7 Hints to Know When to Quit

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The post over Instagram made me smirk,

“Mondays are not bad, it’s your job that is”

Later at tai chi class, I asked my Shifu for advice over stress management.

“Why do you want to MANAGE stress? Why not eliminate it?”

The question was poignant, yet vague. Stress and jobs inevitably co-existed, and the thought of dispelling such a pervasive element such as stress was clearly impossible. At the end of class, Shifu summoned me and said,

“It’s not about stress, it’s about asking yourself the right question. What is it that prevents you from enjoying what you do?”

Many of us are fraught with a besetting loyalty towards our work places (or atleast pretend to be), and procrastinate a crucial choice between the obstinacy to stay and the reasons for leaving, despite clear and conspicuous hints that point to the latter. In my career spanning more than 10 years, I have now come to realize that many (including myself), keep the faith that events will eventually conjure a positive turn, and until then do not wish to disquiet themselves. However, ‘waiting’ may only perhaps undermine opportunities for betterment elsewhere. Therefore, I have compiled a checklist of 7 must-haves, to know when it’s time to pull the plugs and move on:

  1. Are you progressing? Increased stress, work overtime, or an increase in salary are not indicators for progress. Always pally with professionals in the same field from other companies and make a healthy comparison. Are you given regular training, refresher courses, advanced software workshops, competitive tests? Or are you on the same level of knowledge since you started? If your answer is the latter, then this will dangerously hamper your chances outside the organisation where others with lower salaries than yourself may probably be a lot more productive than you are. This is a primary question, that must determine your reasons for staying.
  2. Has your Income advanced? Life and inflation are two inevitable realities that your management must acknowledge. Human needs increase and so do expenditures. If your organisation has been unable to contend with these realities, it will leave you stifled. But if you seem content with your regular annual appraisal, then its best to stay.
  3. Are you appreciated? Appreciation does not have to always come in a pay package. A good leader must show no diffidence when saying a few warm words of thanks to the employee. Understandably, staff are paid to face vitriolic customers, maintain pressure deadlines, and remain pleasant in the face of delayed productivity, but their steadfast loyalty is priceless, and must be acknowledged. If the CEO needs to value the goodwill of his organisation, staff appreciation must be initiated.
  4. Can you trust your colleagues? Your peers, whether at the noisy cubicle or at the coffee machine, form that social unit that you could be stuck with for a major part of your career or profession. No matter what your supervisor may tell you, the ‘other’ team too gets their paycheck from the same common employer, so ask yourselves are you behaving like united team mates with a common goal, or are you on a battlefield everyday with conniving, back-stabbing and deceptive players waiting to knock you down? Which sounds better: trust or insecurity?
  5. Work to Live: I must admit that while on my previous job, I did not even muster the time to enjoy the view of my next door neighbor’s sprightly bougainvillea, under the false notion that I was a hard worker. Our world is competitive, but if you have forgotten how to live in it, then you will have missed much. Your family, friends and health are what stays with you, during your bad times, and years after your retirement. Not all tracks are meant for running, so slow down.
  6. “Should be able to handle pressure”: This can be tricky. All jobs have their pressure points, that is the ability to reach designated targets within agreed deadlines. With thorough experience over time, you can overcome pressure mayhem by prioritizing the tasks in order of their importance as well as keeping required reports updated. Know when to draw the line over too many responsibilities, and when to ask for assistance or additional time. Remember to keep yourself human, and not an order taking machine.
  7. Do you like what you do? Last but not least, this is an integral question that we must ask ourselves. Did you give up your dreams for this profession, or is it vice versa? Once the initial basic needs have been met – loan paybacks, mortgage, family support, education, etc, you need to appraise your talents and live out what you have been born to do. It could be a path less taken, it could involve risks, you could even end up alone. But the attempt will assuredly be rewarding. Remember, that any dream can be successful, all you need to do is wake up.
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‘Must be Very Presentable’

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Picture Source: Pinterest

While waiting in line for a walk-in interview (owing to my sudden resignation last week), it was very natural but to observe the rest of the candidates ahead of me. Once again, I reproduced the newspaper advert for the application which read, “Female Executive Secretary with Accounting background required for a FMCG Company. Must have more than 2 years of relevant experience, excellent communication skills, and must be very presentable.”

Not just presentable…but very. No wonder the line ahead of me boasted of chic ladies with excellent vital stats, suave, smart, manicured nails, slick make-up and outstanding heels to match. The only one who did not supposedly feel on the ramp was me. No I do have an inferiority complex, but I was an indubitable standout. Frizzy hair, all tied in a bun, simply powdered nose, loose fitting clothes (tight would’ve been considered offensive with my current stats), and low heels. Forget the nails part.

