Wish Upon a Star . . .

In my dream, my coworkers are named Hawkeye, Obi-Wan and Cinderella, and I am a happy employee in the House of the Mouse — otherwise known as The Walt Disney Company.

Today is “Start Making Your Dreams Come True Day.” Your Inner Bitch would like to remind you that no matter how big your dream is, you have to start sometime. Might as well be today.”

That was the June 3rd entry in the ‘Getting in Touch with your Inner Bitch’ daily calendar. I absolutely love this calendar — it reminds me NOT necessarily to be a bitch, but to live my life, to keep my needs and interests in mind when going about my daily activities.

I read this entry at breakfast, and then throughout the day, jotted down my various dreams, no matter how nebulous or unformed they might be in my head. By mid-afternoon, I had a very long list. I have so many dreams — places to visit. Books to write. Events to attend, things to own, projects to accomplish, people to meet. I want to publish a successful book, travel to London, attend Comic-Con — the list goes on for four pages. But just what dream was my top desire?

When I caught myself humming the ‘when you wish upon a star‘ theme for the fourth time in twenty minutes, I realized that, subconsciously, I’d already made my choice. I knew, all along, which dream was at the top of my list.

Disney, as a company, posseses my three favorite things — Avengers, Jedi, and Cinderella. If I could choose any company for which to work, it would be, without a doubt, the House of the Mouse.

Don’t be mistaken — I do love my current job. I like my co-workers, my position’s responsibilites are diverse and professionally challenging, and every day I learn or do something new that stretches my abilities and uncovers a new facet of the law, business, medicine and any number of other subjects. Yes, there are the typical annoyances as well, things you will find at any job — a piece of equipment that refuses to work right, that vendor who just won’t follow your instructions, a project that is taking more time and effort than it should. Overall, though, my job is worth those little irritations.

But my company isn’t Disney. I don’t get to play with superheroes. I’ve never explored the galaxy with the Jedi. I didn’t go to the ball with Cinderella. And if I’m being honest, which is what I want to do in this blog, well, I still want to do those things. I want to work somewhere that I can daily interact with three of my favorite, long-abiding interests. Don’t forget, I collect Jedi action figures, read Marvel comics and still happily watch Cinderella whenever I need to boost my mood and attitude.

In my dreams, I work where I can see the next chapter in Marvel comics history unfolding, watch as a new cycle in the ever-expanding universe of Star Wars is crafted.

And fulfill my little girl’s day dream of living in Cinderella’s castle.

Oh, I don’t have any illusions that Disney is a magical company free of workplace tensions, employee infighting or tangled corporate politics. No company on this planet is completely free of those complications. What is important though, the question any employee should ask about their job, is this:

Are there enough intellecutally-interesting projects, emotionally-satisfying rewards, seriously-fun days to make up for those inconveniences?

For me, being involved in the worlds of Disney — Princesses, Jedi, Avengers, theme parks, movies and television shows, toys, cruises — all the components that make up the Mighty Empire of the Mouse — would, I believe, balance out any downsides to taking a job with Disney.

And, of course, as I thought this through, wrote this blog, I realized that there are a few downsides — err, considerations — that would have to be factored in should I seriously pursue this dream. For one thing, I’d have to decide whether I wanted to serve as an attorney for the Mouse. California is one of the few states that doesn’t have reciprocity in its bar admissions; to practice law there, I’d have to take another bar exam. When I sat for the Pennsylvania exam, I spent six straight weeks doing nothing but studying for 18 hours a day.

Yeah, that’s not likely to happen again. Not with my time constraints, work schedule, and financial responsibilities.

But I could work in other capacities — I’m a compliance officer, a trained auditor, a tax expert with a master’s degree. I handle intellectual property matters, litigation and human resources matters. I am a person who’s proven herself capable of learning, and then doing, just about anything.

And then, of course, I’d also have to move to California. This — ah, consideration — actually isn’t that much of an impediment. Yes, I’d miss my family and friends. But I’m single, unattached, and hey — there’s Skype and airplanes. It wouldn’t be the first time I just picked up and moved.

By now, you may be wondering, just what was the purpose of this post? In short, it allowed me to do a stream-of-consciousness thing. I noodled this post for about three hours, and while my fingers typed, my brain was thinking its way through the idea of maybe, just maybe, pursuing this dream.

Could I work for Diensy?

Should I try to work for DIsney?

In the words of one of the Mouse’s denizens (Yoda), “Do or do not. There is no try.”

So, do I?

Caretaker of the cemetery

Cemetery caretaker — officially, the oddest job I’ve ever held.

One of my tasks for the rest of this year is to pay a lot more attention to my career. There are a lot of steps involved — looking where I am, deciding where I want to go, assembling resources to get there — but a major step is always to do a have/need analysis. What do I have with which to work, and what do I need to get where I want to go? And a large part of the ‘have’ equation involves the skills developed over time.

Which is a long-winded way of saying I sat down and listed every job I’ve ever had, and what I learned to do while on those jobs. I went all the way back to my days as a six-year-old recess monitor, through my high school and college days as a waitress and catering cook, and into my ‘adult’ work life, where I started as a journalist.

In my current incarnation, I’m in-house chief counsel for a corporation. In my journey through corporate land, I’ve held some intellectually interesting positions — regulatory and compliance officer, tax manager, audit specialist, human resources director. I’m experienced in a variety of legal areas like regulatory, tax, contract and intellectual property. And litigation, of course — if you’re a lawyer you can’t escape litigation in one form or another. I am still responsible for some of these areas as counsel at our company.

