Does your job define you?
Regardless of how you answer that question, most accidental adults would agree that coming to grips with a vocation-formed identity is often hard to swallow. What’s a young professional to do when you’re suddenly considered a colleague of middle-aged coworkers? Are you really expected to swap “How was your weekend?” stories on Monday mornings when your account might make your officemates blush? Are you succumbing to adulthood or just sucking up by telling your boss you spent your vacation reading his gifted copy of Who Moved My Cheese? And is deep, lasting, self-loathing an appropriate reaction the first time you hear yourself mutter, “Thank God, it’s Friday . . . all day!” as you refill your coffee cup at the water cooler?
During my first job out of college, I worked with a socially stunted middle-aged man who talked incessantly about the NFL draft no matter the time of year. He was so engrossed in sharing with me his concerns over Green Bay’s potential seventh-round pick that he became oblivious to all of my nonverbal cues (crossed arms, flared nostrils, rapid breathing) telling him I didn’t give a frog’s fat ass what the Packers did during the offseason. Before I knew it, damn near every cubicle visit from this drone would eat up about an hour of my time—time that could have been better spent needlessly mentoring Cara, the cute college intern. Enraged at this injustice, I finally got creative.
My solution? A suddenly cluttered visitor chair at the end of my desk. It works like this. When you see or hear any undesirable coworker approaching your office, immediately stack up a pile of papers and folders on your guest chairs so your advancing colleague can’t sit down. Sure, his inane stand-up monologue will still rob you of a few precious moments of your life. But eventually his arch supports will give out, and he’ll leave in search of a more comfortable office from which to hold court, effectively cutting his unsolicited visit to your office at least in half. Conversely, don’t forget to immediately clear off your chair when you hear Cara, the cute college intern, approaching. You wouldn’t want to miss her office rounds at 9 a.m. on Mondays when she offers salacious recaps of her girlfriends’ weekend escapades. But try not to look too obvious or overly anxious by rushing to your chair and sweeping it free of clutter with one broad stroke of your arm, knocking books and folders to the floor. Just be glad she might even consider talking to you. If you weren’t her internship advisor, you know you’d be SOL.