My manager told me just before the weekend that the ball was rolling and that I should update my resume on the chance that I’d have to submit it sometime this week. I’m glad I spent some time Sunday cleaning it up, because I was contacted Tuesday to fill out some paperwork and put in my formal application to be converted to a permanent employee. So yeah, I took my first steps to becoming something other than a contractor; it’s been a long 2+ years.

The downside to this conversion is that I’ll be starting at perhaps the lowest rung in the “career ladder” defined by HR. “Client Compatibility Technologist I” (or something of the sort), meaning I’m at the bottom. Entry level.

I don’t have a college degree. Even if I did, it sure as hell wouldn’t be stellar. I don’t have any special training or five-plus years of commensurate experience. I’ve made a few impressions over the years, even got a Spotlight Award from the Director, but that’s not enough to carve out my place in the department. So I can’t expect higher than entry level. I’ll have to actually earn the respect, and that’s the hardest lesson to learn. It’s not enough to have been there for two years, to show up every day, do my job, and go home. When everybody else keeps commitments, puts in extra effort, and makes a point of going above and beyond, the man who does only what’s necessary is at the end of the line.

Among the other hard lessons I’m learning are these tidbits:

  • In a corporate environment, it’s reasonable to expect opportunistic behavior among those who work there; if there’s a chance to take more, do more, be more, and therefore move higher, I gotta take that chance. Think of it as a classroom full of fifth-graders standing around a table, and there’s only two pizzas; the slowest ones don’t eat.
  • All that stuff about taking turns, letting others speak first, minding your manners, obeying your superiors, that’s all hideously bad advice, because nobody else follows the rules. Decorum and protocol have their place in society, but it’s in all the little interpersonal micro-transactions that the obedient are stepped upon.
  • Altruism is largely absent, reserved for only the “good ol’ boy network”. To be in the network, you have to actually be a good ol’ boy, meaning you have to be someone who has worked to garner that respect.
  • I won’t get promoted for being an all-around nice guy; I have to actually work for it. If friendliness was the requirement for promotion, the whole enterprise would be doomed to failure.
  • The company is built around the concept of “meritocracy”, where each individual person is responsible for their own career path. Don’t look to someone else to look out for you. You rise or fall by your own actions; do well, and you’ll be rewarded well. The guys in the highest levels clawed their way up there and were rewarded on their individual merit.
  • So, it follows that expecting a modicum of respect handed to me without expending a respectable amount of effort on my part is just foolish. I start at level 1.

So the ball is rolling. I mentioned my stress at the sudden speed of everything to my manager, and his advice was to not sweat it; it’s all on autopilot from here on out. The position is open to anybody, but I’m pretty much the most experienced person applying for the job (since I’m already doing it), so it should be a shoo-in. Here’s to hope.