My writings for pelusopresents.com are currently focused on topics that span the collision of professional world and life. My focus is on the non-manager, the Professional Individual Contributor or the PIC as I have dubbed them. These collisions exist throughout every level of the workforce. Many HR directors will tell you managing the challenges of where work and life meet is an especially acute problem for the under skilled working class, the modern proletariat.
But the PIC is supposed to be different. Professionals tend to be educated, intelligent (Remember, those are not the same thing), and professionals are also disciplined. We are trained to see the big picture. Yes, there are lots of traps in life that we fall into for innumerable reasons including generally accepted beliefs and practices. But sometimes we have that little feeling that keeps us away from something. We find out later we ‘dodged a bullet’, which is good.
There are many bullets that are aimed at us every single day. Heck, if you consider unnecessary or unhealthy food a bullet then you can’t walk down an aisle at a walmart without being forced to dodge bullets continuously. The packing is designed to grab your eye, or worse your kid’s eye. MOMMIE I WAAAAAAAANT IT!!!! PUH-LEESE, PUH-LEESE!!! It doesn’t stop for an hour until you give in. But it’s not just packaging, the placement in the store is intentionally specific to make sure you can’t avoid it. The contents (with food products at least) are specifically formulated for getting you to want more than to sustain and suscitate you. Yes, walmart, and any well run store for that matter, is a shooting range for retail bullets.
For the most part we learn to dodge these bullets. We couldn’t survive if we didn’t develop some sort of resistance to them. NO! Is what we say the eighty seventh time in a row we hear PUH-LEESE! Or we just tune it out.
I won’t go too deeply into the social bullets we should dodge, but I will say that the terms baby momma and baby daddy didn’t exist twenty years ago. By its very existence today we know many many young people were unsuccessful at dodging the bullet of a pretty smile and seductive look from the person who wasn’t ready for a mature relationship.
Sometimes in life we have had the forethought to dodge bullets that are designed to target the professional. These bullets are built around our career options.
I dodged student loan debt again, and again, and again, and again including mid-career. Even if it’s considered an ‘investment’ when it’s sold to the budding or mid-career professional. I knew instinctively there was too much individual risk. Yes, it can be an investment but there is rarely the case where the degree automatically drives a high ROI on the professional’s income. Even a doctorate isn’t a guarantee of a high income. Also, many don’t complete whatever program they start because life gets in the way.
Then there is the job that just sounds too good to be true. All it takes is six months they say. Other recruitment lines include: “This department or territory never had the focus it needed to be successful” or “There is great untapped potential here”. More often than not the employee find out there are systematic problems. Colloquially this is when we hear people say “I was set up for failure”.
Maybe it’s actually a good job, but an overly challenging career or industry. I dodged the retail bullet right out of college. I had been given a job offer at an electronics boutique, the precursor to gamestop. Even though the job paid more than my other more professional offers I had at the time there was something I didn’t like about working weekends and holidays at the mall. Bottom line, I felt retail was not a career path for someone who aspired to be a highly successful professional. After watching the careers of several others who started in retail, it seems I was right. Ultimately I achieved the professional part of my career, but like many others. I’m still working on ‘highly successful’. I guess I only dodged half a bullet there.
I still dodge things.. For example I recently walked away from getting a pool. It was something my wife and kids want desperately, except the pool would require tremendous maintenance and there is no guarantee it’ll be used to the extent of our investment which is very high relative to our income.
Even so, dodging is a very difficult. There are many things I fell for, some of which will impact the rest of my life. I fell for the belief in the value of a four year degree. I fell for the idea that the companies would take care of me if I was loyal to them. That belief in part lead to a loss I am still challenged by even decades later. I believed my boss when he said I needed the new SUV to do my sales job, and so began the spiral of negative equity in vehicles that lasted for what seemed like forever.
Even if we are far from where we wish to be, we still need to take a look at what we did dodge. What lessons are there? What can we learn?
I guess the takeaway is be very careful. If you feel something isn’t right, then at the very least, it’s a sign that you need to learn more. Maybe get another impartial opinion from someone much more seasoned in that area and proceed more cautiously.
Going slowly is usually not a bad idea.. You may miss out on a good deal, but you’ll dodge many other bad ones. We often forget how important this can be. All it takes is one bullet, real or metaphorical, to take you down for good in the professional world and life.