Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A brave new world

I have a friend that I worked with at my previous job for just over 6 years. We didn't start out as friends, but I'm glad that we ended up that way. I thought when I left my job that I had been there a long time. But when you compare my tenure there with hers, it's hardly comparable.

You see, my friend has worked in the same job for more than 25 years. If I'm doing the math right (and there's a chance I'm not since I do sales, not math), my friend has logged nearly 6,000 days on the clock. FOR. THE. SAME. DAMN. COMPANY.

That in itself is brave enough. Imagine dragging your carcass out of bed 50 weeks out of the year to drive to the office, to see the same faces, to shuffle the same papers, to address the same needs of the same customers. Day after day. Year after year. Boss after boss.

She saw new people hired, and she watched as people departed, one after another through all 6,000 days in the office. Some she loved, and others, not so much. She rode the waves when things were going well, and paddled like hell to keep her head above water when they weren't.

During my entire tenure, my friend talked about and threatened to go out and get herself a new job. I think she spent a fair amount of time kicking tires, looking at possible jobs, but I'm not sure how far she got in her job search. Since I worked for her during some of my time there, I was never really sure about how serious she was about making a change. It's hard to know when you're the flunky what your boss is really thinking.

Eventually, I moved in another direction at the company and transitioned on to the sales team, which allowed me to develop a nice friendship with my former boss. Even then, I never really knew how invested she was in the company or the idea of change.

I knew when I changed jobs more than two years ago that my friend wasn't particularly happy at her job. I'm not sure what adjective to assign to her outlook on her job - Apathy? Complacency? Boredom? Disgust? I know what it wasn't, and that was Happy.

Imagine my surprise when I got a call a couple weeks ago from another co-worker that my friend had finally taken the plunge. Turns out she put her resume together, sent it out, and landed herself a brand new job. Just like that. New job, new title, new coworkers, big fat raise. All in one fell swoop.

The end of an era has come for our former company. And now my friend has set off into this brave new world. She took a giant leap of faith and stepped off the cliff into the unknown abyss that comes with a new job. She is absolutely qualified for it. But is she up to the challenge of it?

I look at her starting her new job as if she were a student starting at a new school. She's got to find her locker and the restrooms and the coke machines. She's got to figure out which teachers are mean and which ones will cut her some slack. She's got to identify the mean girls and find the cute football players who like to party.

Talk about a brave new world. My friend left a job willingly. One she knew more about than quite possibly anyone else in the company. She moved away from the only industry she has ever known and jumped head first into the deep end. Now she's learning a new industry, making new friends, and finding her "new normal."

I know I speak for my former coworkers when I say ever so eloquently, WTF? Has it really happened? And how in the world, after 25 years, do you find the internal fortitude to make a change like this? How deep do you have to dig to head out, away from what you know, towards the great unknown?

I had an email from my friend last night, her first to me since she left her job. And I swear I could feel the excitement bubbling up between the words of her message. She loves her new job, is happy, happy, happy, and can't wait to fill us in on all the changes. I cannot wait to have lunch with her and hear all about her new job.

With all the doom and gloom of the economy, my friend's new job is a beacon of light, shining through the darkness. The promise of a new job and a new life. A brave new world, indeed.

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