Operation Week Off
A cubicle slave’s approach to job hunting while employed.
Before I begin: I need to show respect towards our men and women in uniform and acknowledge the pseudo-military nature of the headline. When this idea was conceived in 2003, I was nuts. Too many overprivileged dudes in America pretend to be like you all, but don’t serve. Our nation doesn’t thank you enough.
Sending this one out to those on the professional ledge.
Your dreams involve the office. And weapons.
You’re about to lose your chili. Your job is the reason.
Sucks. I empathize. Sending you some love from someone who was there.
I don’t have a foolproof solution for anyone’s employment situation, but if you got a minute I would like to share a thought about taking control.
Operation Week Off works like this: your employer gave you those vacation days. Empowering yourself to find a new job is another way to use them.
2003 should be a year that I’d like to forget. Negative energy hit from every angle. Professionally, the evil began in December 2002 and only got more evil. The main client I worked on — my company’s second biggest client — got so awful that my agency resigned them in early 2004.
Second biggest client. Like, lots of paychecks. We gave them up — but boy oh boy did some of us try hard to please them beforehand. This was part of the rah-rah speeches my team got. Do it for the sake of the company.
Sad part, in retrospect, was that we were in the middle of corporate politics. Overprivileged white dudes, in a contest to out-bro each other.
A year after the account left the building, I got another team member’s perspective. She told me that she had food issues earlier in life. Working on that client, she gained a lot of weight spending her evenings crying on the couch eating sweets.
I understood. During that time, I was crying on my couch drinking.
Late September 2003. I’m dating a cool woman… who takes me to dinner and kicks me to the curb. Which she damn well needed to do.
I thought about that year’s range of experiences. Never did a lot of cocaine, but I hate it now because I saw too many people turn stupid and ugly on that stuff. Admittedly, that was also the year my drinking went from cutting loose to self-medicating, more bad times than good. A vibe on that year from another angle: it seemed like every nice couple I knew was having trouble conceiving, but every psychotic couple was pooping out kids right and left. For my birthday, an ex-girlfriend sent me a card with an old married couple on the cover. A connection to something she said after we broke up, which I thought was lame, but at that moment in my life: its lame message fit into my lame life so wonderfully, in this lame way, and said something so lamely eloquent about how lame everything was. My lame company — beyond my evil client — ratcheted up the fear, then multiplied it times ten. That year, a coworker had the perfect statement: “When I hear something about a coworker these days, I want to go home and shower.” We all were told to be thankful to have a job a lot.
On other life fronts, my father was in a stressful job, too. But he had health issues I didn’t. So I wondered about him.
That year, when I wanted to think about something else, I’d take in news stories about the invasion of Iraq.
I remember thinking, that’s real risk and pain and suffering. Beside my family’s issues, I’m just up to my ears in bullshit.
So in September 2003, after I got dumped, it was time to do something. The biggest move I could make was to start changing my toxic work situation.
The reason 2003 is an okay year, in hindsight, is due to Operation Week Off.
I had a bad year. OWO was why it ended on an educational note.
Operation Week Off is a systematic, little-bit-each-day approach to saving your professional sanity.
Block aside the time, your stake in the ground. Logistically, maybe yours needs to be Operation Four Days Off, Operation Two Days Off — or a few, spread-out Operation Long Weekends that utilize Monday or Friday — whatevs.
Operation Week Off utilizes vacation days in the pursuit of a new job. Creating a plan before that week comes, loading up those days with appointments.
At wit’s end? Consider the idea. Committing the day-off time, four to five weeks out, is a good psychological motivator.
I may be in advertising, but I’m sure Operation Week Off can work for any industry. Unless it doesn’t have vacation days. (The way things are going, that might be a reality soon.)
If you’re sitting at work, beyond pissed, I’m telling you: it is beautiful and empowering to look at a calendar in the weeks before OWO and start seeing names and phone numbers.
From my experience, it’s a laid-back way to get a meeting. You inform a person that you have this time six weeks away blocked out, it’s a different vibe. You’re someone with a job, exploring. Later, when you meet, ask each person for numbers and contacts. Yeah, just like informational interviewing.
In the time before, I updated my portfolio and resume. My goal was to freelance, so my OWO was to introduce myself. I couldn’t quit right away, but OWO was about taking control of my life back.
Yours may be employment. Fire up LinkedIn and see who’s free for coffee or happy hour in six weeks.
Also: in my experience, people appreciated that I was contacting ahead of time with specific dates. Maybe OWO gives you this TCB aura, I don’t know.
That week, I met amazing people. For my old job, that week was my red pill.
Not only did I discuss freelancing, I also had an appointment with a placement agent who — free of charge — took an hour to talk to me about health insurance, budgeting, business set-up stuff, all that.
Each day, in those weeks leading up to OWO, I did at least one thing. Having these days in the calendar gave me a frame of reference.
Corporate burnouts: there is hope. Though I do have to say…
I went back to work after Operation Week Off — and got sat down six months later. I was in trouble. My attitude had changed.
I had quit smoking cigarettes, cut back on drinking, was running before work, eating healthy.
They were right. My attitude had changed.
Part of my realizations during Operation Week Off was that I needed to make these changes.
That sit-down, I heard phrases like “lost your passion”, only I heard “lost your fear.”
Things didn’t end well.
A potential negative about Operation Week Off: they might sit you down and demand that you return to pre-Operation Week Off worldview. If you do it right, that’s not an option.
And please do Operation Week Off right.
You might be reading my words with a grain of salt. I did this at 31, single. You might have kids, mortgages, etc. I get it.
The beauty of Operation Week Off is that you can tailor it however. They’re not my vacation days. They’re not your employer’s vacation days. They’re your vacation days — and you earned ’em. If it takes a few months to plan one week, and you want to tread lighty creating dialog with potential employers to feel out the coolness of meeting, OWO accommodates.
The idea is a commitment, in the form of time off. Again: those days? You earned ’em. Jobs make you feel guilty about using them — here’s a way to really use them.
“But Chris, I would rather be in Mexico, decompressing by puking in the street.”
Spend your vacation days however you wish. But the 1%, Wall Street, Corporate America, and the Silicon Valley bros are committed to making your job suck worse and worse.
Open up your calendar.
Chris Maley is a writer who lives in Denver, Colorado. He got fired up to write about political issues a few years ago when he learned the statistic that 95% of the post-Recession gains have gone to the 1%. (True stat, Google it. Believethatshit?)
Besides writing on Medium, he wrote Fearkiller (Volume 1) and Notes from Trillionaire Island: Fearkiller (Volume 2). Like on Facebook.
Oh. He’s not really that well known as a writer-writer, so he’s still a copywriter-writer as well. Check out his portfolio.