Going Permanent
December 13, 2003 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Ok, so I'm going permanent at this place I've been freelancing for 3 years (it's been a regular gig--2-3 wks/month)--I negotiated a good salary, and an extra week of vacation for the permanent position, but I've never ever liked being permanent and have always felt trapped. Any tips and tricks to help make it psychologically more bearable and cushion the loss of my freedom? a little more inside

I'll admit i've been spoiled, but worked hard to arrange my life the way it was--maybe i should have just left instead of going permanent? I know all the people and like them, and like my work, but cherished my time off--I could travel, and relax, etc...Any Freuds in the crowd or Lucy from Peanuts, please help!
posted by amberglow to Work & Money (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Keep out of internal politics, and listen to as much music as humanly possible. I know how it feels to be "trapped" in the workplace.
posted by nthdegx at 9:42 AM on December 13, 2003

Response by poster: thanks nth--the reason my position was made permanent was political, so I'm not sure how that'll play out (it was a command from the head office, and not my immediate superiors' decision...they--and I--were happy with things the way they were) : <
posted by amberglow at 9:52 AM on December 13, 2003

Remind yourself that permanent still means you can always quit, in case things get really bad. Discuss options for unpaid leave with your employer. Where I work, I can take as much time off as I want [within reason] as long as i don't mind 1) not getting paid when I'm not working and 2) paying back my health insurance premiums when I'm not there [over five days a year]. This is not perfect, but does sort of give me the freedom to still think about things like road trips and foreign holidays.

Since you're going full time you will be more wrapped up in politics in the office as well as all the rules and rigamarole surrounding leave/time off/vacations/holidays/office parties/casual fridays/mailbox etiquette etc. I found that asking a lot of questions so I was absolutely clear what were the hard-n-fast rules and what were just office habits helped me to make decisions about how much I wanted to fuss with policies etc.

I also have found that being very agreeable when you first get there really paves the way for asserting yourself at the job more later on. It sounds like you already know the people you'll be working with so at least you don't need to suddently meet people you feel like you'll be working with for the rest of your life. I always feel that it's important to remember that permanent jobs are a two way street. They are doing you a "favor" of sorts by giving you job security and a regular paycheck but you also do them the favor of bringing your experience and knowledge of the position to the table. Make sure you becoming permament doesn't seem like some big deal benefit the comany has bestowed on you.
posted by jessamyn at 9:54 AM on December 13, 2003

If you get benefits (such as health insurance) the loss of a bit of freedom is worth it. TRUST ME.
posted by konolia at 10:38 AM on December 13, 2003

i second jessamyn's comments: just because you're full time doesn't mean you can't quit whenever you want.
posted by o2b at 10:43 AM on December 13, 2003

Response by poster: thanks all! keep em coming!
posted by amberglow at 10:48 AM on December 13, 2003

See if you can negotiate a flex-time arrangement. This will allow you to show up late or early as you desire, provided you work late or early as well.

See if you can negotiate a targets-oriented workflow. If you reach your target, the job is done and you can go home; or you can choose to start working on the next target, whatever turns you on.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:57 AM on December 13, 2003

I don't know what your position entails, but if any opportunities for business travel come up, jump on them. If there aren't any, look for ways to generate some travel; conferences, training, etc. Getting out of the office on a semi-regular basis is the only thing that keeps me sane.

Also, I've found that organizing little office parties and other social events is a great way to smooth over tension in the workplace.
posted by MrBaliHai at 11:00 AM on December 13, 2003

I recently took a full-time job after about five years of school and working for myself. It's a great, great job, but the transition to desk jockey has been a bit difficult. Still, I'm coping, mainly by trying to make each day as different as possible. I feel like I have control over it, that I have merely integrated it into the life I want to be leading. It is just one of many parts to my life.

Short version: seek variety, avoid repetition.

--Connect to the outside world throughout the day. The music tip is a *great* one. I bring the iPod; it has 6000 songs set on random play. Plus, every night I record hours of BBC, Radio France International, NPR, Radio Australia and other networks, convert them to MP3, and save them to the iPod. So I can switch up the music to news, features, drama, documentaries, whatever I've recorded. However, the radio recordings aren't chores: they're not must-listen programs that I feel compelled to turn on, they're just options. It's also good because my work requires a lot of concentrated slogging, and when the marketing girls get all giggly and gabby (or the jackass two cubes over listens to his voice mail on speakerphone), I pop in the earplugs and listen to a little Amr Diab. Also, bring up your favorite newspaper's web site a few times each day, just to scan the headlines. Don't necessarily read the articles, just be aware. Don't get sucked into something like Fark, though.

--Chip away at the hard edges of the schedule. I arrive at work anywhere from 7:30 to 9:30, and I take several different routes, so that I walk by different streets, at different hours, taking different lengths of time, having passed differing neighborhoods, encountered varying crowds, passed through different stations, and having purchased breakfast from different vendors. When I'm early, arriving first on my floor makes me feel like I can spend time preparing my tea, or filling the water mug, and answering a few emails or do other chores without interruption, be it physical, electronic, or peripheral. I leave the same way: whenever I want. 5 p.m. is arbitrary: sometimes I leave on the dot, sometimes I leave hours later, and I go home by equally variable paths, usually involving more walking. It's my schedule.

