I have had a lot of jobs. I started working full-time during the summer when I was 14 in the very odd family business of transistor fabrication. I also spent a few summers in the highly esteemed position of hospital kitchen lackey. When I was 19, I had the good judgement to prioritize partying above scholastic endeavors, and consequently dropped out of college. I have been working full-time ever since. Except for a year during my hippie phase when I stuck it to The Man by being an unwashed leaching bum. Take that, The Man!
I have had jobs that felt like indentured servitude. Jobs the weigh you down and crush your spirit, all the while screwing you with low pay and crappy benefits. Conversely, I have had jobs that shower you with gold bullion for doing hardly more than showing up for work. Ok, maybe not gold bullion, but you get the idea. I even spent a few years running my own software development company. And by “running” I mean running it into the ground so deeply in debt that it would never resurface. My shortest employment was with a telemarketing company for a total of 4 hours. I decided not to return after lunch on the first day because my reading of the sales shtick made an elderly woman on the phone cry.
I consider myself lucky to have worked in software development for the last 15 years. Liking what you do is a huge bonus, but I think it’s possible to be completely content with your job even if it’s not your hobby. 20 years ago when I ran the holy hell out of a box-making-machine to scrape a few extra bucks of performance bonus, I really did not give a crap about boxes per se, but I enjoyed the challenge of being the best box-making-machine operator I could be. I also enjoyed the challenge of leaving with the same amount of limbs I arrived with due to the overwhelming level of OSHA violations. The satisfaction of a job done right can be its own reward. But a few safety guards are nice too.
We all have different priorities for what is important in a job. Pay, hours, benefits, flexibility, not having to evade a noxious cloud created by a combination of the cleaning fluid in your mop bucket with a vapor leak from an atmospherically controlled wafer oven at a transistor factory. Surely I’m not the only one that has happened to? For me there is a simple metric that goes a long way to pushing a job from the “why must I endure this monotony of pointless existence” category to the “it’s not that bad” bucket. Bathroom cleanliness. Just kidding, it’s the people you work with (but who doesn’t like a clean bathroom?).
For me, the best job in the world is the one with the best people. I have a low tolerance for assholery. I don’t do drama. Unchecked egos make me wretch. Even disaffection gets my panties in a bunch. Maybe this is one of the reasons I like working from home – the additional layer insulating me from a potential personality conflict. Maybe it’s just my aversion to pants. And haircuts. And showering. I’m not suggesting work should be some sickly sweet love-fest, but working along-side motivated and friendly co-workers makes whatever you are doing inherently more enjoyable. Unless of course your arm gets ripped off by a box-making-machine.
Wise words, Jason. I recently listened to the NPR TED Radio Hour show titled “Success”. It featured several TED talks, but the talk that really got my attention was Mike Rowe, the “Dirty Jobs” TV guy. This is well worth the listen: http://www.npr.org/2013/10/25/240777690/success
Mike turns the advice to “follow your passion” upside down. He says that is the worst advice he ever got. He says, “you don’t chase your passion–you bring your passion with you”. He gives example after example of people who looked around and saw a crappy job nobody wanted to do–a job NOBODY is passionate about, figured out how to do it well, and brought their passion with them. He says about half of those folks featured on Dirty Jobs are millionaires.
I am personally embarking on a new journey after 10 years with a great company. Some have accused me of “grass is greener” syndrome. The truth is, if the grass is the same on that other side of the fence, at least the view is different–I need to solve a different set of problems! I plan to bring my passion with me.
Mike Rowe’s full TED talk video and transcript:
I share your ideas on what work should be like.