Job satisfaction

I went to a seminar yesterday on building a career management strategy in the public service. I don’t think it was the intention of the organizers, but by the time I left I had a huge sense of satisfaction both with my current job, and with my future job prospects. (Of course, it helps that I walked out of that seminar and happened to pick up my language test results, lifting a 1000 lbs elephant off my shoulders.)

I was planning to link to some survey results, but apparently I copied down the URL wrong and no amount of searching through the Treasury Board Web site has turned it up. You’ll have to trust my wonky memory on the details, I guess.

The gist of it was that they came up with a number of measures that indicate job satisfaction, including having challenging and interesting work, having work-life balance, having opportunities for advancement, and of course, recognition and compensation. I was really surprised to see that in the sample of public servants they surveyed, satisfaction across these factors topped out at around 50 per cent.

It made me realize how very lucky I am to be doing a job that I truly enjoy for all of those reasons. My work is challenging and interesting, if not a little bit overly bureaucratic at times, ad I love the people I work with. I leave the office almost every day at 3:30 and almost never take work home with me. I’ve been promoted twice within the past five years, including two full years off for maternity leave. And quite honestly, I make more money that I ever imagined I would. We’re not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but when I was in my twenties I could never really envision having enough money to actually own a house – so I’ve come a long way!

It’s almost funny how serendipitous the whole thing has been. I’m not particularly ambitious, and I seem to have arrived here by whimsy as much as by design. Sure, I’ve worked hard and I think I’ve done a good job proving myself and my capabilities to my employers, but I still shake my head in amazement to look back and see that not only do I have a job, but I have a career – and one I love at that. How lucky am I?

I don’t imagine I’ll ever leave the public service. Heck, I’ve been with this department for 17 years – hard to imagine ever leaving here, let alone starting over again in the private sector. As of this year, I’ll be closer to my retirement (age 55) than I am to the day I started my career here at the tender age of 20. They aren’t kidding when they call them the ‘golden handcuffs’.

The great irony, of course, is that all I ever wanted to be was a mom. Even when I was a teenager, my career aspirations were something vague like, “I’d like to be a journalist, or in PR, or maybe sales. But mostly, I just want to be a mom.” And in the coming years, it’s only going to get harder to balance the raising of three little kids with this daytime life of mine.

But I’m glad to have had a little bit of a perspective check, to realize that everyone is not as lucky as me to be in a job they love, with people who treat them well, getting paid for it all to boot.

Even on a grey, rainy day, there are lots of reasons to be grateful. I’m a lucky girl.

Conquering the French

Oh, the irony!

Yesterday, I took my dreaded oral exam for the third time since February. Less than 22 hours later, I read this article in the Citizen about how the public service is finally revisiting how it evaluates second-language capability, and how they’ll be moving from a (positively painful) one-on-one interview in a tiny office with a tape recorder sitting in front of you to a more natural evaluation like shadowing you on your job and listening to you interact in French, or discussing a presentation or video you just watched together.

The article says that the pass rate for anglophones is between 32 and 35 per cent at the advanced level C. (Hey, I guess I’m right on target, having twice previously failed my own language test so far this year, albeit at the intermediate level B) while the pass rate for francophones in English is 68 to 72 per cent. Sigh.

This is my last kick at the can; if I don’t pass it this time, I will likely have to forgo the promotion I earned way back in May 2005 and give up the acting assignment I’ve had since June 2005. In other words, there’s a lot riding on my exam. Matter of fact, my substantive position was bilingual, too (I passed the oral exam at the B level back in 2000, two year-long maternity leaves ago) so I don’t even know if I have a position to go back to. Yikes.

I’m not going to speculate on how it went. The last time, I was sure I nailed it, and I still failed to achieve the intermediate level I need. I don’t even need to obtain the advanced level C for this position, but I will if I ever want to work in a higher-level communications position with the government. The article says that 63 per cent of the jobs in the national capital region are bilingual, but I can’t remember the last time I saw an English-only position come up.

I suppose the good news is that any future test I take will be under this new regime, but it would have been nice to have this article come out any time other than within 24 hours of the exam!

Results should be in by the end of next week. You’ll know when I know!

Almost famous

Remember waaaaaay back in early September, when I mentioned that I had been to a blogger meet-up with Andrea and Kerry? I never did get around to writing more about it, but that night there was a reporter from the Ottawa Citizen there, and she was intrigued by our discussions about the free stuff bloggers get (and you know how I love the free stuff) and the agonizing I was doing at that time over running ads on the blog.

Well, this morning the feature she wrote was the cover of the Tech Weekly section, with a giant photograph of Tristan and I, framed in our laptop monitor! How cool is that? I so wish the photograph was in the online edition, because it really is a lovely shot. Maybe I can scan it and show you later on.

The article itself was great. The reporter compared four Ottawa bloggers and our different approaches to blogging for profit. I know one of the other bloggers (Hi David!) and met another one of them at the blogger meet-up. It was a lot of fun to be part of the process, too. While I’ve had letters to the editor run a few times before, this is the first time I’ve been part of an actual article.

I had to laugh when I saw she had written, “Postcards from the Mothership provides an intimate look at Donders’ life. The federal government employee recently told readers about her pregnancy before she told her bosses.” Hmmm, as of this morning I still hadn’t gotten around to telling some of those bosses formally yet. You think communications exectives read the paper much? *cringe* Then again, I’m not sure all of them knew about blog, either. (Hi, big bosses!)

I laughed out loud when I read that the reporter, Alexandra, worked in a plug for me. In discussing ads on blogs, she quotes me saying “‘Blogging — for me, at least — is so very personal that allowing ads on the blog seemed a slippery slop to selling myself and my kids and our personal experiences,’ she says” but then continues on with “while pointing out that she’d be willing to consider a book publisher’s offer.” Random House, Harper Collins, House of Anansi – are you listening?

The best reaction was from Tristan, though. Newspapers have an elevated status around our house already – the boys know nothing happens in the morning until Mommy has read the newspaper. The picture of us is almost a full half-page, and he is absolutely tickled by it – and by the fact that you can see his new-for-school Scooby Doo backpack in the photo! We were both up a few minutes before the rest of the house, so I had time to show it to him before anyone else was up. He practically bowled Beloved over shoving the photo up to his bleary, half-opened eyes, and wouldn’t let me take Simon out of his crib until Tristan had positioned the paper just right for optimal viewing.

So, if you’re here as a result of the Citizen article, welcome! Pour yourself a coffee and feel free to join the conversation – we’re a friendly lot around here. Me, I’ll be out looking for extra vanity copies of the paper. For Tristan’s baby book, of course.

Edited to add: thanks to Andrea – although I hate to foil her enterpreneurship! – I have this scan of the photo from today. Props to Citizen photographer Ashley Fraser, who took this and about 100 other pictures that day, and was incredibly patient with both Tristan and me!