Looks Can Be Deceiving

I’ve been on the co-op board of my apartment building for three years. I admittedly didn’t join out of the goodness of a volunteering heart; the only motivating factor was my vision of a roof deck. A beautiful roof deck that would overlook the Manhattan skyline, Prospect Park, the Verrazano Bridge. But alas, I will be leaving the co-op board in a few weeks without a roof deck. The first Monday evening of each month over the past 36 months has rarely failed to bring out the worst in me. No amount of yoga or wine has worked to keep my blood below boiling level (it’s hard enough to decide on a rug design with your spouse – try agreeing on door number designs with your neighbors), though I was proud of keeping myself fairly calm most of the time. But I spent far too much time working on this now-dead roof deck project. Here is why I did.

IMG_0407Look at this view!

This is our little oasis in the middle of big NYC. The roof deck naysayers would argue that we have all the outdoor space we need with the park across the street. While I love the park, it’s a constant reminder that we live in Urbania, and sometimes it’s nice not to be reminded of that. Despite this picture being of skyscraper on top of more skyscrapers, it doesn’t say big loud city to me. It says peace. From here, it is so deceivingly quiet. It is so still. Of course I know differently, but looks can be deceiving, especially from afar. In this case, that’s a good thing. In others, not so much.

I am in the middle of a job search because my company was acquired by another. The period of “integration” was several months. During that time, my firm and our acquiring firm spent a lot of time together. We got to know our peers, we experienced each other’s cultures, we learned each other’s processes. For both sides, it was a “try before you buy” experience that you just don’t get when interviewing for a job. A handful of 30-60 minute interviews is simply too little to really get to know a company, or for them to get to know you. What a leap of faith. The process feels so much more uncomfortable to me than it ever has in the past, because I now know what it means to know company before you join.

That picture above was taken just yesterday. It brought with it a wealth of feelings: happiness because of its beauty, depression because I was sitting on a $12 lawn chair when I took it rather than a teak chaise lounge surrounded by greenery, and a little bit of fear as I recognized how well its seeming serenity from afar masked reality. I like the reality of NYC – if I didn’t, I wouldn’t live here. But it’s anything but serene.

As I search for my next thing, I want to make sure I know what I’m signing up for. How to do that when the search process basically has you standing on a roof deck three miles from the role? You may be thinking deception is an unfair characterization, as most hiring manages aren’t looking to dupe incoming employees – it’s obviously not in their best interest. It’s more about me being fearful of deceiving myself if I start to get anxious about employment.

To all those searching for something new out there, be careful not to jump too quickly to the next thing that simply sounds or looks good. Desperation rarely yields good. So ask lots of questions and be prepared to hear what you might not want to hear, squeeze LinkedIn and Glassdoor for all they are worth, do the commute a few times and walk around the building at lunchtime… whatever you need to do to ensure that beautiful skyline isn’t your lone guide. If you promise to, I will too.

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