A - Z 2021: The early Bird catches the Worm

Photo Credit: Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

Welcome back to A - Z 2021. Yesterday we found out that you can catch more Flies with Honey than you can with Vinegar.

Today it's W's turn, and W is for 

The early Bird catches the Worm

I never particularly liked this one because I used to have a hard time getting up early. Then I became a Mom. Now I have a hard time getting up at any time, early or late. Hahaha. 

It was the worst when Colin was between 16 months and 4 years old. I had my first job back after my maternity leave. I did not even plan to go back to work that early. However, a dear friend, with whom I worked with at the ice cream company, was now with an airline. A field that had always fascinated me. 

We're looking for a part-time Recruiter and HR Manager, he told me. The ideal applicant must speak German, French and English, that's you. We're looking for someone with a background in either a technical field, tourism and / or a premium brand, that's you as well - what are you waiting for?

He was right. I had been working in HR long enough to know that there are not many part-time jobs with this profile. At the very least I had to give it a try. They were probably going to get 200 applications, and that would be the end of it.

Guess what. 

After a handful of interviews with a bunch of different people, I got that job. 

I found a wonderful childcare spot for Colin. It was located directly at at the airport, and he loved the plane watching they got to enjoy during their walks.

Everything was perfect.

Except the commute.

We had to join the thousands of other people on the A1, the busiest and most congested freeway in Switzerland. 

42 km (26 miles) that - under perfect conditions - take 35 minutes, will easily exceed twice the travel time if you're on the road between 6am and 9am and from 4pm to 7pm. 

On occasion there would be a major incident as you can see in my Facebook Memories below. 

Spending 2 hours 25 minutes was not a great start into my day!

Luckily the little man in the backseat was a trouper. "Reading" toddler books, commenting on other cars and being is usual cheerful self was super helpful.

I worked for Swiss, our airline, which had always been a dream of mine. I love the international, busy atmosphere at airports. Even if I'm not flying anywhere myself, I like to people-watch at departure and arrival gates, trying to figure out who these people are, where they are coming from, where they are going, and why they are crying happy or sad tears.  

For a short but intense two years, I had the opportunity – and the access card – to go beyond customs and security and to walk along the gates to the „Line Maintenance“ which is basically the pit stop for airplanes.  I learned tons about airworthiness, procedures, checks, and how to avoid AOG (aircraft on ground), and I met some wonderful people. 

Getting up at 5am was hard. Not so much for the little one, but for me. Looking back I think I made the following mistake: 

On my work days I would get up early, drink tons of coffee and Coke Zero throughout the day and collapse upon coming home. 

Yet, at night, I couldn't fall and / or stay asleep. Too many thoughts were racing through my head. Will everything work out, I left instructions for the admin team, hopefully they can find a seat for that candidate I needed to fly in from London, he sounded promising on the phone. He will need a place to stay, should he accept the position, maybe I should leave word with the night shift crew, they always know who is moving and who is looking for a new tenant or a roommate. Oh, must not forget to arrange for a medical check, it would be too bad if our doc didn't give a thumbs up. (People working in aviation, especially if they worked night shifts or traveled back and forth in-between time zones, needed to meet high health standards.)

On my days off I would lay in - who am I kidding, I had a toddler - and take it easy.

That way I didn't provide my body with a stable rhytm. The roller coaster probably exhausted me more than if I had bitten the bullet and gotten up early every day. Summer was easier to handle, but winter got to me. Driving in fog and darkness all the time was tiring. 

Also I had found out how this coveted part-time position came to be in the first place. 

One of the full-time managers quit their job. The department head wanted a particular lady to come work for her. They knew each other from a previous employer and were friends. This lady, however, had recently given birth and didn't want to come back full time. 

Two part-time jobs were created, and that's where I came in.

Upon hiring me, they told me another teammate was going to take a two months' leave of absence, and I was going to be required to pick up her responsibilities. Sure, take over for a full-time colleague was easily compatible with my own workload. 

Not long after that colleague was back, she had an accident and was on sick leave for a while. Even after she was officially back, she was still suffering from whiplash, and I got to fill in whenever she had a migraine or vertigo or nausea.

Luckily my Mom and daycare were able to help me out in terms of childcare, but man, work was intense, and all of a sudden, I had to get up at 5am every day.

My counterpart and I were the only working mothers within the team, swimming uphill. We got along well. Our kids even attended the same daycare.

What was the problem then? 

Whether she wanted to or not, she was the department head's pet who did everything perfectly, whereas I began to feel more and more like the black sheep. I was "banned" from the office. Not me, my desk. They needed it for a newly created position, and since most of the people I was looking after, were either directly at the airport or in a different building a five minutes' walk away, it made sense to relocate me.

I didn't mind. I like to be close to my people, and frankly not having to face the dept head too often, was an added bonus. Prior to becoming a mother, I held a position that was comparable to hers, and I always felt this made her feel uneasy. I never did anything to make her believe I didn't respect her, and I definitely did not want her job. Actually I was quite happy I could just focus on my operational duties and didn't have to fight for budgets and deal with corporate BS.

In my performance review I couldn't believe what the Dept Head was accusing me of. 

This part-time scenario is not cutting it, I need someone who can handle at least ten interviews a week.

Was she kidding me? My Outlook calendar was open to view for anyone, and it was full. Within a year I had to fill 200 positions. I was employed at 50% of a regular employee, meaning one week I would work two full days, the other week three days. On any given day, I would schedule to meet with five or more candidates. 

You seem to like to sneak off, I barely see you, and I never know what you're up to. 

