Good Works – Guest Post by Margy Rydzynski

Margy Rydzynski and I are neighborhood friends and colleagues. We’ve worked together in the past, and coming up in the fall, we’ll be piggybacking on a couple of blogging courses. (They’ll be listed on both my web site and hers as soon as we have the links. They are low cost, and represent only a short time commitment. I heartily recommend that you sign up for them, if you’ve been thinking about starting a blog to further your creative or business activities, want to use yours as a soapbox, or just want to keep your family and friends informed of your doings.)

Margy is also quite a fine writer, with an unusual take on things, as you’ll see on her blog and in her post below.
– Lynette

MargyPictureI like my boss. Maybe it’s because I only see her sixteen hours a week, or maybe because she’s the pastor of a quaint, little New England church just a 10-minute walk from my house. She’s a pastor who practices what she preaches, and her message (peace, economic justice, community, service) strongly resonates with me as well.

Here’s the irony: I’m not a believer.

I grew up Catholic and went as far as my Confirmation. I’ve got the “Spirit of holy fear in God’s presence,” except that I don’t. I’m a “soldier of Christ,” if you can believe that (which I can’t). I parted ways with religion not long after that. It just stopped making sense.

Then one day my husband forwarded a job description from that above-mentioned little church (Protestant, not Catholic) and I grudgingly agreed to look into it. They were looking for an office administrator (boring) and hoped the candidate might have good computer and social media skills (maybe not boring?). They also wanted someone who was comfortable working with diverse members of the community (ooh, interesting!). Tech skills? Social media? Community? It sounded better and better.

I submitted my resume and got a call a few days later. Would I be willing to come in for an interview with their Staff-Parish Relations Committee? Oh great, I thought. I get the third-degree from a whole committee. Did I really want to do this? Oddly enough, yes. On the appointed date I arrived at the church dressed in my Sunday best and took a seat on a short wooden pew outside of the pastor’s office. I noticed a sticker on her door that said she was another liberal for peace. Nice touch. I was already in a good mood. Now I was in an even better mood.

And the interview? No worries. After a decade running my own business, I’m used to schmoozing. I laughed, I joked and felt comfortable talking openly about my experiences and our mutual expectations. Did I realize it was only 16 hours a week? Did I know there would be no health insurance benefit? Wouldn’t I get bored?

Did they realize that my first priority was my business? Did they care that I wasn’t religious? Did they understand that a certain amount of predictability was really nice in the insecure world in which I lived? A week later, they offered me the job. I thought about it, then accepted.

So, here I am, working part-time for a pretty little New England church 10 minutes from home. I like the place. They walk the talk here and they do it in a way that doesn’t give me migraines. Service, justice, peace – those are worthy goals and worth the work.

And I’ve made a deal with religion: it leaves me alone and in return I do my absolute best job in its house. It’s coexistence at its best and, so far, the deal is working.
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Margy Rydzynski is a social media consultant, teacher and writer. She is also the founder of Arlington Entrepreneurs, a business social networking website for businesses in Arlington, Massachusetts.

Margy is an avid blogger and manages a number of social networks and other online forums. She also loves to write fiction and is particularly fond of both the mystery and fantasy genres.

You can visit Margy, and even ask her questions through her website.

Got something to say about your jobs, past or present? Get in touch by leaving a comment. (YOur email address should show up privately when you do.) The subject of work is about to become a regular feature of this blog.

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The Interview, Part 1

I hated the company.

I was working at the company of my dreams. Unfortunately, my dreams had misled me. I hated the company. A lot of the employees did, so we were always feverishly exchanging job leads, exchanging tiny notices torn from the classifieds, and hunching over telephones to engage in whispered calls.

Finally, a small local company that published newsletters contacted me. They wanted an interview.

I was elated—except that I had the flu. My boss wouldn’t let me stay home. At the end of each day she’d say, “You have to come in tomorrow. I need you to write this or edit that. This report has to get out.”

Each night at home I’d lie flat on my back, still wearing my hat and scarf, my boots dangling from my feet over the edge of the bed. One morning, my husband Joe had to bundle me into my coat, propel me to the car, and drive me through a foot of new wet snow to the office park where I worked. Seated in front of my computer, I was terribly hot. I drank a lot of water. But at nine o’clock, my boss found me prostrate on the sofa in the company’s professionally decorated reception area.

She had stood over me, pencils protruding wildly from her hair, and declared, “I’ll get you some temporary help. All you have to do is supervise them.”

“I can’t,” I grunted.

“Then go home.”

“I can’t.”

When I came to, Joe was easing my feet into my boots and murmuring that he would bring the car right up to the door. I was to lie there and wait for him to come back inside and get me.

I was too ill to interview.

