June 14, 2007

There are some very nice things about my office job. There are the benefits, which range from a full time onsite chef to full body massages. There are the ridiculously chillaxed hours, and the universal acceptance of an excuse such as, “I stayed up too late playing WoW, I’ll be in around noon”.

My workplace is also, for its all foibles and bumblings, totally sincere. They are an honest lot, and while everyone wants to make a buck no one wants to do it by oil-of-snake methods. We are an engineering-driven company, not a marketing-driven one. No one sits around in meetings assessing the market and brainstorming product specs based on the highest return on the investment; instead, engineers tend to individually decide something is worth building and bang out a vat of code before any requirements are decided upon.

We used to have an employee who called this organic product development. It’s taken some getting used to, but despite the lack of planning and ever-elusive ship dates, it seems to work out very well.

My job is not to work marketing from the front end of the process—I have almost nothing to do with development or product management—but to put a shiny package on the completed piece of software. I write the words that are supposed to make the software sound enticing (someone else writes the words that describe how it actually works), for the most part. I work with a talented designer to create ads, retail boxes, and other collateral stuffs. I have a PR function too, which includes updating our blog with product development news, or sending out press releases.

While I might dip into the Well O’ Hyperbole on occasion (I can’t help it! I love the word powerful), the vast majority of my job is bullshit-free. From a marketing perspective, anyway. I mean I don’t have to LIE, unlike pretty much every other job I’ve ever had.

So: I don’t have to lie, my company is legitimately concerned first and foremost with making a good product, and I don’t work with anyone whose job involves thinking of ways to slowly butt-fuck our customers without the common courtesy of a reacharound. Compared to the place where I had to write about apps that didn’t exist and was micromanaged by a psychotic, pot-smoking husband and wife team who made their money from camgirl porn and infomercials, Workplace both kicks ass and takes names.

However, I keep experiencing what I can only describe as bourgeois career angst, a feeling that I should be doing something more meaningful. As problems go, I realize this one hardly registers past the “Privileged Whining” sector—when you have a good job that pays the bills, your focus should be on thanking the gods (SO SAY WE ALL) for your luck, rather than idly wondering why you aren’t more spiritually fulfilled by your work. I’ve been unemployed, and to say it sucks would be doing a great disservice to the sheer amount of suckage that comes from months of fruitless job searching, the inevitable lowering of standards (“Port-a-Potty sanitation engineer? Maybe they offer training?”), and the resounding echo coming from an empty bank account.

Still. I feel like I should have a Plan, an answer to the question of what I want to be when I grow up. What do I want to be doing in five years, ten years? I don’t know. I have some general ideas: I want to make connections, I want to help people in some way, I want to learn new skills. I do hope to write a book someday but I don’t have dreams of being a full time author in that sense (too isolating, for one).

Then there’s the enormous issue of family life and how to balance that with whatever I’m doing, and how that could change if I were to be doing anything different from what I’m doing now, and boy, I just don’t know.

What about you? Are you where you thought—or hoped—you’d be right now, with regards to your job (“job” = whatever you’re doing for work, which definitely includes staying home with children because if that isn’t work, then brother, I don’t know what the hell is)? Do you have long term plans for what you want to do with your career? Or are you like me, playing things by ear and hoping for the best?

Comments

126 Responses to “This week brought to you by the letter I for Introspection”

  1. Alyce on June 15th, 2007 10:21 am

    I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I can’t measure whether or not I have achieved it or fallen short. I think I always had this sense that I would be awesome (because my parents told me I could be and do anything I want). I took it a little too much to heart.

    So now I am in Job. It is so far below my skill level and ability, it’s laughable. But at the end of the day I don’t think about it at all. I no longer lay awake thinking about all of my undone tasks. And that’s a blessing. Because no matter what job I’ve had, I’ve always got more work than can be accomplished in an 8 hour day (my blog reading compulsion aside).

    If anyone has advice about how to decide what you want to be when you grow up, please share it here.

  2. Becky on June 15th, 2007 11:27 am

    So after 10 years of college…which includes undergrad and grad school….3 degrees later…I have a JOB that is NOT related to a single degree. Oh well…it pays the bills….

    As for career path….I plan on playing it by ear….so far it’s worked well…

  3. breckgirl on June 15th, 2007 12:50 pm

    Have you (or any of your other commenters who love to write) every considered copy writing? I, too, love to write (am a lawyer by day) and started looking into the whole copy writing thing. I got two books – one of them is “Start and Run a Copywriting Business” and the other was like, the bible of copywriting, but I can’t recall the title or the guy’s name. Look up copy writing on Amazon. ANYWAY – it is a very appealing profession and there appears to be a lot of work out there if you’re willing to put yourself out there.

