Tagjob

Infrastructure

I’ve thought a lot about the follow your passion mantra. Building your life as you wish you had it and doing meaningful work. And that’s great for people who are able to do it.

It’s great to have the entrepreneurial spirit and have the skills to make a go at working for yourself. I applaud you. My wife works for herself. My brother works for himself. My family either is self-employed or was before.


I’ve always worked for someone. Most recently for a string of government agencies for a longer list of government contractors. It’s not where my passion lies. And it’s not meaningful work to anyone outside of myself and my customers. But it pays the bills and provides financial stability so my wife could quit her job and work for herself.

I am the infrastructure that makes it all possible. I think about this a lot because I wonder who else is the rock behind the scenes supporting a loves one’s business while they get going.

Who else is the rock bringing in the steady money working the unimpressive job?


Do I wish I could work from home and make my schedule? Sort of. I’m not a great person to work for. I’m highly motivated and go above and beyond. But I also have my days where I can’t do anything and want to lay in bed or waste the day.

Would I be a good employee? Maybe. Would I enjoy the freedom and flexibility? Absolutely. Do I have any idea what I’d do for myself? No.

I don’t know what I’d do for myself. I don’t know where I have the skills to make a living for myself. So I trade my time for money. I go to work. I answer phones and support others. I come home and turn my brain back on and enjoy life.


It reminds me of an article I read awhile back. “Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from

Here’s my life. My husband and I get up each morning at 7 o’clock and he showers while I make coffee. By the time he’s dressed I’m already sitting at my desk writing. He kisses me goodbye then leaves for the job where he makes good money, draws excellent benefits and gets many perks, such as travel, catered lunches and full reimbursement for the gym where I attend yoga midday. His career has allowed me to work only sporadically, as a consultant, in a field I enjoy.

The author is able to write and live the life she wants while her husband works a job that support their lifestyle.

While his job sounds better than mine, I do the same thing for my wife. I sponsor her while she gets her business up and running. I make sure we can pay our bills, go on vacation and put some money into savings. I have been as lucky as I’ve been smart with my career moves and negotiation.

I don’t have catered lunches or a gym membership, but I have doubled my salary in the past 5 years. I didn’t attend Master’s program nor did I pay for expensive certifications or training classes. I worked hard and I learned a lot on the job. But I also fell into a lucky niche that was interesting, easy and paid well.

Comfortable

What am I doing here?

I just turned 35 and I’m working at a help desk. I just turned 35 and I spend my days answering phones telling people their user names or reactivating their accounts. I spend my days doing the same thing I did the day I left college.

I’m very well paid for the work I do. It’s not fulfilling nor interesting. It’s not something I enjoy or think about. This job has no emotion to it at all. I go in to work and I shut off my brain. I don’t need it. It’s rote memorization and repetition of questions and facts.

But that’s also the point of this job. I don’t need anything challenging. I don’t need to spend my days struggling to solve hard problems or make the world a better place.

I perform a job, a function that’s needed and can’t be turned over to a robot. I answer phones and I talk to people. I enable them.

I’m an enabler. I help them where they would fail without me. I give them tools to complete their work. I fix problems and guide. I help.

My job is a job. I work. I go home. I don’t think about it any more. It’s not a challenge. It’s a job. It pays me. I can afford a nice place to live. I pay my bills. I can afford a nice life and to travel and live in a nice house with my wonderful wife. I can afford to be comfortable.

I buy comfort with my job.

The callers keep me comfortable. They fill the hours. They pay my bills. They keep me working. They keep me comfortable.

Comfortable isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Did your job exist 10 years ago?

When I was in high school, approaching graduation, there were only a few careers put before me. I had to choose what to study in college. I had to find something that would prepare me for the real world. And pay my bills.

I wanted to be a zookeeper when I was young. I loved the outdoors and animals. Then that morphed into working for National Geographic when my interests collided with my budding geekiness. I wanted to travel the world and document what I saw from the lens of a camera.

When I was in high school the Internet was going through a bubble and a bust. But even then, the jobs I knew existed were the age-old professions like doctor, lawyer, fireman, police officer, or military service. I had no idea what I wanted to do. Nor did I have any idea the world would change so much between then and when I entered the job market four years later.

But now, there are jobs that simply weren’t around a decade ago. There were no software developers or graphic designers. No mobile developers or systems administrators. Computers filled rooms or tables. They didn’t fit into your pocket. People who understood these systems were only found in labs or universities. They weren’t inside every company and government agency.

There are thousands of jobs today my guidance counselor wouldn’t have even dreamed about in the year 2000. I graduated high school and entered the college world 13 years ago. ((I feel old.)) I went to college for four years to learn that I didn’t want to work in Advertising. I hold a B.S. In Mass Communications. But after four years I didn’t know what to do with that. I had no real world skills. I couldn’t get a job with it.

So as I was floundering and desperately hunting for something to pay the bills that wasn’t McDonalds when I graduated, I stumbled across a want ad for people to set up new computers. This was a job I could do. I called the number on the page and spoke to the woman on the line. She gave me an office number and a time to be there. And I was.

