Today didn’t start out so well for me. I attended a manager’s meeting and found out that I will be a “designated hitter” when it comes time to rotate to a new job at work. Everyone else received a firm assignment. I have often been in limbo when it comes to this career, so I am not surprised. As they like to say, sometimes I have to “suck it up.” I am one of the newest employees in a cluster of employees who arrived in the past nine months, so it isn’t surprising that I am held in limbo while others received assignments. My assignment is contingent on someone else being chosen by the Powers That Be to move on to another highly-sought-after position. Translation—after one of the veterans is chosen for the hotly contested job, they vacate their assignment, and I get to do the job they were originally assigned to do. Gee, thanks. I hate to complain, but the Fates have not been kind to me in their recent job forecasts. So much in this line of work depends on timing—being in the right place at the right time. For me to be in the rear of a cluster of employees means I will likely be passed over some great opportunities in favor of more veteran folks. Seniority definitely counts. Highly visible jobs? No, those will go to the veterans. Short-term assignments in other countries? Probably not—those are earmarked for the ones passed up last time. A good follow-on assignment when I’m finished in Seoul? Not likely—most have already been taken and the Powers That Be are funnelling us into the jobs they want us to do, not necessarily ones we want to do. It’s hard to be an optimist when you see a dark freight train chugging your way. These opportunities come in vicious cycles, meaning that the first employee who followed me will slide into the top position for the next cycle of opportunities. They will be positioned to be in the right place at the right time. In hindsight, it might have been better to arrive about a month later in order to fall into the next cycle. Will I complain at work? Of course not! I’ll suck it up and try to do my best to avoid falling into a job rut. Ranting on a blog to an unknown audience is cathartic to me. Thanks for reading. I am definitely not alone in my frustration over job competition. I’m sure that many people feel this way at work when they’re trying to climb the corporate ladder along with everyone else. The trick is to climb the ladder without getting trampled while trying not to step on the backs of others.
Fortunately, the day ended with a smile. I dropped my vehicle off this morning to be repaired (check the archives to read more about what happened to our poor car). I returned at the end of the day to pick up the loaner vehicle lent to me until our car is fixed. It turned out to be a brand-new Lexus sedan! It’s beautiful. I was shocked that they gave me such a nice rental. I’m used to renting compact cars, not luxury sedans. I personally prefer Bimmers and can’t wait to buy my own 5-series BMW. However, this Lexus is very, very nice. I hesitate to drive it around in chaotic Seoul traffic. It’s a rental car, but I would hate to scratch or wreck it. I’ll have to come up with some reasons to drive it around town. Driving home in a Lexus was a nice end to a rather trying day. I told them to take as long as they’d like to repair our car.
Tonight I joined some colleagues for buffalo wings and beer at a local pub. I met a Korean friend of one of my coworkers. She humored me by helping me practice my meager Korean. She was patient, corrected my grammatical errors, and spoke Korean clearly and succinctly. We carried on a brief conversation about language and travel. I joked that I had learned how to talk about nuclear weapons in Korean, but I didn’t even know how to order a beer. I was trained to conduct deep discourses in Korean, but I’m still lousy at chitchat. She’s used to spending time with Americans and conversed freely in both English and Korean. She even laughed at my wacky humor. Contrast this experience with another Korean I met earlier today at lunchtime. A Korean and Korean-American coworker invited me to join them for lunch. We met up with my Korean-American coworker’s girlfriend. She spoke no English and rarely spent time with foreigners. She hardly said a word during our meal, although afterwards she freely conversed with someone on her cell phone. I tried speaking a little Korean, and she nodded and smiled, but we did not have a conversation. I felt as if my presence had put a damper on the meal, as if the conversation were muted because I was there. This was completely unintentional.
I find awkwardness to be one of the biggest challenges when trying to meet Koreans. Many Koreans, male and female, are shy when it comes to getting to know foreigners. I’ve heard that for the most part this isn’t due to a lack of interest. I’ve been told by locals I know well that most Koreans are generally intrigued by foreigners. It could be that they assume foreigners do not speak Korean and are self-conscious about speaking in a foreign language. It could also be that foreigners are much different than Koreans—aliens, as it were. Americans are particularly gregarious, a trait that can come across as abrasive in Korean culture. I am usually open and jovial, so my friendliness may actually work against me when it comes to meeting Koreans. I’ve been told by my Korean office mates that I’m considered “nice” around the office, but I have much less contact with Koreans than I would like. I am slowly finding opportunities to get acquainted. It’s a slow and arduous process reaching out across cultures to make acquaintances.