If you’re only interested in my technical posts feel free to skip this one, this is the second in a series of Sunday posts where I try to take a step back and structure my thoughts on work and career.
When you look at my linkedin profile, it certainly looks like I like to change jobs on a regular basis, but in fact I hate that, I think of myself as a very committed and loyal employee and I (enjoy?) work(ing) long and crazy hours in service of my company.
I subscribe to the (naive?) notion of building out a long-term career that is mutually beneficial to myself and the company and at the same time I also strive for authenticity, sometimes those objectives collide…
I always start a new job fully committed, if I can’t get excited about the prospect of working at company XYZ I will not even think about signing on, no matter how good the head-hunter, no matter how big the carrot. I believe herein, at least partly, lies the problem, high expectations and an external view of the company rarely prove realistic, and then disillusionment can creep in. A company is not some abstract concept, what you perceive on the outside are it’s products, it’s spokespeople, it’s community participation, etc. this leads you to form a picture in your own mind. Looking from the inside out is of course very different than looking from the outside in, every company has it’s warts and blind spots they are usually just at different places in the organisation.
So where then does the train start to go off the track?
Like I said, and this can surely also be construed as naivety or refusal to see reality on my part, I’m always very much committed to do my best work when I start someplace new, I did my research on the products and solutions and something got me exited enough to start believing, very much like being committed to a cause.
As Horace Mann’s injunction states;
Until you have done something for humanity you should be ashamed to die. –Horace Mann
Not everyone is motivated by the same things, not everyone feels they need to invest a disproportionate part of their life into their career, and that is totally ok. I just can’t help feel a little disappointed by it and then I feel I need to get moving, look for other likeminded people, driven by a bigger sense of purpose, naive as it may sound.
I really like what Dan Pink has said about what motivates us in his TED talk “The puzzle of motivation.”
Autonomy, mastery and purpose are indeed the driving concepts behind my career and I would gamble this is true for a lot of us, maybe I would add a fourth one, sticking to one’s principles. When I say “one’s principles” that also implies the principles of the company, oftentimes it feels like being on the outskirts (I live in Europe) of a multinational corporation somewhat dilutes the core beliefs of the company, like a game of Chinese whispers, if not that, at least it feels like having less believers and more cynics around.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. – Edmund Burke
This is usually the one that gets me in trouble and ultimately makes me vote with my feet, if this translates to the outside world as giving up too easily and being a job-hopper that’s unfortunate, to me it translates to standing up for your beliefs.
When you stand for nothing, you fall for everything –Alexander Hamilton
In terms of people I think the late Randy Pauch states it beautifully;
Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress. When you’re pissed off at someone and you’re angry at them, you just haven’t given them enough time. Just give them a little more time and they almost always will impress you. –Randy Pauch
I want to believe that…
People who know me socially and on Facebook (see what I did there?) will corroborate that I like to joke around, regularly get on my high horse, and pick on stuff, people, and companies. But that is just poking fun, I don’t really think a specific company is stupid and can do no right, one of my favourites to pick on is Microsoft;
Hyper-V, virtualization brought to you by the same geniuses who invented Internet Explorer
In reality I think Microsoft is a fine company, with lot’s of great people like Mark Russinovich, Scott Hanselman, Scott Guthrie, and many others that I respect. I rarely prescribe to a Technology Religion just for the sake of religion. This translates to my employers as well, I’m perfectly capable of seeing the bigger picture, I understand the reason things sometimes are the way the are, I get why a certain decision makes sense at a certain point in time even if it goes against core principles and values, but that does not mean I have to blindly accept it.
Another example that perfectly describes my sentiment of what usually happens when the idea of working somewhere has little in common with reality is a scene from the episode “And it’s surely to their credit” from the acclaimed TV-series The West Wing in which republican Ainsley Hayes takes a job working in a Democrat led Whitehouse out of respect for the institution and ends up, temporarily at least, feeling let down:
Sam Seaborn: See, I was told you were just going to be working in the Majority Counsel’s office, which I wasn’t wild about to begin with, but it’s my understanding I’d be talking to Brookline and Joyce, seeing as how they work for me.
Ainsley Hayes: I was taking initiative.
Sam Seaborn: Well, wasn’t that spunky of you.
Ainsley Hayes: Sam, do you think there’s any chance that you could be rude to me tomorrow? Tomorrow is Saturday. I will be here. You can call me and be rude by phone or you can stop by and do it in person. ‘Cause I think if I have to endure another disappointment today from this place that I have worshipped, I am gonna lose it. So if you could wait until tomorrow, I would appreciate it.
Looking back I think I can come to the conclusion that I feel more at home in a “start-uppy” environment, this can be a real start-up or a specific division inside a bigger company that is going against the norm and trying to disrupt established doctrine. I like taking the road less travelled, I like pulling threads to see where they lead. I hate “this is not how it works here”, “we’ve always done it like this”, and “just give it a couple of months, you’ll see”.
People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. – George Bernard Shaw
So next time you throw away a resume because the person applying has had too many jobs in the past, you could very well be denying yourself of your most committed and motivated employees, if only you could figure out how to better enable them.