I have a fear of standing out in a crowd, but I also have a fear of blending in. It’s such a weird dichotomy to live in. On the one hand, I do my best to stay under the radar, but on the other hand, I wear purple shoes with day-glow red laces. There’s no way you can *not* notice the guy in the purple shoes; the only person who wouldn’t do a double-take would be Prince, and he’d probably say something about the lack of bedazzling on the shoes.
This ‘lifestyle’ has taken many years to become my routine. It probably started while I was in the Army and learning how to do just enough to pass, but at the same time, doing a bit more so I wouldn’t be subjected to what everyone else had to suffer through. In Basic Training, I remember doing *everything* better than everyone else (well, everything except Land Navigation, which I failed with flying colors; oh, and throwing grenades. That’s another story)…but in any case, even though I excelled in most of whatever I did, I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want to be given responsibility over my peers nor did I want to be forced to do extra things which would cut into my five hours of sleep every night.
Unfortunately, doing this resulted in my failure to be nominated as Soldier of the Cycle (every platoon in the battery nominated a single soldier to represent the platoon for that training cycle). I remember my Drill Sergeant saying something like, “Garcia, it would have been you, but you didn’t stand out enough.” That same Drill Sergeant – African American, *heavy* southern accent, led through fear – would yell out to squad leaders who didn’t perform, “You’re FIAHHHD! F. I. A. D. FIAHHHD!”
Anyway, I heeded his words for the following year of training and stood out during AIT (Advanced Individual Training), where I was the Soldier of the Cycle and received my first Commander’s Coin.
Fast forward to today. At work, I’d like to believe that I put in 110%. I’d like to believe that I have a unique skillset that very few possess and I’d like to believe that I have the ability to develop good rapport with customers that other engineers aren’t willing to take the time to do. However, even though I’m doing the best I can do for the role I’ve been given, it’s not a role that stands out.
I say this because recent reductions-in-force at my company actually let go of some very good people. People who I felt were innovators and leaders. Many of them stood out as very technically-proficient and would be willing to do whatever it took to get the job done. Unfortunately, they were laid off because of lack of funding.
About that dichotomy…I want to stand out so higher-ups will know that what I do is important, but I also want to stay under the radar so my name won’t come up when it comes to layoffs. I have this fear – and it’s come to fruition – that my project will lose funding.
It’s not just my company though – it’s the entire industry. Layoffs left and right. Almost all of my good coworkers from my last job and last company have been told to find new work. There’s unfortunately no work to be had. Those who could retire did and those who couldn’t are relocating to the East Coast where there’s work.
I like what I do and I like the people I work with and I like the challenges I face on a daily basis. But I’m not going to uproot my family to chase a job.
Anyway, I’m pretty puckered up. My Basic Training Drill Sergeant’s words and those letters – F. I. A. D. – are not words I want to hear right now.