Before I was a dev, I was an adjunct instructor at a university. If you’re not familiar with adjunct life, it sucks. It means that I worked part-time, took whatever courses were offered, and maybe once in eight years I got a raise–and I was making about $2000 per course, which put me at an hourly wage probably below $10. I had little to no input into the curriculum. I didn’t have a mentor. I didn’t have anyone encouraging me to grow or any sense of community. I didn’t realize how bad it sucked until after I started working in tech and realized that I could work with people who were invested in seeing me grow and helping me along the way. And so when people say a job is just a job and you collect your paycheck, the highest paycheck you can get or the best perks or most time off or whatever, I don’t buy it. At least not for me.
Because here’s the thing, I feel enriched by my work. It allows me to develop as a person, to be part of a community, and to give back when I can. So in a sense, my work gives back to me by allowing me these opportunities. And here’s another unpopular opinion: I don’t have career goals. My goal is to grow and to learn and to continue to do that until there ever comes a moment that I don’t enjoy what I’m learning anymore. It empowers me to learn new things. So for me, a job where I feel supported in learning and growing is the most important thing.
There’s this thing in tech where people stay at jobs for a year or two and they’re ready to move on to the new shiny thing or to try to get in with the cool(er) kids. That’s never been my cup of tea–you can ask anyone who knew me in high school. I value the ability to learn and grow with other people. To develop a rapport that allows me a certain level of comfort to push and challenge myself in a place where I know that’s acceptable, where I don’t have to be afraid of the blame game, where the team supports each other and communicates openly, and the goal is to see the organization or project succeed and to evaluate where we all can do better. In some sense it’s practice for real-life or real-life is practice for this–I haven’t quite figured it out yet, so let’s just say they inform each other.
When I hear about a company that’s held employees for years and years and those employees are happy, that’s where I want to be. And I’m happier outside of work when I’m in a place like that. Because I don’t have the stress of being afraid to screw up or the pressure to learn every second I’m out of work or the interpersonal conflicts plaguing the team–although I think it’s fine to have disagreements, it’s about handling them with understanding and empathy.
I think the purpose of a job is different for everyone. But I also think that it’s ok for people to want more out of a job than just money or time off. It’s ok to look for room to grow or an awesome team or meaningful work. I know some people whose goal for working is to make enough money to retire. All of these are valid reasons; let’s not oversimplify what a job is or should be by generalizing about what a job does for each person. Let’s encourage people to find a job that suits them, whether the first must have on the list is the ability to grow or the highest salary you can find. Building a strong community starts with supporting people where they’re at.
So this is to say, don’t be afraid to embrace a job being more than a job. That doesn’t mean you have to work sixty or even thirty hours a week. It’s to say it’s ok if your job makes you a better person or mom. It’s ok if you find fulfillment in your job. It’s ok for you to want to be part of a community. It’s ok for you to want all of that and collect a dope paycheck. Be yourself. Know what you need. And don’t be afraid to walk away from something that doesn’t enrich your life.