Monday, April 15, 2013

Three doses of perspective

In order to make up for internship days missed while in Ghana, I worked 4 days last week instead of the usual two (class being canceled). Not only did I have plenty to catch up on, this was the week I also got to visit some consultations with my supervisor and join the other office interns for a personal sharing workshop--the kind of thing you only can get at an internship in the creative arts!

Three statistics stood out this week and offered a healthy dose of perspective to my young, impressionable, jetlagged and end-of-semester-stressed mind.

1. I haven't found a source online to back this up, but I've heard the average worker gets only 3 hours of productivity out of an 8 hour workday. This made me feel much better about my output this week, even when jetlag left me stymied at the idea of a simple flowchart. More, this is average productivity, so for every one of you reading this and snorting disdainfully at such lazy slobs (...anybody?), there's someone putting in less than three hours. I mean, I know Facebook can be a time suck, but really?

In any event, make it your goal to get at least 4 hours of work done, and it looks like you'll be above average.
(I have days where I put in at least 3 hours on my writing, much less jobs I'm being paid/receiving academic credit to do. Then again, I've found desk jobs way more than service or retail offer a temptation to sit at your desk and browse the web. Because if you're not at a desk job, you have little choice but to work. I'm looking askance at anyone who says teens and people without college degrees are lazy workers.)

2. My supervisor and I met with a marketing consultant to bounce ideas around about planning the promotion of her novel, currently out on submission as we build up and display her platform.

He was a very interesting person, asking all the right questions (as a beta reader, I got interrogated while she watched us. She was impressed at what I managed to remember, and we had interesting areas of agreement and also differences in how we viewed the plot and thematic goals of the story). He's also a former lawyer, now searching for a job in marketing/social media/promotion. At this stage in his job search, he's realized keeping the record of his decade-plus stint as a lawyer is just holding him back, distracting interviewers and raising the wrong questions. "If they'd ever worked as a lawyer, they wouldn't need to ask why I left it to do this," he told us.

So he deleted all evidence of his law profession, wiping it from his resume and LinkedIn and asking friends not to bring it up.

As someone who just had to delete things from her resume for the first time (part-time jobs can only do so much, and I've found that some of my experience, as with the consultant's legal work, just becomes a distraction in light of which positions I want to pursue) this was a relief to hear. When you're only in your twenties, spending six months at something is a huge deal, and it feels frightening to take that off your record. Will human resources look at that empty semester and question what I was up to? These experiences seem so precious that it's strange to think that, for once, I have too many of them.

3. For the writers out there: during our 'learning & sharing' workshop, I told my fellow interns and supervisor more about my writing career. It's amazing the things you remember only as you start talking about them. I remarked how at one point, the writer's market database Duotrope refused to accept my reports for its statistics because my acceptance rate--at 20%--was too high.

"I'm telling that to my students," announced Zahara, who also teaches technical writing at the University of Maryland and prose at the Writer's Center of Bethesda.

I suppose that with one of my key occupations never bringing me more than one yes in five (and lately, shall I say Duotrope has found my reports far easier to swallow), I've grown a thicker skin than I realized. It's true that when I find newbie writers who are terrified of getting rejection slips I find it endearingly green of them.

So. If you're getting 4 hours of work done a day, you're above average (though I would not stake my job on this--maybe the occasional day, yes. Especially with the aforementioned jetlag). If you took the bar exam and built a career for fifteen years and it no longer serves you, chop it out. Even more so with that time in fast-food, I suppose (I'm keeping my retail stint for the time being because it's where I developed the bulk of my experience with direct customer service, handling money, and answering phones. But it'll be the next thing to go once I find another position that incorporates any or all of those skills). And if you're getting more than one 'yes' in five, you need to aim higher if you can. You certainly aren't doing badly. If you're getting one yes in five hundred, you're not at all a failure. After all, you're getting a yes.