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FM Frequency: Mid-Career Crisis

Written by Retired Columnist. Posted in Columnists, FM Frequency, Magazine, Retired Columnists

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Published on February 02, 2002 with No Comments

By Maria Vickers
Published in the February 2002 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

I’ll flatter myself by boldly stating that you may have noticed the absence of my column over the past few months. Once again, God help me, my career is in flux, and I imagine some of you might want to know what has been going on.

In May 2001, after working for five months as a contract fm at a “high tech highway” software firm, I accepted a position as Facility Manager of a traditional business organization. My charge was to bring order and direction to a team and a building that had been purportedly neglected by the previous manager.

Eager for a challenge after the mild months of the contract position, I jumped in and started kicking furiously. It was no easy task, but this glutton for punishment did not shrink from it.

However, I soon found myself near to drowning. Desperately in need of an appropriate amount of time in which to shore up services, create resources, and reinvigorate an exhausted team, I was instead inundated with multitudinous mandates and projects with outrageous deadlines. I also found myself set upon by a director who could not seem to (or would not) understand that there are several ways of accomplishing a task, and there is considerable value in fresh approaches to different situations.

If you’ve read some of my columns from the second half of 2001, you may be familiar with the details of a few of the frustrations I encountered in those months. During that time, I also learned that what feels overbearing and tyrannical to me may not sound that way to another person with a different bias.

So, suffice to say, the job was simply not a good fit for me. Some people are able to toil in a job they don’t like for years simply because it pays the bills. Silly me. I’d rather be happy than rich. So in September, I resigned. Talk about bad timing….

As I write this (year-end 2001), the job market is no fair ground. Hundreds of applicants are competing for the meager plums out there. A one-day delay in sending out a resume in response to a posting can destroy even the slightest chance. And those slightly arrogant—but previously oh-so-effective—one-liners used to get in the door no longer work on the harried recruiter overwhelmed by a mountain of resumes. They heard it all before just a moment ago.

Though I am heartened by the fact that I’m seeing a viable posting every two to three weeks (at least there’s something out there), gone are the days when I can guarantee myself an offer simply by showing up and exuding professional self-assurance. This is a hirer’s market.

And so I’ve been filling my time with temporary reception and administrative assignments, looking simply for a place to go every day and a reason to get dressed. I’m also enjoying the first stress-free period I’ve experienced in a long time (this time around the idleness is of my own choosing, after all).

I’m seeking direction in a leisurely manner in this, my mid-career crisis. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to prepare myself mentally for the possibility that FM may no longer have a place for me, but I’m also struggling against the conviction that there’s nothing else I really want to do. At the same time, I’m eagerly sending my resume in response to ads that are well below my experience, grasping for the mere opportunity to stay and regroup within the industry.

Reflecting the economy, it seems I’m also experiencing my own market correction. But I’ve already proven to myself that I can survive on half my former salary, albeit more humbly. If only I could find the right words to convince prospective employers that I’m not over qualified—I’m merely primed to make an immediate impact (how’s that for a turn of phrase?).

The RIGHT job for me is out there somewhere; the trick is to find it, and the mandate is not to settle. Hopefully, it is within my chosen field, facility management (though I’m trying to keep an open mind).

With the grace of God and my editor, I will soon again find myself pounding my keyboard in a vigorous attempt to share my tribulations and happy frustrations with my fellow fms, and my name will appear on these pages once more. Until that day then, thanks for the memories and keep up the good work.

Maria Vickers

About Retired Columnist

This expert formerly served as regular contributor to Today’s Facility Manager magazine. His vast knowledge of the facility management profession continues to provide a rich resource for facility managers by way of this online archive.

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