Sunday, July 25, 2010

Return on Investment

I woke up Thursday morning and had a strange feeling. I actually wanted to go to work. That hasn't happened to me in a long time. So naturally, I started to consider the reasons why I felt like going to work. Here is what I came up with:

1. My Boss was out sick all week.
2. I did not have any meetings scheduled with my clients.
3. I knew what I needed to accomplish that day and exactly how to do it.

The third reason is probably the most important. Ever since I started this job I have been feeling like there is something wrong with me. After over a year, I still have not demonstrated mastery over my environment. Basically, my job is to be responsible for things that I don't understand and I have no control over. And that has left me feeling helpless and frustrated.

A few weeks ago I had another meeting with the Executive Vice President. He had already agreed to transfer the Daughter's account to another Client Director. This time we were meeting to talk about my future within the Company. Apparently my Boss's Daughter is not the only one who will be making a move.

The EVP politely informed me that after everything that had transpired with my Boss, he thought it might be a good idea if I made a move as well. Then he asked me to start thinking about what else I might like to do within the Company.

The short answer to his question is that there is nothing I would like to do at the Company. My goal is to get as far away from this place as possible. But a quick look at the job postings in my area has convinced me that I need to find something at the Company to keep me occupied until there are more options for me out in the world.

As the conversation continued, I was able to tell the EVP about my love of writing and my desire to work behind the scenes, as opposed to being on the front lines of Client Services every day. In summary, I explained to him that I would like to make a graceful exit from this situation with my Boss and hopefully find a position that allows me to take one step out of the limelight.

Since that meeting, I have been talking with various executives to tell them my story and see if I would be a good fit for any positions within their department. It is fascinating to me how far I have been able to get with sponsorship from the EVP. If I had just walked into these people's offices or sent an e-mail to request a meeting, I highly doubt any of them would have agreed. But since the EVP has forwarded on my resume, a lot of doors are open.

Last week, I got a call from one of the EVP's counterparts. Let's just call her the Enforcer because she likes to make the rules and follow them. She is in charge of the division that ended up taking the Daughter's account over from my team. It was a fun meeting because the Enforcer is the polar opposite of my Boss. In fact, the Daughter's account was originally going to be assigned to the Enforcer, but she turned it down and told my Boss flat out that it was over-sold and under-priced.

As I sat in her office telling her my story, I felt like I finally found someone who understood my position. The Enforcer completely agreed that the Daughter's project got off on the wrong foot from the start and that my Boss put everyone on the team in a bad position. And she seemed to genuinely enjoy the "I told you so" moment, even if my Boss was not there to hear it.

I went on to explain to her that I was having a hard time figuring out where I fit in at the Company and she told me that unfortunately a lot of very smart people come and leave within a short time frame, because it is just too hard to break into the cliques that have formed at the Company over the past 20 years. While I appreciated her honesty, it didn't give me much reason to hope that I would survive any longer than the others who came before me.

After talking to all of these people and describing my strengths and areas of interest, I have come to the conclusion that the Company doesn't really value what I have to offer. They all seemed to agree that I could write excellent proposals, organize and improve their administrative processes and help them to be more proactive. But their number one objective is to make as much money as possible, which means they have to keep administrative expenses down. To put it in their terms, I do not offer any tangible Return on Investment.

Aside from my paycheck, the Company has not really offered me any return on my investment either. In fact, I am wondering if any job can. My job used to be a main source of fulfillment in my life. I always thought that people lost focus on their career because they got married and had kids, so their priorities changed. But I have not done any of those things and here I am at the same crossroads trying to figure out what it all means.

I chose health care administration as a career path because I felt passionate about changing the health care system. Now I am working for one of the most influential consulting firms in the country and Congress has just passed the most sweeping health care reform legislation in the past 40 years. And you know what? I have not even read it.

After working for insurance companies and government entities for the last 15 years, I am smart enough to know that no real change will come of it. The government entities will just layer more new programs on top of the old ones that never worked in the first place. And I can guarantee you that the private sector insurance companies have already found a way to make money while still avoiding their responsibility to provide health care to those who need it most.

This weekend I had dinner with my best friend from college. I love to hear his opinion on things because he knows where I came from and he understands where I am now. He was telling me about all of the solicitors that come around his neighborhood and how he normally sends them away. But earlier that day there was a young girl in her 20's who stopped by to give him some literature about her candidate of choice. She was so bright eyed and optimistic that he let her finish her speech and even took one of her postcards.

"I remember when I was in my 20's and I believed in things," I said wistfully. "Now I have this corporate job and I have followed this path for so long. I just don't feel passionate anymore."

He smiled and let me ramble on for a few more sentences before he proceeded to share his perspective. "When you are in your 20's you are passionate about everything. It's like the shotgun approach," he explained. "You are still a very passionate person, but you are also wise. When you choose something to invest your energy in, you know it will be for real."

Thanks to my friend, I have coined a new phrase. I am selectively passionate. It may take me some more time to figure out exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life. But when I do, the return on investment will be exponential.

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