You were back home, living in your parents’ basement, which, “they finished renovating just in time.” You were a content implementation manager. “Well —” you paused just long enough for me to realize you stopped, and then, when I looked back at you expectantly, you said, “At least, that’s what they called me before they laid me off.” You stopped hugging your three-ring binder and dropped it on the seat next to you, fixed your blazer inside the seat-belt, and took a deep breath.
The position was “a dud.” You said it was “intentionally ill-defined.” Before they hired you, they said they were looking for someone who could “take the initiative.” Before they let you go, they said they needed someone who could “navigate a lot of ambiguity in a chaotic environment.” But, “that was all bullshit.” One was code for “be competent,” and the other, while truer, really just meant, “be perfect.”
You began testing software for quality assurance, but you continually butted heads with the developers, who said you were “not using the product right.” Both yelling and laughing, you said, “If I’m not using it right, then that’s where our conversation begins. It’s my job to use it wrong.” It felt like you were laying into me. I played along, trying to defuse things. “Ok, I hear you, loud and clear.” You said, “Good,” sternly, eyes wide open and leaning back. You didn’t break role. You might have let something scornful slip out too. I was happy to be a part of the catharsis.
You tried to reach out for help, but you were told to “stop throwing work over the fence.” They told you to use Google. You leaned forward, and with no self-doubt or confusion, gravely enunciated, “Let me get this straight. You actually want me to Google what to do?” For a moment during our ride, we recreated the uncomfortable silence you must have felt when someone told you to use Google — when you realized the place (and possibly the whole sector) was “jacked.”
After sitting on your hands for a week, you did some research on the real issue at hand. “I got really good at translating dev speak to content speak.” You needed to “dial the whole job back,” and help content managers and developers communicate better. But after a period when “nobody was responding to me,” someone from the other side of the fence showed up and said, “That’s not your job.”
“It’s funny,” you said lightheartedly, “because they had originally said it was a place to work if ‘you like to solve problems.’” In a manner showing the utmost respect to whoever that hiring manager was (me for now), and with genuine levity, you said, “You know what? I wish I could say you were wrong about that.”
It was a burnout role anyway. “Actually, everyone there is burned out, and not one of them is over thirty-five.” You said there was no work/life balance.
It seemed like “a trap” to leave home immediately after college. “You’re not proving any sort of independence by becoming indebted to bankers.” You seemed to think that people in their twenties were being used for their debt, not just in higher education but in “credit cards, cars, houses — you name it.” And you disagreed with “so many of my peers” that it was a failure to “move back home.” You admitted to it being more of a privilege if anything, but said that it’s more like common sense. You said that people all over the world, “don’t just go back home.” They stay there until it makes more long-term sense to go somewhere else. You also remarked that, “It says a lot about our society that we call it, ‘moving back home’ at all.”
Now that you “lived at home” (air quotes), you were taking your time to work on something that was right for you. And your parents actually enjoyed having you there. That day, you were on your way to a temp job interview, which you explained would fund your dream job.