    I used to make lots of money as a lawyer in Portland, then as a HR Mgr in Portland and California. Then I got pregnant and moved to Montana and didn’t know what to do with my life. I even worked as a barista for awhile – the novelty wore off pretty quickly, especially since I was 7 months pregnant. Now I am a lawyer again but uh – the money thing is very different here. The cool thing is – I am okay with that. I used to let my job define me – it meant I was “smart” and “successful” and a “high potential” – I worked late, put work before my husband and my house, and even my own health. Now, I put my husband and child before work. I have a great boss that I love and I enjoy my work, but it is no longer the measuring stick of whether I am a success or if I am “happy.” Sure, we would like to have more money (especially to pay off the $200K in student loans my husband and I accumulated) but the trade offs (beautiful views, nice people, safety and security, good schools) are worth the emptiness of the savings account and eventually – things will improve for us financially. In the meantime, I choose to enjoy being a mom and wife over and above being a lawyer.

    I hope you find something that fulfills you. Check out the copy writing thing. I’m sure you’d be great at it.

  4. sooboo on June 15th, 2007 1:39 pm

    I make art all day and I love it! It has always been my goal all my working life to not have a job, and for the last two years, I have been doing just that. However, the money is (stereotypically) not so good. I have been winging it for a while, but now I am attempting to take a more proactive approach. By this I mean setting goals, then listing the steps to meet them, visualizing, etc… I don’t have a kid. I don’t think I could be doing this if I did. I work an average of 60 hours a week. But it (mostly) doesn’t feel like work.

  5. Amanda on June 15th, 2007 1:51 pm

    I have yet to find a job that would actually let me leave work in time to pick up my son from daycare. Or when I find one, then it doesn’t pay enough to cover daycare. I worked in Advertising before I had a child, and constantly struggle with the fact that I have a degree and was on a career path and now I’m changing diapers and going to the zoo.

    But then again, I get to go to the zoo.

    I mostly try very very hard not to define myself by my job. I’m not an Ad exec, and I’m not a super mommy. I do what I do, and I have fun.

  6. Janet on June 15th, 2007 4:29 pm

    For me it’s been a longish path to being a speech therapist but now I’m here, I love it! I went to a 2 year college and then didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up so I ended up working as an admin asst to two partners in a CPA firm. OMG, I hated it so much…I hate math and I don’t care if I’m .06 off when balancing someone’s books. I actually got reprimanded for talking too much and having a loud voice. I did that for four years and then met someone who was a speech therapist. I thought, Perfect, a job where I can talk all damn day!! So, I quit and went to four more years of college.

    I have always loved the job but have moved from school district to district before my most recent position of 3 years with the 2nd largest secondary district in the nation. I found my passion in working with autistic students and am now on the district’s autism team. Love, love, love it. This fall I’m going to start a program to get my administrative credential which will allow me to move into management if I decide to pursue that path.

    And, today is my first day of 3 weeks off for summer:)

  7. Katie (The Yap) on June 15th, 2007 6:28 pm

    I thought I was the only one who obsessed over this issue, but apparently it is universal. I am so so envious of people who have a clear career/life goal and then go for it. Because, I feel like I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and it SUCKS. That stupid little voice in my head telling me that I am supposed to be DOING SOMETHING MEANINGFUL. Why can’t I just be a slacker who is cool with laying around??

  8. Katie (The Yap) on June 15th, 2007 6:34 pm

    Oh, and one more thing: I think you should WRITE YOUR BOOK(s) already! Maybe THAT will be your new career!

  9. Allison on June 15th, 2007 8:06 pm

    Heh. I thought I would save the world and the environment in the public or non profit sector. That lasted 5 years and I started an internet business totally unrelated to anything I did with my education or previous work experience. And I thank the gods (So say we all) every day that I had the guts to do it. Now I can stay home with my soon-to-be born son, something I could never have done a few years ago.

  10. Meg on June 16th, 2007 3:52 am

    I’ve thought for years that if I volunteered, and went to school, and got a degree, that I would get hired as a zookeeper. Well, everything worked out except for that last step! Which, is sort of the important one. And now I’m very confused! I’ve always been great with animals, but more recently found out I’m good with kids too (and enjoy working with them). So next week I start my new job as an assistant teacher, and I guess that will tell me if education is the right field for me.

    But I spent SO long convinced that I should be a zookeeper that I really don’t want to let go of that yet, and may still pursue it after doing this job for a little while. I like animal care so much, but zookeeping is so very competitive. There are more people who want to work in zoos than there are positions available. I applied for jobs across the country for a year, and never got hired, and feel very disheartened by that.