Well, I wasn’t considered. And I’m not sure whether it was because of my experience or my presentation. I mean, what would a company really prefer? A secretary that turned heads or someone who could produce a relevant excel sheet of information? I guess Ugly Betty was meant to be just a sitcom. The second round of shortlisted candidates had the girl with the broken English, a foreign accent, and a great pair of legs. So much for excellent communication skills? I know I am ranting like a baby right now, but perhaps my fiance was right after all, looks do say a lot, everywhere. Life’s unfair in the waiting line. Need to find those pumpkin pies for some comfort.

The Quit

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Vague. Sudden. Preposterous.
It took me many days and one failed Christmas cake to discover that I was suffering slowly from anxiety-driven depression. From the numerous days that went by, I could not put my finger on what made me snap so often at home and panic at work. I felt like the punching bag of the office – I was suddenly drawn into events that I never participated and seemed to be responsible for absolutely anything that went wrong, irrelevant to my job. Protesting was futile as nobody wanted the headache of investigating issues. It was safer and convenient to just name somebody. My name. The weekend before Christmas, I could not sleep. In my perturbed state did I imagine things at work, more negative scenarios and further accusations involving me. I was to wake up early next morning for Church and with hardly a wink, I managed to pull myself together and prayed for some inner calm. It was then that the words of my tai chi Shifu came to mind:
“I cannot solve your problems but I can surely make you think of some wise solutions. The key to a wise solution is to ask a wise question.”

What really was my problem? My job.

Why can’t I get rid of the problem? Cos I need the money.

That’s it. I had arrived to a conclusion. Yes, money was my problem, but I did have some savings. Perhaps enough till I found another job, which hopefully would not take up much time. I was on my father’s visa, so why not quit while I still had the privilege? Even the very thought of quitting my job relieved me. All those negative scenarios and accusations disappeared. My mind felt lighter, relaxed. I reached home, proceeded to work, completed the entire day and thought it over at home once again before announcing my decision to my parents. They took it calmly, and agreed that I should proceed to do so. I felt bad for dad, as it was his reference, and upon his request that I got this job of my career. Even at night while I framed the words of the resignation letter in my head, I remembered the times when my boss and my team were supportive. The many times I screwed up and how they collectively came together to set things straight. I did not know why did it have to change lately to bring me to this point. The next morning while having my cornflakes, yet once again I tried to discern if my actions were out of fear or pride, or the right step. The odds were greater. Surely, if I didn’t pull out now, someone in some way would take me out eventually. The decision was then final.

At work, I calmly pieced together the words of the letter that I seemed to have rehearsed all night long and folded the letter into a new envelope, unsealed. I made a call to my acting HR Manager (as the real one was on Christmas vacation) and asked for the procedures. He was a bit shocked, and told me that I may have to put up a fight as they were not going to accept my leave so easily. He was right. At the end of the day I proceeded to my boss’ office, and after hearing another bout of tantrums I calmly handed over my envelope and told her what was in it. Her expression changed for obvious reasons. My team was summoned, and immediate opinions were demanded from them. Where was this team when I needed them for the real professional reasons?, I wondered. Irrelevant statements were flared as usual.

“Think of your marriage! You think your fiancé will accept a non-working woman?”

“You are doing something utterly stupid and careless, yet again!”

“You don’t have a reason to decide this on your own. You talk to your fiancé, let him know of your decision first, and then let us know, and only thereafter we will decide to accept this letter or not”.

Weird. When will these people ever wake up to this century? I pretended to agree and make that call and went back the next day pressing for the same decision. My boss conceded, this time she was nicer, she looked defeated and did not wish to argue. It was Christmas eve, and so she suggested that it was not a good time to accept such letters (inauspicious perhaps), and to wait for New Year for its submission, while handing over the envelope to me. In this way, she explained I would get a whole month’s notice period before moving away. I was happy with her decision, it seemed fair enough, while it gave me ample time to keep looking for other opportunities.

There have been moments at home when I stop to think if I did the right decision. Especially when I get calls for interviews that offer me way lower salary than my current. But the peace of mind still prevails. If this is to be my last Christmas at home, then surely I plan to savor every moment without the thoughts of work hounding my happiness. And I did enjoy every bit of it. The Christmas Mass was lovely and cold. The winter is freezing. The decorations at the malls and hotels are magical. I smile more now. I live more. I know I will find something else, even if the income is a bit less. I let go, I trust myself. I let life happen.

Have a Happy and Joyous New Year 2014!