I don’t remember if there was much of an interview process. I think it was, “Hey, you’re got two strong arms and can read English. You’re hired!” Maybe there was more to it. But I got that job. And that led me down a completely different career path than I thought I was preparing myself for.

Since then I’ve worked in technical support and taught myself what I needed to know. I’ve learned enough to fix problems and have fun doing it.

My college degree hasn’t ever opened doors for me. But it made sure those doors were not closed prematurely. And being in the right place at the right time launched my current career path. And that’s something I never could have predicted.

Choices

I’ve thought a lot lately about the choices I’ve made. I try to make the best choice I can. I try to do what is best for me. No one is going to look our for me but me.

There are times when no amount of research and planning and thinking through all the possibilities the choice will bring, in the end it’s the wrong choice.

Choices

Choices are tricky things. I make them all day. Most of them are inconsequential. Whether I’ve made lunch or laid my clothes out the night before may have a small financial impact. But it won’t have long-lasting effects.

The decision to find a new job, and leave my current job is a bigger choice. It’s not one I ever take lightly. Every decision is a trade-off. Every job has it’s rewards and challenges. Before I make a move, I try to think through everything that will change.

There are the big questions.

  • How much will I make?
  • Are the benefits good?
  • Are there any perks?
  • Could I get a raise, or a bonus?
  • What about advancement? Will I be doing the same thing I am now in five years?

Then there are more deceptive questions. These don’t seem as important but are vital to the decision.

  • What will the commute be like? How much of my day am I giving up?
  • What is the culture where I’m going?
  • Will I fit into the team? Is there a team?
  • Will I like it there? This is where I will be spending eight plus hours so I should consider if I like it there.

Finally, there is the biggest question of all, do I make a move at all?

Every decision starts with a yes to the last question. Yes, I want to work somewhere else. Before the hunt begins, I have to decide to start looking.

After all the careful and considered planning, there is still risk. Even after all the pros and cons are identified and weighed. There is still a lot I don’t know.

The situation you think you’re walking into may not be what you find.

Every choice could make my situation better or could make it worse. I try to better myself and my situation with each move. But sometimes, I choose wrong.

And when I do make that wrong choice, I need to keep choosing. No choice is final. Nothing I decide to do is forever. Nothing I do can’t be undone and no matter who my choice affects, the choice is still mine. And I have to put myself first. I have to do what is best for me.

And hope this time I make a better choice…

Photo from: Unsplash.com Photo by: Dietmar Becker

Job Hunting Tips for Techs

Job hunting is hard. There’s no way to sugar coat it. I’ve worked at some great places and I’ve worked at some where I knew I had made a big mistake my first week there.

There are a lot of factors to consider when looking for a job. The obvious ones are money, commute time, insurance and paid time off. However, there are many other intangibles that can make or break a job.

DOE

This stands for Depending On Experience. This is how much you will be paid. It’s very hard to consider a position that pays DOE because if the position doesn’t pay anywhere near my current rate, I am not going to consider it.

I don’t expect every ad to have an exact figure posted. But at least put up a range. It can even be a large range. Give me a $10,000-15,000 range of payment. Are you looking to pick someone up cheap for $25,000 or are you looking for a seasoned professional at $50,000?

Company Culture

The fluff on web sites doesn’t offer any real insight to how a company operates. Are they innovating or standing still? Do they care about customer service or just provide technical support? Is the company a post-collegiate experience with games and rides and endless activities? Or does the company understand that people have families, children and lives outside of the working hours and digital tethers?

Sometimes a company will represent itself well on its website and in the want ad. Sometimes you realize too late what they actually meant by the optimistic sounding words on their website. There’s no way to tell what a company’s culture is until you’re in that culture. And by then it’s too late if you’re not a good fit for it.

Where do I go from here?

When I got out of college, I followed the siren’s song of “Temp-To-Hire” every time it was sang to me. I wanted my contract gig to become something more. I wanted to be a full-time employee. Not a necessary IT worker but exempt from the company’s benefits, perks and insurance.

I wanted to move up. I still want to move up. I can’t work the same job in the same place for more than a two years without needing a change. I want to learn. I want to advance. I don’t want to keep doing the same thing I was doing eight years ago, only for a different group of people.

The problem with IT contracts and even IT companies is there is very little room for advancement. Even a lateral move to another group or division would give a much-needed break in the monotony of running tickets daily.

Seeing the same problems over and over. Fixing the same bugs over and over again. Explaining the same procedures over and over again. It gets old. It gets maddening.

Investment

When I go to work for a place, I give it my all. I become as vital to the company as I can because I am passionate about my work. I help people win their battles against technology. I am their ally in the digital age.

I commit to a company and I commit hard. I am loyal. But what does the company give back to me? Yes, I get a paycheck. That’s a requirement. But is there anything else?

Are there training opportunities? Will they reimburse certifications or other educational classes? Do they require or even encourage it? The truly good companies realize how valuable hard work and dedication is and will show the same in return. The companies who lose their best people don’t give back as much so their talent moves on.

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