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14 October 2011

The Dangers of Uncertainty Aversion

I don't like to date.

Let me clarify.

There are two activities that I refer to as "the meat grinder." One is dating. The other is job hunting. During most of the handful of relationships I've had I've tried to hold onto them even when it was obvious to everyone but me that the overpass ahead was out and I was still driving. I've had to learn to get out when I see something is ultimately going to be causing more pain than not.

Job hunting is a lot like dating. However my approach has been different. I've been employed at the same company for the past 17 years and during that time I have only applied for jobs at other companies twice. Contrast that with a friend who is always updating and sending out resumes and going on interviews. Bosses talk of employee loyalty when hearing of someone out interviewing. Girlfriends talk about cheating. I've never really considered my tenure with this company as me being loyal to them. I've always thought of it as keeping a roof over my head, a car on the road and food on the table without the stress of wondering whether I'm going to be able to do those things.

I don't like to date for the same reason I don't like to interview. Dating is a series of interviews interrupted periodically with being someone's boyfriend (the temp job) followed more interviews. In looking at all this I find that what I don't like is uncertainty. The difference is that I'm a lot more willing to be single than I am to be unemployed. I like the idea that I'm going to be able to get the bills paid this month. I don't always care whether I'm seeing someone.

So I keep going to work. That's been fine since 1994, but now things at work aren't looking all that certain. It's been 17 years of a slippery slope. Certainty (having the job) has led to Comfort (liking having the job) which has led to Complacency (taking the job for granted). And now in 2011 I'm forced to do things I don't like doing. So I'm dusting off the resume, making plans to buy a new suit, and getting ready for the time when I'll have to wear it.

This time I'm going to have to be more like my friend. I'm going to have to be like those folks who say "to Hell with loyalty, I gotta eat." Besides, the boss who calls an employee disloyal for looking for a job is a hypocrite. He or she would be doing the same thing..and probably is.

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