Things I’ve Learned About Working – Gary Young MySpace Blog

Things I’ve Learned About Working
Category: Jobs, Work, Careers

Poor Leika.  She’s feeling the years.  An allergy shot helped out a lot with the itching but she’s still got fluid on her lungs and an enlarged heart, arthritis and so on.   I’m hoping the meds will kick in soon.  Go, dog.  Go.  You probably won’t read this, Leikster — you know, since you’re a dog and all — but we’re all pulling for you.

I recently started a new job, as you probably already know.  I have vowed to myself to not make the same mistakes I’ve made in the past.  It’s time to be purposeful.  If you just let things happen nothing happens.  Left to chance all you will get is opportunities — a glimpse through a door to something greater — but unless you make a move you’ll never set foot to the other side.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

1. Take advantage of benefits and insurance.

I’ve had the same glasses for a decade.  Haven’t been to a dentist in at least that long (actually much longer).  I’ve only been to the doctor recently for a physical and that was because I was afraid I was having chest pains.  Oh, and because an ear ache became painful.

Given that preventative medicine can save lives, why procrastinate to a terminal degree.

2. Pay attention to finances and retirement plans.  Invest.

I have debt.  It always seems to stay the same.  I don’t buy much.  I don’t travel, really.  I pay lots of money per month to decrease it.  I did eat out way too much for a few months.  I do have a number of online subscriptions.  It all adds up but it’s still not totally outrageous.  And somehow no matter how many raises I get the debt stays the same and I’m living paycheck to paycheck, give or take.

It seems like as soon as I start to make progress the fates conspire against me to keep me mired.  It’s always something that pops up.  A car repair, large vet bills.  I was doing well last year until the car crash and now I have the car payment.  Gas prices keep rising.  I screwed up somehow (or was screwed, which I think is the case) getting the new car insured so the loaning bank added $100 to the car payment for a year.  Doh!

That reminds me that I need to rollover my 401K.

It’s time to pull it together.  Finances, like many things, are only controlled by the fates when you fail to take responsibility and control.

3. Keep up with developments in your field.

After working for 3.5 years in one place, particularly in the software dev world, you can easily have your head down.  You focus on the work at hand and get caught up meeting deadlines and dealing with the dysfunctions of your organization.  Every organization is dysfunctional, by the way.  Meanwhile, new technologies are popping up everywhere and the tools of the trade are updated and improved.

You have to stay on top of what’s happening in the industry, whether through training or research or whatever.  Otherwise, looking for the next gig is difficult because you don’t even know the buzzwords.

Looking for work this time around was eye opening.  I found that my hybrid skill set was a turn off to many employers.  They wanted the extremes of UI design or the extremes of development.  The web industry, by the way, is kind of strange.  Some of the job descriptions are laughably inclusive of every web-related skill possible.

4. Be aware of the first impressions you make.

At my last job I made the mistake of letting people dictate my role to me.  Consequently, it took me three years, literally, to get to the point where user interface design had a real impact on the company’s products.  Tossed like the S.S. Minnow with every new manager or exec.  Even afterwards, I had no direct impact on the big picture, the larger strategy.  In other words, I never recovered from those first few weeks.  This was before the eye opening Landmark Forum experiences but by then … the damage was already done.

5. Do not confuse work with life.

Keep it all in perspective.  There are times when I’ve worked practically constantly and when I wasn’t working I was thinking about work.  I was literally dreaming about work.  There are times for a hard push and times to give it all you’ve got.  But in the end, the more you do, the more that will be given to you to do. The balance I’ve been able to find is to work in a focused manner.

Also, for me, when my social life is entwined with work I end up miserable.  This is one of the reasons I left my last job.  Not that you can ever escape your issues, but you can make a fresh start.  I just didn’t fit in with the college dorm hall environment and efforts to be part of it were miserable failures.  I made a concerted effort for a while.  Mistake.  Since all my social energy was going into work that meant that I had no significant social life outside of work.  Work friends are not friends.  Then again, I once heard someone say that if you want to make good friends you have to make a lot of friends.

I began to think I was an anti-social freak until I hung out with old friends.  My peers.  Friends from high school, college, or musician friends (my social scene has historically revolved around making music). I found that even though many of them are dealing with spouses and starting families, we’re on the same page.  Whether we’re doing something or nothing, I leave their presence feeling more alive than when I arrived.  Constructive interference, it’s called, when light or sound waves overlap in such a way that increases their power.  They reinforce one another and become brighter and stronger.

6. Know when it’s time to move on and strategize.

It’s so easy to stay in a crappy situation just because it’s less intimidating than finding a new situation.  Even when your situation sucks, you at least know the suckiness you’re in for.  The familiarity of a bad situation is comfortable and safe compared to the unknown.

I had been at the end of my rope for a long time.  As time went by I knew that my situation was stagnant.  My career was at a standstill.  I’ve been recovering ever since the Silicon Valley bubble burst.  I figure that set me back about five years.  I saw guys five to ten years younger than myself being given the opportunity to lead teams (it looks good on a resume and it’s great experience).  Some were considered senior developers, whereas I was still viewed as a junior developer for all intents and purposes, despite 12 years of industry experience.  What’s wrong with this picture?

The new job gets me about to where I want to be.  There’s a lot to learn and a lot of growing to be done in a new domain.  That’s a very good thing.

However, when I left the old digs I lost two weeks of vacation.  Some companies pay out any untaken vacation and some don’t.  I could have had two weeks of paid vacation.  Instead I drew my line and resigned even before I had found something new.  I did it intentionally, mind you, because it really opened me up to the realities of moving on.  It changed my whole perspective and I felt like I had woken up from a spell.

Also, I highly recommend taking time off between jobs if you can.  A week or two.  It’s refreshing.  Companies always want you to start ASAP but it’s usually a “hurry up and wait” kind of thing.

7. Keep it in perspective.  It’s only life and it’s only work.

When I was at Apple I heard someone give a speech.  He said that some people say that they love Apple.  He said to save your love for people.  For your family and friends and life.  A company, an organization, can’t love you back.

Truer words….

I say that all work stress is arbitrary and artificial (unless your job is saving lives).  Unfortunately, our bodies don’t know the difference between stress caused by a deadline for a Powerpoint presentation or being hunted by a pack of large, hungry predators.  I can’t imagine anyone on their deathbed wishing that they had worked more — wishing that they had just been quicker with those TPS reports.

Also, we’re all people dealing with this life thing.  Co-workers will piss you off, but they’re doing what they can with the tools that they have.  Some people’s tools stink, it’s true.  Still, a little patience and empathy goes a long way.

Holy crap, it’s 11pm already.  Man, today just flew by.  What the heck did I do today?  Have a good weekend everyone.  See you on the flip side.

Currently listening :
12 Segundos de Oscuridad
By Jorge Drexler
Release date: By 11 January, 2007

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