Quitter to Winner

Monday, July 12, 2010

Interview: Geoff Rice - a self-proclaimed "career coveter"

Geoff Rice is the creative director for a high-end organic skin care company. Not bad for an admitted wanderlust. Or is it?

Geoff, have you ever left a gig without another one lined up?

Oh yes. In the days of my youth I'd pick up and quit after a year or so at any one place. I would often follow that by packing up the Toyota Tercel and move to a completely new city--no job prospects, no apartment lined up. It was exciting, but I had nothing to lose. Typical twenty-something wanderlust.

What prompted you to hightail it?

Back in the post-college days I was more or less adrift, so I had very little to lose by dropping everything and moving along. Still, I will say that even back then I found myself staying longer than I should have in a handful of dead-end jobs, just out of convenience. I can be very susceptible to the forces of inertia.

How long did it take you to land something else? How did it fall into place?

Well if you're talking about employment--and not the pursuit of any sort of cohesive career path--it was always fairly quick and breezy. It was rarely difficult to find something that would cover my relatively modest bills. The real secret is to have no expectations, no preconceived notions and very low standards. I'm only 1/4 kidding. See, the thing is that I was, for a long time, convinced that I was going to somehow be making a name for myself in the performing arts, so the "day job" was never my primary concern. After that shifted (in other words, once that dream was finally crushed for good), what I did with my days took on a different level of importance. My job is now very much a part of my identity--which certainly wasn't the case in my 20's.

A major reason people stay in jobs they don't like it because it's makes up a large part of their Identity. For some the idea of redefining themselves is scarier than leaving a job. Have you ever been in that head space?

So clearly, that mindset is relatively new to me. I guess I'm currently going through the process of defining just what it is I want my professional life to look like, and what it should say about me. I suppose if I have any fear of moving on at this point it's coming partially from the fact that the process is incomplete. The picture is still unclear. Even more influential in keeping me put, though, are the pressures of needing to provide security and stability for my family. Having a kid is a pretty powerful argument for staying put, especially when the jobs market continues to be such a wasteland.

What's the longest you've stayed in a job you didn't like, or worse, dreaded? How were you able to keep going?

There have been a couple of jobs that ended up being completely draining, to which I dreaded going every morning, and yet held me prisoner for years. I believe the longest I've been in such a situation is around three years. A long time, I know. The mind comes up with a number of coping mechanisms to survive those grueling days, none of which seem to be at all healthy in the long run. One can try to quarantine ones work and personal lives completely, which ends up feeling disingenuous and is ultimately exhausting. I've also fallen into the oh-so-tempting trap of the gossip culture, with similarly horrible results. Sneaking off to kvetch with other people, but never effecting change? Exhausting and demoralizing. Ultimately, what I want is a job in which I can be a more honest version of myself, and through which I can grow and change in a way feels true. I don't want to have to play a role other than myself. I also want to feel that I have a genuine and positive hand in helping to shape the culture and vision of the organization.

Have you surveyed jobs out there and thought, hmm, I think I'd rather do that. What's that job/career?

All the time. I'm a nonstop career coveter, and I can muster up jealousy of jobs in just about any field. I'm jealous of all of my friends and family who teach (especially in the summer). I envy all of my freelancing friends for lots of reasons, not least of which is the mind-boggling amount of time they seem to have available just to read and write/blog. I want to go on tour all year like my musician friends. I suppose what all of my many "dream jobs" share in common is that they offer the opportunity to be imaginative, creative, and honest while having lots of fun. Oh, and ideally I'd be making lots of money. Is that so much to ask?

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