Genista on Flickr - Sally graduated from college, she had aspirations of finding a career in project management. And much to her delight, she landed a great position with a large, internationally-based consulting firm. In addition to billing out fresh college graduates at obscenely high rates, the company developed obscenely expensive software for large enterprises.

With the vast majority of the firm’s software development being performed at the other end of the world, they relied heavily on teams at the client’s site to define application requirements and act as the “face” for the offshore developers. Sally was hired to work on these types of teams and, and to her, it seemed like a perfect fit.

Soon after being brought on, Sally was given a thorough “onshoring” training course at the company’s US headquarters. Basically, it was everything one needed to know to be a highly-paid consultant: proper protocol for communicating between the various groups, the importance of good documentation, and a crash course in project management best practices. Everything was a little bit rushed, but the instructors explained that everything was simply an overview – the real training would be learned on the job.

On the last day of training, Sally expected to receive her first assignment, but instead she returned home without any further direction. Naturally concerned, Sally called the HR representative who had hired her and asked when she might expect to be assigned to a client.

“Oh, that’s because you’ve been temporarily benched,” explained her HR rep, “Don’t worry though, really it should only be a week, tops!” The rep further explained that while on the bench, she would receive a full salary with benefits, and to think of it as a “paid vacation, minus the vacation part.” Sally was told to take advantage of the time to hone her skills and read up on some of the technologies that the company works with.

At first, it was complete bliss: getting paid to sleep in past 10am, getting paid to eat corn flakes, getting paid to watch Jerry Springer, and then getting paid to read “SAP Best Practices” at the local Starbucks. After the week had passed, Sally gave her rep a ring just to make sure that everything was ok and when she might expect her next assignment.

“We’re working on it!” replied the cheery HR rep, “Things are kind of in a holding pattern ...recession, dontchaknow!” she chuckled under her breath.

Sally asked when she might want to touch base again but she received a curt, and almost cliché, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Skip ahead a year later when Sally’s phone rings - it was the HR department of the company that she had received a steady stream of paychecks for the past 11 months and 22 days.

Turns out that a position at a client site had finally Seattle...some thousand miles away.

Starting Monday.

Such a sudden and radical move wasn’t something that Sally had expected, but at this point, any opportunity seemed better than baking an anniversary cake for her time sitting on the bench. So, after some quick negotiations of the wheres and whens, Sally packed her things, boarded a flight, and booked a nice hotel room nearby the client site where she could stay.

It wasn’t too long before Sally realized that something was seriously amiss. As it turned out, some requirement was mistranslated by someone, and the client didn’t actually need an off-shore liaison. No, they needed a mid-level experienced VB developer.

Of course, since both the client and the consulting firm turn around as fast as a battleship, it took two full months for the mess to be sorted out. All the while, Sally did exactly what she had done for the past year: nothing. The only difference was she had to continue living out of a hotel and report to the client’s site every day.

Eventually, Sally was finally told to return home and await a new assignment. The HR rep promised her that they had a new, tentative assignment that was “right around the corner.” To this day, Sally is still waiting for that assignment and, of course, continuing to receive paychecks. But this time, she’s spending her bench time brushing up on her job interviewing skills.

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