    I suddenly started realizing that maybe there is no “dream job,” that maybe there is just the hope for work that doesn’t drive you apeshit, work you can mostly feel good about. I want a job I like. But I also want a job that feels right, that fits who I am. I’m hoping that’s possible.

    So I’m really just feeling things out, and seeing where it leads me. I also have notions of starting my own petsitting business in the back of my mind. Time will tell!

  11. Erin on June 16th, 2007 8:37 am

    Linda, it’s a great question. We spend so much of our lives at Work, it seems like it would be worthwhile for it to be something we care about.

    Right now, I am in an ultimately lucky position of doing what I love and getting paid for it. But there’s definitely a trade off. I’m a state wildlife biologist, and I get paid on state wages, which are not at all competitive. And, even though I love my job about 80% of the time, the other 20% is still filled with bull$-it and headaches and conflict, and all those other things that can make anyone’s work ugly and unsatisfying.

    Providing for your family is also very satisfying, and if that’s the most significant reward you get from your job, then that’s nothing to shrug at either.

  12. tanya on June 16th, 2007 9:11 am

    You know Sundry, this may sound … I don’t know. Smug? Cliche? Not sure. But I kept getting fired from job after job until I started doing something I loved, which in my case is massage and bodywork. It does truly fulfill me and I look forward to almost every day and feel like I’m making a difference, not just in people’s lives, but in the world, since one person feeling better and in less pain is nice and inspirational to others. Pollyanna-ish? Maybe. But that’s how I feel. What do you love? I know here on this blog you have been very inspirational to people. That’s about all I have to say.

  13. Gentry on June 16th, 2007 2:15 pm

    The key to career satisfaction has little to do with your field or position. It’s all about working hours/pay. Ridiculously high paying jobs that require very little time out of your life are the only kind of jobs that could possibly provide satisfaction.

    On paper, I have the ultimate dream job. I **have** to befriend celebrities, editors, go to swanky cocktail parties and cultivate a cult following. My daily duties: shopping, buying silk, making things out of expensive French lace (and then wearing them). Unless I feel like sleeping in, because I’m my own boss.

    Do I love it? Fuck no. The pay is crap compared to how much I work. The stress from the responsiblity is paralyzing and the pace is beyond exhausting.

    But no one will pay me to do my ultimate dream job (professional bunny petter).

    So I keep chugging through, missing so much of life because I’m chained to the sketch board, wishing I wasn’t too old to be a trophy wife.

    My one consolation is that if I don’t fuck up, I should be able to sell this company and take a few years off before I start up again. But even that prospect is daunting.

  14. Samantha on June 16th, 2007 5:04 pm

    If I think back three or four years, I am now where I wanted to be; I completed two years of college and a degree in early childhood education with a specialization in early intervention for children with special needs. I am teaching at one of the best preschools in our city. Great job, love my co-workers, love the kids, excellent paid time off, but I make fifty cents above minimum wage, which means that my check covers our rent, and that is it.

    My heart is leading me to become a doula. My best friend is already in that field, and wants me to follow her so we can start our own business, which is something I never would have thought I could accomplish! As a doula, I could make between four hundred and one thousand dollars per birth. But there is also the satisfaction of doing something so meaningful.

    So, a career change is coming up for me as soon as my contract for the 2007-2008 school year is completed.

    I am looking forward to this new chapter. I think it will bring more harmony to me and my family, and will definitely enable us to do more than just cut it financially.

    Good luck to you! I hope you can find peace with what you are doing, ad decide to take a leap of faith, and change directions.

  15. Anonymous on June 17th, 2007 1:39 am

    I am a nurse and 26 years old. I’ve been working in a hospital for a year now. I do feel that I am doing something meaningful. I have a lot of hobbies and would like to pursue other passions (painting) but this job will help support that. I think I made a good choice, even though right now I am mid-RN school, I want to *really* run and scream sometimes. The thing is, I am content with my job. I really can’t complain.

  16. frannie on June 17th, 2007 1:39 am

    I am a nurse and 26 years old. I’ve been working in a hospital for a year now. I do feel that I am doing something meaningful. I have a lot of hobbies and would like to pursue other passions (painting) but this job will help support that. I think I made a good choice, even though right now I am mid-RN school, I want to *really* run and scream sometimes. The thing is, I am content with my job. I really can’t complain.

  17. Belle on June 17th, 2007 6:57 am

    Unlike most of you, I am getting near “when will you retire?”age. I have had two jobs since I was 22, the first one for 15 years, and now this one for the past almost-20. I did not finish college. I am from that generation of women who thought we could – and should – do everything we wanted to and have.it.all. I loved loved my first job and worked myself up to one of the top jobs, which one could do back then just by working hard. And then I realized those 60+ hours I was working – albeit doing something I loved and was good at – was NOT in the best interest of my family so I quit. We about went belly up for awhile but at least I was able to see my kids grow up and it was totally worth it.