I had told the newsletter people I was too ill to interview, but they had been insistent. That should have been enough to convince me I didn’t want a job there. Hell, I already worked for an inconsiderate company. Now this newsletter company wanted me to interview, even though the receptionist I had spoken to there had several times murmured, “You sound terrible.”

Still lightheaded and shaky two days after my collapse at work, I donned a wool Neiman Marcus dress I had bought at a consignment shop. I can’t imagine what I found to wear on my feet to walk through the dingy snow that was barricading the curbs in the center of town.

Please continue reading The Interview, Part 2.

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The Interview, Part 2

The interviewers materialized.

At the newsletter company, four employees materialized into the open space of what had obviously been a factory devoted to light manufacturing at some time in the past. The three women wore wrinkled corduroy slacks, flannel shirts, and clogs. The man was dressed the same, except that he was wearing battered shoes with thick soles.

In a closed conference room the four told me what a wonderful place this was to work. They were like a family; several of them lived together. They did their shopping at the food co-op; did I know it?

Not only did I know it, I was a member!

They breathed sighs of friendship. What kind of writing did I do now? What were my editing responsibilities? they wanted to know.

My mouth answered; my head swam. Perspiration stealthily beaded my forehead. I was too sick to interview. And whose idea had it been for me to wear wool?

I thought, “I gotta get out of here.”

I said, “I hope we can talk again, since I’m not at my best today.”

“You’re doing great,” they chimed.

They faded before me. I could hear them, but I could barely make out what they were saying. I wasn’t sure what I was saying. It was as if we were speaking beneath the surface of the sea. Someone got me some water, and we all smiled.

One of them wondered aloud why I had had to work while I was ill. I replied that my boss had needed my help with an important project. (I felt it couldn’t hurt to seem indispensable.) They were looking at me benevolently, speaking slowly, and being very polite. I became suspicious, aware that the line between what I was thinking and what I had actually verbalized had blurred hopelessly. Had I absurdly used the word “crazy” in describing with my boss?

I dutifully admired the sample newsletters they showed me. But, I said, the contents seemed technically daunting, involving as they did tank hatches and tonnage, pipes and pressure valves, and hose handling derricks.

They assured me that I could learn it all, and gaily implied I would soon love it as much as they did. But even through my flu-induced fog, I knew the subject would bore me to stupefaction.

My interviewers were loath to let me go. Had I been entertaining them with hilariously unguarded revelations? I brought matters to a close by rising to my feet, leaning a hand on the table as I thanked them, and dragging my coat from the back of my chair with as much dignity as I could muster.

I never minded that I didn’t hear from the company again. But I’ve always wondered what on earth I said in that interview.
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I’m planning to run a series on working. If you’ve got a weird interview story, share it in a comment. Or, hit me up if you’d like to guest post about interviewing or working.

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Claim Your Subject

My sister once asked me, “What writing subject do you claim as your own?”

Without hesitating, I answered, “Work.”

Although I enjoy writing on a number of subjects, I probably get the most pleasure and satisfaction from writing about work.

I’m fascinated by the claims our jobs make on us, the crowds they place us in, the behavior they force on and from us, and the madnesses, variously disguised, that we bring to work with us.

I’ve written and published about aspects of my life in higher ed, where I was part of that army of administrators who tend to be ignored by fiction and nonfiction writers alike. Those authors overwhelmingly have focused on faculty and students, while leaving the busy herds of administrators largely uninvestigated and unexposed.

Here’s a link to the first of my essays about working in a college, published by the Chronicle of Higher Education. You can see the rest of these personal essays by searching the Chronicle site for Lauren Moore and for Marie Pelangy (two pseudonyms I used).

I discussed being overworked in an essay in InsideHigherEd.com, under the pseudonym Barbara Mainwaring.

Do you gravitate toward a particular subject that inspires you and engages others?

Twitter: @lynettebenton

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Writing About Work

I write a lot about work. I’m fascinated by the claims work makes on us, the crowds it places us in, the behavior it forces on and from us, and the madnesses, variously and usually unsuccessfully disguised, that we bring to work with us.

I’ve written and published essays, articles, and an interview about aspects of my life in higher ed, where I was part of that army of administrators who, oddly, tend to be ignored by fiction and nonfiction writers. Those writers overwhelmingly have focused on faculty and students, while the busy herds of administrators have been left largely uninvestigated and unexposed.

Here’s a link to the first of my more benign writings about higher ed administration, published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the major newspaper for the gargantuan higher education industry.

The first five essays for the Chronicle were written under one of my pseudonyms, Lauren Moore. My colleagues at the college discovered the identity behind my pseudonym, but the often-prickly president’s council members surprised me by praising the essays.

From the first essay (“Reasons for Leaving”), you can see the others by searching the Chronicle site for Lauren Moore and for Marie Pelangy (my second pseudonym, which was not discovered).

I have a vague sense that the essays became more and more pessimistic over the two years that I wrote them.

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