It’s been an interesting year. Last May I left a high-tech job because the particular area I was an expert in, a niche of video conferencing, was going the way of the cassette tape.
I had become a dinosaur. In taking some months off to write, attempt a freelance career, I gave myself the chance to decide what I really wanted out of a day job. It had to be local, community-focused and centered on service in some way. I landed, of all places, at a media group of community newspapers.
From a paperless job, I went to the actual paper. It’s been a trip. I used to work in the cloud, now I work with paper and ink. I print things, staple those things, and put them in files. That does my head in. I have some ideas brewing for how to help them transition to using less paper and ink for certain aspects of my particular area, but that’s for later when I know what I’m doing. Right now, I’m working on getting it right.
I deeply dislike the ‘new’ phase at a job where mistakes are nearly unavoidable. Compounding my distress is the stakes. They’re higher. In my last job, a mistake was a huge deal, sure, but it wasn’t life and death. I used to tell my staff when I ran the call center “it’s only money.” In the area I work now it isn’t only money. I manage a part of the newspaper business called the ‘uncontrollables.’ What are they? Obituaries, death notices, legal notices, and the happier anniversary, graduation, and birth announcements. A mistake on an obit takes a toll on a grieving family. It’s a gut-punch. I would rather be yelled at by the worst customer in my previous career than ever make an error in an obit again. It’s agony to be called by a grieving family in tears.
As you can imagine, I’ve been a bit stressed. This will pass. Each day I know more and am getting better at what I do. And there are the intangible benefits. The elderly folks who come into the office because they don’t have a computer, but want to write a memorial and have it published for the daughter they lost 10 years ago. I got to help them. The mom who needed help picking the picture and text for the birthday remembrance for her son who died a three years earlier, forever a four-year-old. I got to help her. I helped a man type up the obit for his wife. It was long and more inches mean more money in the newspaper world. When I told him the total, I almost winced. He paused and said, “She’s worth it.” Being able to have a positive impact in all these moments has been genuinely rewarding.
Customer service is my thing. Well, writing is my thing. So’s gardening and cooking and… I guess I’ve got a lot of things. I’m a Renaissance Woman
but I forgot how much I actually enjoy helping people. It’s a bonus that the office looks like a set from the movie The Post, and it’s surrounded by trees. It helps that I have a 13-minute commute and that everyone I work with is lovely. I can’t wait for the newbie era to end and confidence to start, but while I’m in the trenches, I’m grateful to also be in these moments with my neighbors. Helping when it’s needed, and not corporations, but people. That’s worth it.