Letting go of old angst

October 21, 2013

Yesterday, I went to this conference, nervous due to my normal social anxiety and uncomfortable with my identity as I sporting a “Press” badge.

The first person I interacted with is the one guy at the whole conference that I’d hoped not to see. Of course.

I’ve never been to this conference but this guy is involved with everything IEEE, at least locally so I was concerned he’d be there. Let me explain why I had hoped to avoid him. Because maybe I’m wrong and I’m finally willing to have someone say “cut the guy some slack” or “let it go”.

My book came out two years ago. Just about that time, I decided to upgrade my membership from IEEE member to IEEE senior member. There was a member upgrade night, to meet senior members who could provide the recommendations necessary for upgrade. Soon after I walked in, I found a guy who said my background and resume were so good, he’d be willing to sponsor me as well as write a recommendation. That meant I got to skip a step. Sweet.

I met another senior member who was willing to write a recommendation.

I wanted a third person because I’m an overachiever (and a big believer in backup plans). Though the organizer (we’ll call him Fred as there will be more about him) said two was enough. Since the process had all gone very quickly and they weren’t busy, Fred offered to look over my application and resume. I handed over my papers.

He made some comments on my resume. They were ok, they didn’t really fit with how I present myself. My resume is targeted toward hiring managers, busy people looking for high level information and probably only willing to drill deeper in a few spots. I was proud it was two pages. While the other recommenders liked my resume as it was, Fred felt strongly that I should submit a longer CV with my application. He had specific suggestions for what I should do.

Happy for the help, I re-added the projects and papers I’d clipped. I made sure my CV showed growth in my careers: college, junior engineer, senior engineer, technical lead, manager, director, business owner. I added descriptions to my juried papers and to my magazine articles. I made sure my book and patents were prominent. It was a lot of bragging. And a lot of pages.

A month passed. While my sponsor came through, the other recommendation writer bailed so I needed to find someone. Since I’d already interacted with Fred, I emailed him. I thanked him for his help, describing the changes I’d made, asked if he’d write the second recommendation for me.

Fred emailed back and suggested more changes. Ooooookaaaay… I’d already put in more work than I’d expected but it seemed silly to stop when another hour of fussing would lead to the (tiny) senior member payoff.

I made the changes he requested. As I did it, though, I wondered if my application was so iffy that I needed to do more highlighting of instances success. But the committee gets a lot of applications and I want to make the choice easy for them (Fred’s reasoning but I bought it), so I made the changes.

I re-sent my packet to Fred. He wanted more changes before he’d write a recommendation.

At this point, my opinion was “to hell with them”. I didn’t know why Fred kept putting up more hurdles, what he found lacking in me.

The bar for senior member status isn’t that high: at least ten years in a related career with definite growth shown over five of those years. These are checkboxes. I suppose there is some subjectivity regarding what growth means but I’d say title changes count. I was actually pretty depressed that my new super-CV couldn’t show that I’d met those requirements. I couldn’t really imagine what more he’d want and I didn’t have time to fuss more.

I emailed back to him and said that he’d sufficiently discouraged me, that if my application was so borderline that three passes were needed, I’d wait until I was less borderline. I did not thank him for his help. I was polite (and brief).

About a month later, I got email from a guy I knew from other things, that I’d done a favor for. When I realized he was senior member, I got a recommendation from him. Easy peasy. He said my application rocked. My membership was upgraded with no questions from the committee.

Fred is the guy here at the conference. I don’t know if he recalls this interaction or not. Whenever I see his name on an IEEE ballot, I wince and fail to vote. Part of me knows that he really was trying to help, in his own way. Part of me is angered that he’d put me through so many hoops that I was willing to give up. I don’t know why I was so special or if he does this for everybody.

It isn’t like IEEE senior membership gets me anything: it isn’t even something anyone cares about on my resume. I was only willing to give up a little of my valuable time getting an upgrade that has no value. I ended up spending far more angst and time than I wanted. Apparently, there is still some angst.