This past year, I was honored to be a contributor in a book for student-athletes, helping them transition into the work force after graduation. The book, “Post Moves,” by Angela Lewis was compiled from interviews with 15 former athletes who had successfully transitioned from their playing days into careers in various fields. Angela is also the host and producer of “Athletes as Educators,” and has interviewed many inspirational athletes and leaders who have successfully transitioned from sports into the work force.
In our time together, we spoke of how I found employment after graduation by using a temp agency.
“When you’re in college, the network you have really is kind of given to you. You have a network of people that are ready to help you succeed. When you graduate, that process is up to you. You have to figure out your own network. I had a hard time doing that, so I think getting into a temp agency was really helpful for me and my personality because that was my network,” excerpt from “Post Moves”
I have many success stories of what does work and the great people and jobs I took as a result of working with a staffing agency, but for every success story, I have a handful of failed attempts and hurdles that needed to be jumped to find a good fit.
Newport Beach, CA. Fashion Island. The idyllic setting for a short-term temp assignment – ocean views and just minutes from my apartment. Nice idea, although, that is not exactly how this all goes down.
My assignment was to teach a new software program to a group of attorneys. Easy peasy.
A few pieces of clarifying information here: I was given a program manual (just a program manual), a yellow legal pad for notes and a couple of pencils. I wasn’t given the actual software program to work with nor did I have a computer on which to practice.
I arrived for work, introduced myself to the two attorneys and got ready to do my job. They directed me to my workspace for the day, a windowless closet-office about 6′ by 8′ with a shelf as a desk and one of those rolling wheely chairs. They asked me to keep the door closed so I wouldn’t have any distractions.
After about two hours of trying to decipher the manual (and not seeing or hearing another human being), I peeked my head out in search of life.
There was another door leading into the hallway where there was a water fountain and bathroom, so I opened that door to go get a drink of water. When that door cracked, both attorneys appeared out of their offices and looked at me puzzled.
“Where are you going?” one asked.
“Are you already finished?” the other one questioned.
“No, I’m not finished, I was just going to get a drink of water. I’ll be right back.” I said.
My wheels were already turning and I was getting a really strange vibe off these people. I was only two hours in so I thought I would just make it to lunch and see where I was at that time. I sat in the closet-office for about another hour, mostly laughing to myself about how I thought I may have been on some hidden camera show, this whole situation was just too weird.
Okay, back to it. Read the manual, teach the people. Now, I know there are people out there who can do this, but I wasn’t one of them. Three lessons here:
- Know your strengths. Know your weaknesses.
- Know whether or not you are the right person for a task.
- Know when to quit.
I still hadn’t seen another person since I tried to hydrate myself at the water fountain, but again I emerged from my 6 x 8 closet-office in search of life and a much needed lunch/mental break (I was in my early 20’s, this was mentally taxing). This time I had to knock on one of the doors to summon life.
“Hi, I just wanted to let you know I’m going to go on my lunch now,” I said to the attorney who never looked up from his computer while I was speaking.
“Oh,” he said “You had your fifteen minute break, I didn’t think you needed a lunch break,” he continued, still looking down.
“Okay, I’m just going to make one phone call,” I said (the irony was thick).
I called my recruiter and in hushed tones explained my current situation, she was apologetic and told me to take a lunch break and she would take care of it. I told her thank you, got in my car and left the two attorneys to themselves for the rest of the day. I never went back. For all I know, they are still there, heads in their laptops unaware of any temp they may or may not have hired to teach them a software program.
“As athletes, we do the thing that is in front of us. I think that is one of our best assets. We say, okay, I don’t know the long-term of this, but I do know what’s right here, so I’ve got that figured out,” excerpt from “Post Moves.”
For a former athlete, quitting an assignment (no matter how ridiculous) created conflict in me. Most of us will do whatever it takes to finish a task or an assignment, we have made our success by executing the plans and programs of others and although we may be mouthy or protest a bit, at the end of the day we are very good at following directions. We understand how daily, intentional work creates big pictures and we don’t quit easily.
But some projects are not ours to complete, finish or crush. If it’s not a strength or a weakness to figure out, if its just noise on the edge of your dream or passion, you need to quickly decide, scrap it and move on.
Hear this: not every environment or challenge is a competition, sometimes it’s just a test.
Not every single thing is worth your time, the wisdom and the meat of your life is in learning how to choose what is. After all these years, all I can think of today, is that had Snapchat been around in those days I would have slayed that story on social.
Priscilla Tallman is a freelance writer in Phoenix, AZ. She has an undergraduate degree in Psychology and graduate degree in Clinical Psychology. She has written for FloVolleyball, Volleyball Magazine, The Art of Coaching Volleyball, Sweat RX, Gorgo Fitness Magazine, CrossFit Fury and the CrossFit Games. She is married with two children and in a former life played collegiate and professional volleyball. She is featured in the book “Post Moves” – The Female Athlete’s Guide to DOMINATE Life After College by Angela Lewis. She eventually realized that sitting in small closet-offices and cubicles was much less fulfilling than doing the things she really loved, parenting her kids, writing about sports and coaching student-athletes to be fulfilled on and off the court.