Friday, February 15, 2013

New Beginnings

When I was a child, I thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up. Since I was an avid reader, most of my aspirations were the same as the heroines I read about. I wanted to be a nurse like Cherry Ames, an airline stewardess like Vicki Barr, a mystery solving sleuth like Nancy Drew (I didn't like Encyclopedia Brown, he was too smug), a civil rights lawyer fighting to right the injustices in our society, or the first archaeologist to stumble upon the sarcophagus of some unknown Egyptian pharaoh. My aspirations did not include earning a degree in business and becoming an HR professional; quite frankly, as a child and teenager, I found business boring.

Fast forward some thirty-plus years into the future to find myself studying to earn a degree in business so that I can pursue a career in human resources. You might be asking, "How did she end up where she is now?" The short answer is that I waited until I was 35-years old to continue my education, and knew that I wouldn't be able to become an established civil rights lawyer in this lifetime. The more honest answer requires some explanation.

I was 32-years at the time, and working as a call center representative for a wonderful organization who appreciated me for who I was and believed in providing its employees with a generous compensation package. I enjoyed working with my boss and my peers, I enjoyed helping the organization's customers, and I loved the organization's culture; however, I hated my job. Having worked in various call centers over the course of ten years, I was weary of not being able to see how I affected my customers' lives and I questioned if I was making a difference. During my last month with this organization, the weariness and self-doubt manifested itself as anxiety; my chest felt tight and my stomach churned every morning that I woke up to go in to work. Then, as I was driving into work, I would feel ashamed. My self-narrative advised me that I should be grateful to work for such a fantastic company, that I enjoyed working with my peers and supervisor, and that I enjoyed helping my customers. It reminded me constantly that I should be happy, but I wasn't, and I felt ashamed for being an "ungrateful person." I was so ashamed of these feelings that I couldn't even reveal them to my partner, let alone my supervisor or HR.

Finally, after a month of feeling this combination of shame and anxiety, I realized that I couldn't take any more. Thinking that I would be fired for revealing my feelings about my job, I decided to leave the organization. The organization's policy about resigning was simple; if an employee wanted to leave, s/he wasn't required to give notice. I went to my cubicle, packed up my personal effects, and decided to stop by HR before returning my badge to security and leaving. I wanted to let someone know that my decision to leave wasn't based on any ill-feelings towards the organization; I wanted to tell someone "It's not you, it's me." Once I had my "It's not you, it's me speech" figured out in my head, I entered the HR department and advised the clerk at the front desk of my intent to leave. Before I even knew what was happening, the clerk had called the HR manager over and I found myself agreeing to participate in an exit interview.

The HR manager found an unoccupied room, took a couple of minutes to review my personnel file, and stated, "Charity, you are one of our best customer service representatives. Why do you want to leave?" I was stunned. I knew that I was a good customer service representative, but I didn't think I was that good. After taking a moment to remember my "It's not you, it's me speech," I started talking. I found myself deviating from my speech and telling her how I really felt. After listening to me, she asked "Do you need some time off? I can help you find a counselor and a doctor who can help you with your anxiety." I thanked her, and told her "I don't think you understand. I don't see how I'm helping any of my customers. I don't see how I'm helping to make their lives better, and I don't believe that I'm making a difference." She looked at me intently for a moment, and then sat back and exclaimed "Oh hun! I wish you would've said something earlier. I just hired someone to fill a position in this department, and you are a perfect fit for us!" Looking at me with a mixture of concern and understanding, she continued, "You can't stay on with us as a customer service representative, and I don't have anywhere else to put you. I am so sorry." I assured her that it wasn't her fault, and told her that I should have said something earlier.

The interview ended pleasantly; she told me to take care of myself and provided me with the "exit paperwork." I went home, performed some research about the HR profession, and realized that HR was the right career for me. Two years, and one really lousy job later, my admissions application for DeVry University Online was accepted and I began my new journey.

6 comments :

  1. Great story Charity.
    It is ironic you pursued a degree in a field you never expected to enter.

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  2. I know.. What makes it even more ironic is that back in high school a friend of mine told me he was going to major in business. My response was, "Really? I think business is so boring." I lost touch with him, but I'm pretty sure he'd be laughing at me right now.

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    1. I bet he would be also. I like the title New Beginnings.

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    2. Thanks, Michael. The title "New Beginnings" seemed a short way to convey to people that I am starting over.

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  3. Oh your book references made me smile! I never realized HR could be such an interesting field. I absolutely love to hear stories of people discovering their "fit" in the world.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Amy! It has a little of everything I enjoy: psychology, sociology, law, ethics, training, and administrative work. I think it's pretty neat. In some ways I'm glad I didn't pursue it earlier because I doubt I would have appreciated it as much as I do now.

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