    My current job is great for benefits altho I am one of those who does a lot more than others but for much lower pay. I know I’m smarter or at least as smart as others I work for, and I’m not bragging when I say I keep the office and staff on the right track and running properly. You know….the ole lady who runs the office. I’m not about to leave now and blow off all the retirement bennies, but it is NOT where I thought I would be at this point in my life. I have, for the most part, been able to leave work at work and that’s what I wanted. Did I make a difference in the world? Probably not, but making the choice of fewer work responsibilities made a huge difference in my family life. Huge.

  18. Christy on June 19th, 2007 7:15 am

    I work with a husband and wife team, micromanaged and am lonely at work. I think I just want to not work…..enough said!! :)

  19. fellowmom on June 19th, 2007 9:24 am

    I am in a similar place. My present job is objectively lovely, and others with similar training have told me I “suck” for scoring it. It is, however, temporary and will be ending-after 5 years-in several months. It’s not the kind of job you retire from, and that’s not necessarily the most important factor, but I’d like to put down some career roots at this point in my life. Also, I do want to feel more passionate or at least inspired by my next job. I could try to extend my present situation, and I may regret forgoing that chance. By this time next year, I hope I am not wishing I had understood the value of a mellow and comfortable workplace–not to mention employed.

  20. MRW on June 19th, 2007 1:37 pm

    I’m 37 and on my third career. I worked as a paralegal for awhile, hated it. I went to law school and racked up a ridiculous amount of student loans only to discover I really didn’t like practicing law. I got lucky and stumbled into the same kind of legal job I do now – only research and writing. I have always enjoyed that aspect of the law so it was fine. But then I got to thinking maybe there was something else I’d rather do – wouldn’t I like to tackle the corporate world and “make something of myself?” So I went back to school and got my CPA. Worked as a CPA for a couple of years and really liked the people I worked with but could not stand the insane hours several times a year, not seeing my child all day and night, chargeable hour goals, and I didn’t like the work that much either. So, I returned to the legal job – I clerk for a judge. I like: (1) my hours are almost always only 8-5 M-F, (2) my co-workers are easy to work with, (3) I work in many different areas of the law, and (4) it’s all research and writing, to me like a treasure hunt or puzzle. However, sometimes it’s hard to work for only one person, I could make more in the private sector, and although my skills could translate to private practice, in actuality, most firms will not hire someone who has been clerking as long as I have. So, my job future and security depends entirely on the judge I work for. Still, most days I like my job. Of course what I really want is to win the lottery and literally not have do ever do anything I don’t want to do again.

  21. sophielovespeanutbutter on June 20th, 2007 11:34 am

    I am working a long term temp job at present. I basically became a professional Administrative Assistant/Receptionist/Office Coordinator after college by accident. Not my lifes work, by any stretch. I am reading “Refuse to Choose” by Barbara Sher. Very interesting book about personality types that she has dubbed Scanners. People who are talented in lots of different ways and don’t want to choose just one thing to be when they ‘grow up’. It is inspiring and I am hoping it will be one of the bits and pieces that help me figure out what things I want to do for a living! :)

  22. Kerri on June 21st, 2007 7:53 am

    Sometimes job-related angst has more to do with something going on inside ourselves than the job itself. Having read your blog for some time, I really can’t imagine a better job description for you. You get to be creative, work a flexible schedule, and cooperate with honest, fun people.

    Before even thinking about moving on, I would do some serious introspection (with an “I”) and see whether there isn’t some other tension inside of you that’s looking for an outlet. It’s kind of similar to a man going through a mid-life crisis and deciding to get a divorce. Usually the problem has nothing to do with his wife, but she’s the target because he’s generally unhappy and she’s closest to him.

    There are lots of other things you can do considering your flexible schedule. When Riley and any future kids are in school, you can use that time to write a book, learn to paint, volunteer, etc.

    In fact, you might feel a little more satisfied with your job now if you were doing some volunteering.

    So I guess my advice is look before you leap, because most people would kill for a job description like yours.

  23. pippa on June 27th, 2007 1:35 pm

    What Kerri said. Because girl, I would trade with you in a SECOND. I get so tired \of writing on the same old crap in my jammies while changing diapers. A part-time gig where I could ress like a grown-up and wear maek-up and talk to adults AND be writing the same old shit? GOLD, man, GOLD!

    I’ll trade you a kid for your job. What kind you want? I got boys… girls…

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