--Drop out major daily landmarks to smooth over daily rhythms. I rarely leave the office for lunch, and my reasons are counter to some advice you might get, and may seem in contradiction to the "connect to the outside" above. I find that leaving the office is too much of a landmark, too much of a refuge, too ritualistic, a treasure withheld from oneself in a form of masochism. "Only a half hour now until lunch..." Instead, I buy a little breakfast, and lots of fruit or Power Bars or a variety of things which are good for me and which I can snack on at leisure. Therefore, there's no lunch time for me, so I don't look forward to it with longing. It's just not an issue any more. Now, this might work better for me than for others because I sometimes need to work on a single task for hours and can't afford to drop out of the zone to wash Tupperware in the canteen, but I much prefer a little noshing to the relatively big to-do of "LUNCH!!!" Others might need the break. A side effect is that the work day seems to be self-contained rather than broken in two: I need not make the effort of getting into work mode twice, because I've never left work mode.

--Work is only a part of you. Keep work in its place. Don't let it be your life. You can still do that and work 60 hours a week. It's easier if you don't try to make a lot of work friends. Keep your friends close, but separate from the office. Try to make it okay for them to call you during the day, or to trade emails.
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:19 PM on December 13, 2003

To follow up on jessamyn's remarks, it also really pays to know your limits -- even if you never reach them. Just knowing at what point it wouldn't be worth the loss of freedom anymore makes that loss much easier to live with, because (up to that point) you know you're getting something you value more in return.
posted by mattpfeff at 3:38 PM on December 13, 2003

Try to make your space your own as much as possible. Going from freelancing to a cube can be depressing. It depends on how much you're used to the atmosphere of your new workplace, of course.
posted by furiousthought at 4:11 PM on December 13, 2003

It's always a good idea to stay far away from office politics, yet keep a positive relationship with your co-workers. Reading, music, mefi@work are all a few ways to reduce the monotomy of the day. Also, see about getting a gym membership or excersize if you don't already do; The happy drugs your brain releases makes everything seem just a little better.
posted by Keyser Soze at 5:01 PM on December 13, 2003

Contrary to everyone else's advice, you could always throw yourself into the thick of office politics. Who doesn't want to live in a soap opera -- Especially with the occasionally added frisson that your job could be on the line.

Of course, I'm a hack and office politics is pretty much part of the job, so I might be biased. And I don't get to listen to music at my desk, so I'm definitely bored@work.

(but I get 7 weeks paid holiday, and don't need health ins. heh)
posted by bonaldi at 7:21 PM on December 13, 2003

Response by poster: Well, music i won't be able to do, except when i'm there late (1 wk/month), and my cube is staying my cube, but i can surf to my heart's content. There's been good advice here--thanks again! It'll be weird being immersed in the office when i haven't been, but hopefully it'll work out (and the conferences and travel thing is definitely something i'm going to push for)...I tried proposing flextime and having freedom when they offered it to me, and that was a no, fff, but thanks anyway. I'm going to revisit this thread when i need to, so please keep adding tips. and bonaldi--7 weeks!!! : P
posted by amberglow at 7:32 PM on December 13, 2003

Well how flattering that the workplace wanted you so much - that shows a level of immensely good judgement on their part!

Ya, there are bad things about a fulltime gig, but there are certainly worse things than being with a company that values you as much as they seem to. Benefits (how I miss health insurance and 401k matches!) and a regular, predictable cash flow are nice. And as a freelancer, I also often miss having day-to-day colleagues to gossip, problem-solve, and work with; the occasional satisfying whole-is-greater-than-the sum-of-its-parts moments that can be had with a good team effort; the chance to influence and perhaps shape the organization to be a better and more socially responsible company; and the chance to mentor young or aspiring colleagues.

As others have said, it doesn't have to be for life. My advice to you? Just continue being the thoughtful, fun, and warm-hearted person you show yourself to be at MeFi - that should ensure your success and buy you some latitude within a reasonable time, unless they are very rigid. Companies are often reluctant to grant flex time in a way that might be perceived as policy- or precedent-setting, but latitude can often be quietly earned in individual circumstances.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:03 PM on December 13, 2003

oh i hate feeling trapped in jobs.
i used to get a wee holiday for myself going so it gave me something to focus on.
hmmm, did you ask for this deal yourself or did somebody impose it on you ?
anyway , it does say what a good worker you are eh , maybe just enjoy the compliment i think.
you could be stuck in the subway playin mexican tunes on a keyboard you know ! lol !
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:21 AM on December 14, 2003

Nothing really to add except to validate the perceived trapped feelings - and to echo it doesn't have to be that way. I second the suggestion to try to stay out of internal politics, and preserve external relationships. Perspective is everything! After all, isn't it just different words to describe the same setup? It's gotta be a good stroke to the ego, and there's no such thing as wasted experience. Enjoy! :D
posted by yoga at 4:55 AM on December 14, 2003

Maybe it's a bit too obvious, but I'm surprised that nobody has said it: You cushion the loss of your freedom and salve your wounded psyche every couple of weeks with a crisp paycheck.

When the paycheck-to-loathing ratio of your job gets out of kilter, either renegotiate the pay or leave.
posted by majick at 7:06 AM on December 14, 2003

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