Continuing in my series of essays(?) under the banner of growth, I am finally getting around to looking at my career. I have been delaying on this because, well I don’t like to talk/think about my work & also I knew it would force me to look at the future. Well I’ve been looking at the future anyway so I feel like it is high time I took a look at what I do for 40+ hours a week.
I am a professional freight forwarder, I have been since December 1995. Almost 18 years in 1 industry, I’m pretty sure that makes it a career. There are fancier ways to describe what I do, you could call me a logistician or a supply chain engineer. The long & short of it though is I move things around the world, I’m a travel agent for cardboard boxes.
If you know me, you’ll know that I am usually a pretty humble guy, a lot of that comes from deep insecurities that I have been battling my whole life, but there is another more noble part of me that does not want to brag or stroke my own ego. Having said that, I am going to take a moment to go against all my instincts & own something.
I am a freight jedi, I am a master of my trade, there is no challenge that I am not capable of meeting. I am quite literally the sh!t, the dogs bollocks (ok I guess not literally, but you know what I mean), when it comes to sending things places, I am as good as it gets at what I do.
So what is it that I do? Well, imagine you are a company that makes a product, you sell that product to another company in another country. You need a way to get it there, that is where my industry comes in. We arrange everything from picking up the freight, to getting it on a plane to delivering it to your customer. I have moved just about anything you can imagine, from explosives to car parts, from flight simulators to lab equipment. Russia, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, England even Brazil (ugh) no problem, I’ve done it all & will do it again.
There are some pretty cool aspects to my job. I get to talk to & sometimes meet people from all around the world. I met my wife doing my job, when she was in Texas & I was in Leeds. I’ve had the chance to travel, not much, but some, I’ve stood in the cockpit of a 747. I get to meet all kinds of different people, some really good people, some inspiring people. I also get to meet some down right nasty & despicable people.
This industry used to be a lot more relational than it is these days. Emails have killed that. Emails are such a double edged sword. It is great to be able to deliver & request information so quickly & so freely. However, before the popularity of emails everything was done over the phone, and as a result it was a lot more relational. Now it is less personal & so while there is a significantly greater quantity of communication, the communication is much more generic, it is life draining instead of life giving.
I used to love interacting on the phone with customers, vendors & colleagues in other places. Now half the time if you can get someone on the phone without them requesting you send an email instead, half the time they are rude & disinterested. It also seems that half the people I have to deal with these days have no knowledge of what their company does. What the heck happened to professional pride & simply knowing what you are there to do? I mean really, if I call your company, basically to give them some money, the least you could do when I call & introduce myself is respond with a little more than uh-huh, no how can I help you, no how are you today, just uh-huh.
As you may be able to sense, I am more than a little frustrated recently at work. I don’t want to use my blog to vent, but it appears I am.
One of the struggles you have when you are good at your job, but there are no defined structures for trying something new within the same company, is that people try to keep you where you are at, because you are good at it. They say it is in the best interests of the company for you to be doing what you are doing, regardless of what you might want to do. I have been with the same company for 9 years, doing basically the same thing. The role has grown & expanded & taken on more responsibility, but the basics of the job are the same. There is nowhere for me to go, you may say go get another job, but then who is to say that would be any different I am going to follow this post up with more on this, but this is a great struggle right now.
I have been challenged for motivation recently, to the point that it seems like even the simplest of tasks require me to wrestle with myself just to make things happen, it is exhausting. Now don’t get me wrong, everything still gets done, it gets done with great professionalism & precision, it is just more personal effort than it used to be to do it. Lack of motivation is contagious, all the folks in my department who have been there a while struggle with it. Maybe it is because none of us have any goal to work towards, maybe it is a failing in leadership from the owners & managers who, regardless of actuality, appear to be less than interested most of the time. Should I be posting this in public where they could read it? They won’t, but they could. Well this is nothing that I haven’t told them to their face, the response is always a convincing promise of change, yet time ticks on.
I have a long list of things that I toyed with writing about, looking at it, most of them are negative, like Fridays. One thing that drives me nuts is when people are happy on Fridays (I am a mess I know), those people have obviously not worked in air exports on a Friday. I call it freaky freight Friday, because it is a freak show. One a good day it is a challenge to be met, invigorating to see if you have what it takes. On a bad day it is soul destroying, as you react to all the last minute people, clearing up everyone mess, trying to figure out how late you are going to have to work, waiting for 5 when all the customers have gone home & you can start making progress on the day. So other than Fridays, phone calls & motivation, I am going to spare you from this turning into a wailing pool of self pity.
So there you have it, 18 years of doing what I do, now I’m not so sure I even want to do it. I have described it as a falling rather than a calling. I say that because I just sort of fell into the industry. What I need to do is remember all the good things that have come out of this falling. My career was a rope to climb out of the pit of failure I was left in after high school. The English school system failed me, I was forced to make choices that a child should not have to make. I was an undisciplined & lazy student, why was I allowed to be this? That is a question for others to answer, all I know is that I was not naturally disposed towards being a good student & I was never made to understand how important that was.
My job let me meet my wonderful wife, my boyhood dream of a life in another country came true because of her & thus my job.
To finish up I feel I should clarify something, maybe this should be at the top (hmm). I am truly grateful for my job! In these trying times to have a steady pay check & security is not something to frown at. So while I may be a wallowing in a little self-pity of late, please don’t misunderstand that for not realizing how incredibly fortunate & blessed I am. I am just defective, or at least it feels that way at times, like I don’t know how to be happy or satisfied with what I have & where I am, that is something that needs to change …..