But on my list two labels stood out — building services manager and cemetery caretaker.

I was part of a new management team at a previous company, and as the last to join the team, I was designated building services manager. How hard could that be, I naively thought? Hard — but also educational. You see, our building started life as a tiny shed at a manufacturing site decades before, and each succeeding decade had seen at least one addition to that shed. When I arrived, the building was a three-story tall, rectangular hodge-podge warren of oddly-shaped offices and tiny spare rooms. And the ‘services’ — the plumbing, heating, air conditioning, wiring and security system — were all at least two decades old.

In the first six months, I dealt with a mid-level wing with freezing cold air conditioning, a bathroom that periodically either flooded or lacked water, and a security system that had decided to drive me crazy with false alarms. I dug in and compiled a list of reputable (and cost-efficient) plumbers, HVAC repairers and electricians. But I also decided that, if I was going to do that job, I should learn how the systems worked. At least that way, I could be certain I wasn’t being overcharged for unneeded repairs.

By the time I left that company, I could rewire the tempermental security panel, fix leaks, kick-start (sometimes literally) stubborn AC units. I also knew enough about plumbing to devoutly hope I never had to face a ruptured septic system again.

But that was not the oddest job I’ve held. That honor goes to the position I took between college graduation and the start of my paralegal studies.

Cemetery caretaker.

You see, after I graduated from college, I looked over the offers to work at various newspapers and discovered — I didn’t really want to be a journalist. Probably would have been better to learn that earlier, but at least I’d honed my writing and research skills. I talked over my options with family, friends, counselors and strangers in the supermarket, and finally decided to become a paralegal as a test step before law school. After all, I explained to my parents, if I became a paralegal and found I hated the law, then I wouldn’t have wasted money on a law degree. I’d have only spent a tiny fraction of money on a four-month paralegal course.

There was only one problem — the course wouldn’t start for another seven months. I’d need a job, and at that point, there was an economic downturn in progress, and the jobs available were being snatched up by people who’d lost employment in the factories.

Our church came to my aid. The pastor needed another person to work as a cemetery caretaker.

Well. That was a rather — unusual — job offer. I can still recall the first question out of my mouth. “I won’t have to dig up any graves, right?” Right. Since I didn’t have a license to operate a backhoe, that wasn’t going to be a problem. No, they needed me to do the mundane things. Rake leaves and grass cuttings. Water the flowers. Clean up headstones. And so, doubtfully, I agreed.

It was a wonderful job. Yes, the work could be hard — raking anything on a cemetery that measures a city-block long and wide is tiring and timeconsuming. The grass was cut every week, and I’d spend an entire day just gathering up the cuttings and trimming around each and every headstone. The leaves fell regardless of season, and I learned to dread heavy rainstorms, which would mean I’d be raking wet, extra heavy piles of leaves.

We won’t even discuss the birds. Just be assured they seemed to hate clean headstones and did their best to ensure they never were clean.

But it was also fascinating work. The entire history of my town was in that cemetery, back to its founding in the 1860’s. By reading the stones, and comparing names and dates and places, I could track workplace disasters in the mines, and periodic uprisings against the mine owners. Entire sections of the cemetery were devouted to victims of a long-forgotten cholera epidemic and the blissfully-ignored Spanish flu. There were people who’d been born in dozens of foreign countries and traveled here in search of a better life, and people who’d been born and spent their entire lives in this one small town.

There was the uncle I never knew I had — my father’s twin, who died as a toddler.

I took a number of skills from that job — perseverance, a skill at raking large areas — and a finely-honed ability to put together two or more seemingly-unrelated facts and come up with a story.

A skill I will be putting to use in this upcoming year. Putting together seemingly-unrelated abilities that I possess, and seeing where they can take me in my career. I discovered, as part of this enormous list of jobs and skills, that I have a lot of interesting skills and talents to offer to others.

Final note: this was supposed to be posted yesterday, but for reasons unknown, my internet connection went haywire. I could see the net. I just couldn’t upload to the net. Working fine now, though. I may need to dig back to those building services skills and beat up on the wiring again.

Resolutions for 2012

Everyone is making (and posting) their New Year’s Resolutions for 2012.  After reading a number of friends’ blogs, it seems my immediate goals are no different than those listed by 95% of the population:

1.  Get a new job (and get my career on track).

2.  Get back in shape.

Easier said than done, when the economy is moving so slow that a tortoise could beat it to the finish line and my current position involves working massive amounts of overtime.  But as I said yesterday, Everything Is Possible.

Since I don’t have the time to make it to a gym on a regular basis, I spent several hours checking out books and websites to create an exercise program I can do in my home.  Fortunately, I like walking, even in the cold, and have plenty of parks in which to wander.  And I now have yoga programs and a series of preps and stretches to do daily. 

As for the job, I spent the remainder of the day revising my resume and setting up accounts on various sites, including LinkedIn and Monster.  The actual listing will be a task for tomorrow.  But after compiling my accomplishments, and revising the list of my responsibilities (because quite a few have been added in the last two+ years), I realize that I have options for my search.  Not just legal, but tax, regulatory compliance, intellectual property, contracts and HR.  I do a LOT at my company. 

I have some decisions to make on possible career tracks, but at least now I have a clearer picture of what I’d like to do.  And where.  But that’s a post for tomorrow.