Again, was she kidding me? It was her who transferred my desk to another building! Not that people saw me there a lot either. As I was saying, I was talking to candidates. In meeting rooms. I was issuing employment agreements - often late at night, at home, off the clock - which the boss lady got to co-sign. How did she think these contracts came about?

You're too much buddy-buddy with the workers. I need you to maintain a professional distance.

I had heard about her idea to reorganize the HR department into First Class, Business and Coach, to mirror the seats and the service in an airplane. She wanted different HR Managers to be in charge of Executives, Middle Management and (Blue Collar) Workers. 

So, among others, I was in charge of the Technical Department, which included Maintenance, Engineering and Planning. I talked to the Big Boss, mostly though to the respective team managers as well as to the mechanics. I liked to treat them as human beings and get to know them as people, first and foremost. I liked to be authentic and trustworthy, which in my book excludes strutting around as if I was better than anyone else. Which, sadly, is often how HR is perceived.

Her plans, however, were, that only the "First Class Manager" (she would of course assume that role) talked to the Head of the Department, and the "Business Class Manager" was in charge of taking care of all the Group and Team leaders (in her eyes, anyone but me was qualified to do so, even though they begged me not to deport them to some snobbish big-wig who wouldn't bother to get their ass to the Tarmac), which left me to sit with the salt, as she probably viewed it.

Yes, I prevented the unjustified dismissal of a warehouse clerk who never got a single word of feedback on his alleged tardiness or poor performance (his supervisor worked opposite shifts and barely even knew the guy) but was supposed to be released on his last day of the trial period. Not only did the allegations turn out to be fabricated, I probably spared the company from being sued. You're welcome.

After all was said and done, the supervisor and the nice "colleagues" who badmouthed the new guy, got written up, the warehouse guy got to keep his job (as far as I hear, ten years later, he's till there) and as soon as his flight benefits kicked in, he took his girlfriend to NYC and sent me a postcard to thank me for believing in him and treating him fairly.

I guess she saw that postcard.

I digressed. Let me just add that the warehouse guy lived an hour away and didn't have a car, meaning he had to take the 4:30am train to get to work on time. So in this scenario he was the true early bird!

As for me, I left soon after. My husband's business partner, with whom he had built the company, passed away unexpectedly, leaving hubby in charge of everything, especially the aspects of business he never wanted anything to do with. 

This is how I ended up working for my husband. Our office is five minutes from home, and my quality of life has improved so much! 
Let's not forget the much needed flexibility I get in order to support our youngster's time consuming hobby.
So I may have killed my corporate career, but I have gained purpose and freedom.

Have you experienced something similar? Are you an early riser? What's the worst commute you've had? 

Let me know and don't forget to include the link to your own post. Please be patient with me this week. My coworker is on vacation, and I need to work as full time as I can, hence not much opportunity to visit blogs.

Speaking of partners... Let's find one tomorrow! You have to kiss many Xenopus to find a Prince 


  1. Coincidentally I have also worked in a part time recruiter role and then switched jobs


  2. Early bird here! I got out of bed at 5am today, as I do most days. With menopause a few years ago, waking up in the middle of the night became a "thing". Instead of stewing about it, tossing and turning, I would get up and work on creative projects. I resented the day job less, as I was feeding my soul before work (and the commute).
    I've had a variety of commutes, for a variety of jobs. I live in Los Angeles, and there is ALWAYS traffic at some point. Accidents make it much worse. At least with nav on the mobile now, I can "look ahead" and go to surface streets if need be.
    I'd say my worst day of commuting was from the era when I took the bus. We were on the freeway heading into downtown LA, on a bridge spanning the LA River. There was a strange shuddering sensation - was the bus stalling? Saw the cars around us suddenly reversing to get off the bridge. Earthquake! (Bridge held, but was very shaky all day. And had to take the bus home when after shocks were still transpiring).

  3. Your previous manager sounds a lot like someone I used to work for, and thankfully I found a job which improved my quality of life a lot. Longest commute was on the underground in London, minimum of 1.5 hours morning and night.

  4. I so enjoyed your employment story, even if none of it was fun. Years ago, I worked with a woman (non airline industry related job) who had started in airline customer service, and my current massage therapist also used to work for an airline. So, two competent people, neither of whom stayed in the industry. You were taken advantage of badly (obviously); but the bright side is you got an education that would have been so difficult to duplicate in any other job.

  5. Am I an early bird,me think not but compared to some I may be.

  6. Long commutes like you describe here can actually be detrimental to health. One of the surprises for me during the coronavirus lock down was the amount of time, mental energy and money that is saved by eliminating the morning and evening commute. No wonder many companies/workers are now leaning toward working remotely!

  7. That sounds like an extremely stressful situation and such a painful commute. I never had a horrible commute and when I returned to work after being home with the girls I was lucky to primarily be working from home (long before COVID). I enjoy it and love that I don't have to get up super early as I am NOT an early bird (confirmed by the fact that I'm up typing this at 1:00 am my time). Weekends In Maine

  8. My kids taught me to be an early bird simply because if they were up before me the carnage would be out of hand LOL

    Good luck with the rest of the challenge.


  9. I guess I should be glad I don't work for a corporation. It just sounds so complicated for no reason. If the boss don't see you working, they assume you're not working which is bogus.

    I hate commuting and I had to wake up early to get to work on time but mostly, when a train I took is delayed which happens once a week, it's a long, long commute. I'm not an early bird but I was forced to become one.

    Have a lovely day.

    My A-Z posts are here.

  10. Fortunately I've never had to commute longer than 15 minutes (20 with traffic) for any of my jobs and even more fortunately, for the last 21 years I've only had to commute from the bedroom to the kitchen - LOL. I did have a manager one time who sounds like the one you described. Hated that.


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