Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Day in the Life of Jean (That's Me)

I've subscribed to Marie Claire for years (they've got a good balance of well-written, interesting articles and your usual 'mindless' fashion mag fare -- ideal for plane trips), and this year my renewal notice came with an optional bonus subscription to Harper's Bazaar. I'd never really been a fan of theirs before as it's kind of too high-fashion and elitist for me to relate to, but I thought 'why pass up a free subscription offer' --score! And to Bazaar's credit, I've been fascinated by a recurring article that features a day in the life of a mover and shaker of the fashion industry such as the likes of Tom Ford and Michael Kors. A couple of generalized observations I've made based on the articles read thus far: creative geniuses and super-successful business magnates 1) don't sleep much, 2) are creatures of habit, and 3) lead surprisingly solitary, eccentric lifestyles. Are they successful because they're solitary? Are they solitary because they're successful? It's difficult to say. But what I do know is the monthly feature has kind of made me more appreciative of my relatively "normal" life -- not that I wouldn't like having my own in-house yoga session or massage therapist as many of the rich and famous seem to do. But if being sleep-deprived is a prerequisite to being a standout success in your field, then... call me middle-management material, because I still choose sleep :)

A lot of career advice blogs will tell you to spend time shadowing someone in your chosen career field to get an idea of what their day-to-day is like. I think this is great advice if you can manage to do it (some tips here). I didn't before I landed my current job, and I will admit that the work culture here is indeed different from what I'd imagined it would be like. So I'm here to give you the inside scoop,  in case you have ever been curious about what a typical day in the life of an engineering contract negotiator at a Tier-One public university looks like, as I'm sure you all have:

7:00 am - This is when I usually get out of bed, in order to get to work by 8. Ah, the perks of living in a small town with minimal rush-hour traffic. And of being low-maintenance. First thing I do is flip on the news. I usually check my email on my phone while I'm brushing my teeth: in case any urgent emails came in overnight or in the early morning hours, I like to know what I'm gonna be walking into.

8:00 am - Breakfast (usually something like waffles that I've packed from home, or a breakfast bar) at my desk while I read emails, and perform "work triage" - determine which items need to be prioritized to help me plan out my day. Some mornings, I have meetings with the various centers/work groups that I negotiate for. I actually prefer morning meetings because everyone's a little fresher and more enthusiastic versus in the p.m. Same goes for making phone calls.

11:45 am - I get to have lunch with my husband about 3 times a week now, since his office (he is a grad student at aforementioned university) is right down the street. Most other days I have various friends on my lunch schedule; yet another perk of living/working in a small town. Every now and then I will bring a frozen meal or fast-food back to my desk to eat while watching streaming tv episodes on my laptop. (There are a lot of shows I enjoy watching that I don't even know when they're actually on tv, since I usually only catch up with them online on the weekends). A lot of people around here seem to work through the lunch hour, or just catch a quick bite to eat -- I could never do this as I need to get out of the building for some fresh air/change of scenery, or else I'd burn out very quickly.  

1:00 pm - Back to work, and often more meetings. There are a lot of meetings around here due to so many policy updates, federal regulations, personnel changes, etc. that we have to stay abreast of. And then it's work-work-work, negotiate-negotiate-negotiate. This largely entails: reading and editing of contracts, ensuring policies and rules are being followed, conferring with the researchers about their needs/expectations, and then going back and forth with the sponsor (contracting party) to make sure everyone comes out of the agreement feeling like it's a win-win. I knew coming in that the job would require a lot of communication, time-management and organization skills; what I didn't know, and which a lot of seasoned corporate professionals will be able to tell you about, was to be prepared to deal with a lot of bureaucracy, inter-/intra-system politics that directly impact how you do your job, and everyone's favorite - paperwork. 

5:00 pm - Flee-- er, I mean leave-- the office. Head home to make dinner, or pick up dinner, or get freshened up for dinner out...admittedly, one of the more challenging things on my plate right now is trying to stay ahead of the game on what we're going to have for dinner!

7:30 pm - I try to work out every other day. Signed up for a fitness studio membership with friends which helps keep me accountable mostly because I don't want to be the first wimp to bail. We usually do Zumba, or sometimes I'll drop in on a Piloxing class if I'm feeling brave. On non-workout days, I'll pursue my other hobbies (photography, learning new languages, etc). Oh, and try to keep up with household chores which, let's face it, is an essentially unending battle against dirt and dust. I'm always amazed by how much trash is generated by two people - my husband and me - in a single week. This is even despite the fact that I am a dedicated recycler. Maybe if we get our own place someday I'll try to do cool things like using our food scraps as compost, but those things aren't really practical to our current living situation.

10:30 pm -  After getting cleaned up, will usually wind down with reruns on Nick at Nite or TV Land, or peruse the internet. Hubby has more refined tastes than I do and will usually read a smart, thought-provoking book before bed, and then I'll just ask him to summarize parts of it for me so that I don't have to read it myself :) And then it's lights out around 11:30 so we can get some good-quality shut-eye before doing it all again the next day!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for another insightful and well-written entry!! You have a seamless writing style, that is so witty and genuine! :o) Keep them coming, Jean~! <3


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