Gym Monsters

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Years ago after I graduated, I had a good figure…the ideal 36-28-36 type. No…I wasn’t popular nor sexy as I was in my very boyish punk phase. So people hardly remember the good ‘ol body I used to have. Plus it was a very brief period of my life. Soon work happened…sitting for hours in front of a PC happened…coffee breaks with cream donuts and chocolate croissants happened, and soon again I needed to buy new work trousers and baggy jeans. The punk phase was soon replaced by hide-your-curves-with-your-jacket phase, and I thanked God for winters. It took me years to discover that I had a weakness for suppressing  stress with food, which explained the big water balloon in between while I walked. Four years of work changed me into something overtly huge, that I remember the receptionist once asking me if I could see my toes. Somehow, I refused to admit that I needed help. For my 24th birthday, a colleague gifted me with a black cotton buttoned jacket, which she explained I should wear often, as black had this ‘hypnotizing’ effect of concealing curves in women. Within few months, the buttons wouldn’t catch up with a good five inch gap. My colleague finally gave me a warning tap, “Its time”.

Gym wasn’t so bad actually. Just that I could barely afford it, so I took a basic bronze plan, and since it was conveniently located opposite my residence, attendance was regular. My trainer was thankfully a cool and motivating muscled dude, and made sure I got my exercise and diet regime right. Six months forward, I lost enough weight to wear a belt with my jeans and to ditch the jacket. I still wasn’t my ideal weight though. I stopped the gym, and walked atleast 2 hours after work to replace the mechanical reps.

5 years on, walking did not seem to help, so my best friend gave me a rather surprising birthday present – a year’s membership at the newly opened Gold’s Gym at Al Wahdah Mall. I was to join immediately, and the package included 4 free trainer ‘sessions’. The gym is a mega outlet located in the extension of the mall on the second floor. The reception desk divides the area into male and female sectors on each end. What impressed me most was its sheer size, and insane number of treadmills, cycles, dumbells, machines, mirrors, washrooms and shower rooms, lockers, and for the first time I had unlimited access to all kinds of classes: zumba, body pump, body tone, yoga, etc. What depressed me was the intimidation I received which took effect as soon as I entered. The reception was quiet hostile, and kept me waiting for atleast 30 minutes for a trainer. No one showed me around the locker room so I had to figure the locking system myself. Finally when the plump trainer showed up, she hurriedly took down notes and poured out a list of commandments: You shall not eat after 6 p.m., you shall not eat rice, you shall not…etc etc. She squealed at the weighing scale and nodded that I needed to lose a good 15 kgs, it was more like she was accusing me of a ghastly crime and I was sentenced to the treadmill at once. For the past 5 years, I enjoyed the outdoor exercises- the fresh air, sights, sounds, sweat. The treadmill felt so artificial – so mechanical, and most of all no sweat. I definitely did not want to see the trainer’s face again.

Next my best friend suggested I join the classes. I did. It was a huge class with more than 50 participants, surprisingly and intimidatingly all in shape. The instructor was blaring rep numbers on the microphone against the backdrop of already blaring high pitched music while the monkeys just followed their leader. Gosh, how can one expect to unwind from a stressful day’s work in such a mind-disturbing environment? No wonder so many expats suffer from high blood pressure. The workouts definitely brought out the worst in me: lack of concentration at work, stress, temper tantrums, mood swings and irritation. Plus after 3 months of exercises there has been no change in my weight. The negativity of the place has affected me so bad, I hate to go to the mall anymore. This is the first time I’ve had such a bad bout of aversion to something, it surprises my best friend, who isn’t too pleased about my appreciation for his birthday present. I’m reminded of the kid who’s afraid of the monsters under his bed. What should I do? There have been times when I have simply sat in the locker room and wept for 2 hours and then walked back home. Should I quit? What would my best friend feel if I did? Should I play along? Should I slap the loud mouthed instructor? Should I break a machine? Should I starve? I’d do anything for my share of sanity right now.

Moving away or Moving on..?

*sigh*…its been more than a month since I haven’t written a single expression on this blog, but I can explain. My Samsung Note crashed, with its motherboard completely damaged; I lost my contacts and my photographs….yes all of my lovely food pics! Something went terribly wrong on an unsuspecting day at work, resulting in me getting a warning letter, plus a pay cut! (all because no one else in the work team is single and hence can’t afford to be penalised). Year ending is coming up, heaps of things to do, and now with my pay cut I may not be able to afford several things for Christmas.

