming languages, but I'll give it another shot if it will bring me into a longer-lived future.

One of the things that happened sooner than imagined in 2009 was the introduction of the paperless office. We've been remodeling our entire office building and office space. My co-workers now have two computer screens and one portable PC, and are expected to use print-outs and paper sparingly. It has apparently worked beyond belief, because in 2009 we got a sharp downturn in print and copy jobs, which doesn't help my department's case. But the world is going more and more online, and so are our customers. The older generation like an office to visit; the younger generation want a form on a webpage.

Now to the astrology in all this: It is said that lunar eclipses have an effect of about 3 months for a person. Not sure how powerful the partial eclipse of New Year's Eve was, but it did land on significant points in my natal chart, sextiling/trining both my natal Neptune and my lunar nodes. (The lunar eclipse was at 10 degrees Cancer/Capricorn; anything at 10 degrees will be triggered by this eclipse.) My nodes fall in houses that have to do with education, both basic and higher. My Neptune sits in my 10th house, the house of career. Yeah, you see where this is heading, too, don't you. :-) Let's make this even more interesting: A Chiron return in March. Chiron is about where and how our wounds can actually be our motivation for action. Mine sits in my 2nd house, house of personal resources (like talents and money). Want more? Transitting Saturn - the grand old man or woman of hard work, karma and wisdom - is currently in my 9th house (higher education) and is also backing and forthing across my ascendant by square (personality and self-image) the first half of 2010. (I figure Saturn in my 9th house also explains my renewed in interest in astrology.) Transiting Pluto is also dallying between my Ascendant and Jupiter, and will be joined by Saturn squaring Capricorn. Recreate myself? Oh, yes.

Today I was listening to yet another spirituality themed podcast and I felt old at one point; I wanted to be young enough to see what will happen next with our planet, with humanity. And then it occurred to me that I have to stop approaching what I want in life as if I were still in my 20's. I still have a future but I have to think of it not in terms of long-term goal in life like a younger person would think, but rather about how to keep myself happy in the here and now. The idea of asking myself where I want to be in five years has never appealed to me because I have never known. I have no idea still what would be my ultimate happiness, but I have a feeling that in 2010 that is the question I need to finally answer. My five-year plan would then be about honoring that happiness, not necessarily about climbing some career ladder. Now it's about the now.

I would like a guidance counselor to help me out with all this, but in lieu of that, there's always three words for 2010. I think mine will be sell as in sell myself, my friendship, my skills, my experience, my personality), and care as in care for myself, my body, my home, my work, my future, the people in my life and anything or anyone else that matters. Haven't thought of a third word yet, but my first two are pretty heady. Maybe faith. Faith in self, future, process of life, friends, co-workers, the universe.