As a recruiter I wait a lot. I wait for clients deciding to hire, for candidates to consider an opportunity and for peers to update me on joint endeavours, this is my cost of doing business.
With the global health issue stealing the spotlight for 2020 I have found myself waiting more than ever. Fast food, iPhone apps and fibre internet came about because we want everything now.
Remember when we used to go to places in real life? Doctors and dentists had “waiting rooms” I have arrived on time but for some reason I still have to wait to be seen. I really hate waiting. The concept of waiting implies your time is less valuable than whoever or whatever you are waiting for; the longer the duration of the wait the less important you are. I read about a prominent private equity boss being kept waiting at Jeffrey Epstein’s New York town house for a prolonged period before eventually being granted an audience and a tour, this was supposed to demonstrate Jeffrey’s “superiority”, instead it caused the individual he was meeting to immediately blacklist him.
Most of us are not important or rich enough to get everything we want immediately or even have the expectation that we should, however, being kept on ice at work is different to delay at the dentist. As professionals we work at our craft, perfecting what we do to add maximum value to those with whom we interact. Delay in our professional lives either intentionally or indirectly by circumstance devalues us at our core and gives a pang of displeasure that is hard to articulate.
Our business lives and personal lives are inexorably intertwined.
If we have a bad day at the office (when we used to go to offices) we carried this through to time spent at home with loved ones. The reverse is also true, winning in business smooths over a lot of rough edges in our personal lives, you make more money, go on better holidays, have a nicer home, clothes, food and a more optimistic outlook generally.
The concept of work/life balance has deluded us into thinking that the two constructs are binary and separate, they are not. What does this have to do with waiting? Well, waiting for anything is unpleasant (we have covered this already), the more important the outcome the worse the wait. Our work is one of the most central things in our lives, yet we are in times of unprecedented uncertainty that often require us to wait on circumstance outside our control.
While we are on pause it is hard to plan or think of the future. Do I have the confidence to move to a new house, change my car, book that trip? Holiday insurance often explicitly covers redundancy as a reason for not travelling. In a way at least redundancy offers certainty, even a result we don’t want is better than not knowing what is next.
What makes waiting in business even harder? While some of us sit on furlough, or in alternate forms of career hibernation others are busier and more successful than ever. All it takes is a quick scroll through social media to see that deals are being done, money is still being made and certain groups are having a genuinely great time in spite of what is happening in the world. Comparing ourselves to others almost never leads to a satisfactory result but for some reason we just can’t help it, self-punishment under the guise of motivation, purportedly to encourage us to work harder and achieve.
Waiting is a mind game we play against ourselves. Inaction causes us to feel left behind, this is reinforced by readily accessible self-promotion online. How do we win? I don’t believe we can, it is not a zero-sum game. What we need to do is endure, accept you are not the only one who has “fallen through the cracks” of financial or other support and that we don’t know what the world will look like 6 months from now; hopefully if we can wait and endure for long enough things will get better.
Author: Ken Collins is a legal and compliance search partner with Greenway Collins covering the EMEA region from London.