One Man’s Search for the Perfect Job
Turning hard-learned lessons into a laser-focused job search.
As we wrapped up Sunday night dinner at my apartment, my neighbor remembered, “hey, it’s Pi Day tomorrow, we should head down to Pi Bar for a few slices to celebrate.” Pi Bar, which by the way opens at 3:14pm, does great New York style pizza. They’ve also got an amazing beer selection. “I’d love to go, but…” I trailed off despondently, “I have to work.”
It was a busy time at work. For several weeks I had been sacrificing nights and weekends to do the things I couldn’t get to during the day. And yet, despite the fact that I was managing all my responsibilities, it still didn’t feel right to leave my co-workers during the “work day,” this arbitrary window of time dictated mostly by the schedules of my toddler-toting colleagues.
That next morning I quit. And although it had nothing to do with pizza, it had everything to do with feeling like I had lost control. I wasn’t working anymore, I was being worked. I had lost control of my schedule, my productivity, and my focus.
I decided to take a step back and re-evaluate.
The first thing I did was reclaim my health. I had already joined a climbing gym but I wasn’t going because I could really only go after work and, no surprise, that’s when everyone else goes. Climbing is all about being in control and you can’t be in control when you’re in somebody else’s way. So now, with my schedule wide open, I started going during the day, when it’s calm and quiet — like a library. I’m able to focus and the results have been fantastic. I’ve lost weight, built muscle, and found new mentors. Climbing flexes a specific mental muscle that grows by pushing your boundaries to achieve something beyond you.
The perfect job should promote your productivity.
My next job would have to allow me to continue my climbing practice. And that means remote work. When companies embrace remote work, “work hours” go out the window. You work when you’re productive, whenever that might be—like an adult. There’s no office and no office hours so the only expectations your colleagues have are only the ones you’ve set. Things are calm and considered—productive and provoking.
I started thinking about why I had sacrificed so many nights and weekends. Why did I constantly feel like there wasn’t enough time to do my job? We all need downtime to recuperate and recharge. Even one of the climbers I admire urged, “when you’re here, go hard, but don’t come everyday — you need time off to recover.” I started to realize that I worked overtime because we were always running out of time. One of the consequences of working for an unprofitable startup is that as the clock ticks the lights get a little bit dimmer too. Money, and therefore time, is always running out. Doing things correctly takes too long so we overlook the consequences of taking shortcuts. Time is so much of the essence that startups sometimes prioritize weekly or even daily. Some call it “agile” but I just think it’s shortsighted.
“Odds are far better than good that high performers are achieving what appears to be high levels of productivity by building technical debt by taking shortcuts whether intentionally or unintentionally.” — Bill Jordan
The perfect job should pay you fairly.
Making money is a problem just like all the other problems a business has to solve. If it goes unsolved, the whole dynamic of the company and its employees is stressed. So the next company I work for will have to be profitable, ideally from the beginning. Some companies, especially startups, treat profitability as an inevitability. Like, “once we’ve scaled, the money will come.” Sorry, but that kind of thinking puts most businesses in the ground. Stop and RECONSIDER. Though Uber, Facebook, and a handful of others buck this trend most companies follow this remarkably simple model: “you have customers, they pay you money for the product or service, and you get profits” (David Heinemeier Hansson).
Remote work for a profitable company. That does sound pretty perfect. But, just this once, let’s be indulgent…
Ice cream! One day at my last job the whole team—six of us at the time—went out for ice cream. It was weeks overdue because of scheduling conflicts (cone-flicts?). After we all ordered, I was surprised that we all were expected to pay for ourselves. We were celebrating a birthday and never really went out for anything anyway. It threw me off and I guess my brain froze because I never ended up bringing it up. Finally, after letting this fester for months (that’s healthy, right?) I brought it up to my boss. He explained, “we have a finite balance and we have to watch all of it.” OK, touché, that’s actually a good reason. You can’t spend what you don’t have.
The perfect job should take great care of you.
But still—it’s just ice cream! I couldn’t get over the sour taste it left in my mouth. What has better ROI than ice cream?! I’d like to work for a company that will find ways to give back to the people that do the work. Ice cream aside, I just don’t understand how anything could come before the people that make it that it all possible. What is a company without its people?
Go for it.
It’s a tall order to find a company that respects your time, makes money, and takes care of its employees. I’m not sure why but it just is. I think a lot of employees just settle for less. In fact, companies settle for less too. That truth is that we always have the option to settle. Whatever it is we’re doing, we basically have two options: to go for it or to accept the status quo.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference” (Robert Frost)
I don’t think we should settle. Let’s create more companies that promote productivity, make money, and take care of their employees. Jobs like this do exist and I intend to find one and give them everything I’ve got.
My name is Avand. I’m a product designer, full-stack software engineer, and teacher. If you enjoyed this post, please click the green heart and follow me.
I’m looking for a company into which I can pour my everything. But I’m also looking to strict the right balance. If that makes sense to you, we should talk.