*sigh* *sigh* *sigh*

Like my mentor told me, it is better to keep many options open, so that in an unforseen circumstance I am less upset. That’s precisely what I decided to work upon before I am given the axe myself. FB friends contacted, Appointment Times screened every morning, online applications etc all in tow, and its been 2 weeks and yet no response or call from anyone :(. So I guess I’m looking at finding something only after the New Year which means I will have a very ‘axe-i-ty ridden’ Christmas season. Till then I try to tell myself that this had to happen, and in no way I could’ve prevented it; so its all for the best. I try hard not to pin my hopes too much, but can’t stop myself from thinking of the relief of not having to explain about my marriage anymore to my colleagues or my boss when I finally work in another place. This seems to be my only consolation for now.

In my 30 years in the UAE, I have never had to think of December 2 as a working day. Whether school or work, it was some day to look forward to its events especially at night. Over the last decade, National Day in Abu Dhabi is remembered more for its fireworks display and Corniche parade. While some drivers do go overboard with their innate displays of enthusiasm, overall it is a loud and engaging display of colors and glitter on the streets. It is recommended to avoid taking your cars on the roads tonight. If you wish to enjoy the evening, travel on foot, wear something warm and take a coffee to go, along with your camera for some candid shots.

As obvious, I am a little broke right now, and a lot on my mind, so I won’t be too regular with my restaurant reviews for the time being. Hopefully with an improved situation, things will go back to normal, and I will restore my restaurant hopping once more. Until then, do pray…and enjoy the lovely Christmas season!

Musings of an Expat Accountant

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I’m not too sure what the world thinks about us Accountants; but from what I gathered from good friends and a few colleagues is that we are the nerds of the organisation, not to be messed with, and are placed right under the geeks – the engineers / scientists / other specialised professionals. We are also privileged with a 2 day weekend (yes I am grateful for that break really), and that we take the happiness out of everyone – customers and staff alike.

While I cannot stop people’s perceptions and their imaginations, perhaps I could voice my own opinion about what it feels like to sit on an accountant’s desk:

No we DONT LIKE to play the recovery agent

It is part of my responsibility to collect the receivables (ensuring all bills are paid; outstandings cleared, and long term bills to be followed up from time to time). It is so much more simple if you call up a client, present him with a statement (i give my clients a smile too), they acknowledge it, a few clarifications maybe and a reassurance that they will pay. However some people tend to suffer from bank-o-phobia and respond harshly when reminded of their bills, like as though I am going to send them the hand cuffs next. Its weird how some people will go to any extent to avoid a payment. A few examples are : sneaking out from the basement parking so as to avoid the reception desk at the lobby,  making up deaths in the family to obtain sympathies, and ofcourse the classic dont-pick-the-cell. I am generally a pleasant girl, but thanks to such beauties I need to firmly resound their obligations which in the end, doesn’t sound much too pleasant.

WE’RE HUMAN

A fancy habit most colleagues around my office, and even relatives picked up – is to shoot a math question at an accountant in sight.

“Madam this customer would like to pay 25% of his total bill of 89,215.75, so how much can I make the receipt for?”

“My annual payment is 200K, how much would my monthly installments be?”

I get it…I’m the one doing the math and numbers all day, but this doesn’t turn my brain into an instant calculator. Neither did I ever say I’m the fastest calculating machine this world has ever seen, so quit with the math quiz every time I pass you. Also, if I do happen to make a mental calculation, chances are (with so much on my mind) that I may have missed a decimal or a fraction somewhere. Its safer to just throw me a calculator along with your question for accurate results!

We’re NEVER invited

OK….so we don’t wear make-up at work? This doesn’t mean we don’t look fashionable outside the office. Its true, there are days when I haven’t done my hair in front of the mirror before stepping into office, and its also true that I haven’t changed my shoes or my shirts for the past 2-3 years, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t heard of GUCCI or Prada. I never dress up at work, simply cos I don’t need to look pretty for my Excel sheets. Neither is any make-up gonna make any difference to my PC. Unfortunately, accountants are the last to be considered for a wild night out, or a weekend getaway. If I try to compliment a lady for her taste in shoes, she thanks me by saying its from the ‘mall’ simply cos I aint supposed to know any brand names. Lady, stop gaping at me if I listen to rap on my android!

I CAN’T be nice, sorry

Puppy-faced ladies, and ever-smiling gentlemen, so sorry, but your antics won’t work to get a discount, approval or any concession when it comes to your bills. Yes I understand your problems, and yes I have a heart to feel bad too, but I have no authority on my own to permit what you’re asking. Like all jobs, and like all employees I follow instructions from my higher ups, and ofcourse thank you for the lovely box of Lindt, but I can’t budge for you.