Posted by: LYF | July 29, 2009

If everyone hates their 9-5, then why do most people take office jobs?

Why does it feel like everyone is opting for the Tim Ferris – work at home – web2.0 – social media solution?  Is it really that attractive?  Defending my profession because it happens to take place in a cubicle is annoying.  Does it really sound that awful?  I really don’t get it.  Well I do, I understand what people think of office jobs.  And the similarity between this and my day to day probably doesn’t help – no one wants to end up as a Dilbert cartoon.  So why do people take office jobs?  And once they have them, why do they start sucking?  Does it have to be this way?

You took an office job because it was easy

It’s easy to do the things you’re comfortable with.  Sending out resumes, cold calling businesses asking your family if they know a guy who knows a guy who worked with etc. are all traditional methods of getting a job.  By traditional I mean it’s understood, which means it isn’t scary because it isn’t new.  That’s easy.  It’s a lot harder to do something like Charlie Hoehn did (read the e-book it’s worth your time) and think outside the box.  Doing what everyone else is doing is seductive because it’s supposed to be the “normal” approach.  This may not be the smartest strategy, but it’s definitely the easiest.  A lot of people (myself included) often mistake what’s normal for what’s best.

Doing something repetitive, that’s stupid, is the surest way to start sucking

On top of “being easy” new hires have to contend with the notion that “paying your dues” is somehow admirable and socially accepted as a right of passage.  Seriously?  There is (unfortunately) an unwritten understanding that you have to bust your ass before anyone accepts your opinions.  It’s important to differentiate between busting your ass and “working on stupid things that won’t make you any smarter, stifle your creativity and steal the time you wish you had to produce something your company would actually value.”  The former is important.  The latter is frustrating.

But your managers will say it’s ok.  They will tell you “that’s the way it is.”  That sucks.  It sucks more because they’re right.  That is the way it is.

Congratulations, you suck!

This is why you suck.  You took the easy route and then you accepted conventional wisdom.  Luckily, this isn’t a dead end.  You can work around it.

There is another way…

Try cultivating a lifestyle.  You need something that makes sense to you.  Then you take all the things you do and fit them into that framework.  My job didn’t fit my lifestyle, so I quit.  I like to travel, which is why I asked to start in September even though I quit in July.  I enjoy lifting weights, so I took a personal training course last week.  I like to read, so it’s not uncommon for me to spend over $150 on books each month.

You have to cultivate your own path.  That’s the first part.  Then you work.  Not just on what you’re given.  You need to work on anything you find interesting within the context of your job.  Work on what you like.  Work really hard at it.  It doesn’t matter if no one told you to work on it.  You have to do it anyway.  Don’t worry if you can’t apply what you’re doing immediately.  The point is to find meaning in what you’re doing.  That won’t happen if you aren’t proactive.  Apathy won’t get you anywhere.

Go read magazines, buy some books, make a cool presentation using Prezi (highly recommend getting this, it’s amazing).  Do something.  I started putting together audit files without PEM.  I made everything from scratch. That was my thing.  Then I started subscribing to accounting rss feeds and sending anything important to my boss (because I was already doing it, I became responsible for doing this for the entire firm).

My job is a small aspect of what I like to do.  It’s very possible that I could volunteer at another company within the year, find out they’re way more awesome than my current job and then move there.  That is very possible.  I’m always trying to refine what I’m doing to make it a better “fit.”  That’s a continuous process.

After I started looking at things this way, my job didn’t really matter anymore.  It didn’t matter where I worked; office vs. at home, accounting vs. other cool stuff.  Those comparisons aren’t important.  They don’t matter because it’s almost insignificant in a grander scheme that I’ve worked out for myself.

That’s how you don’t suck.  That’s how you get awesome.

***

Anyway, I will be in Egypt for the entire month of August, so things will be on hiatus for a bit.  If anyone who’s a regular here will be in Egypt (Cairo, Dahab, Alexandria) during August hit me up with an email (lastyearsfile@gmail.com).  Let’s grab a drink and smoke some shisha.

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Responses

  1. Good advice there. I think too many people accept the status-quo and fail to see where they can make improvements, not only to perform better, but to actually enjoy themselves.

    Have fun in Egypt. I need to go there sometime too. You do realize its going to be crazy hot down there right now. Either way, should be a good trip.

    • It is crazy hot. High 30’s everyday!

  2. Great post. But what is PEM?

    How did you find the firm that you’re starting with in September?

    • It’s a professional engagement manual that you can get through Knotia. (https://www.knotia.ca/kstore/catalogue/ProductDetails.cfm?productID=5). The audit PEM comes with a ton of templates to help plan and perform an audit. I thought they were too generic so I stopped using them.

      For instance, in every section you’d have to check off whether or not you did controls testing. Well, if you’re doing a purely substantive approach, you start getting pissed off when you have to write n/a in each of these boxes. I figured “screw this” I’ll just make my own audit strategy memo, say I’m using a substantive approach, back up my reason and get partner approval in the planning meeting. Doing it all from scratch was a huge gamble (I didn’t use much from the prior year file either). Luckily it paid off.

      I found the new firm through a recruiter. As soon as I passed the UFE I started getting calls from them – it was strange. The one who got me the job was the recruiter I got along with the best.

  3. Does everyone hate their 9-5? I’ve worked many places, and a public accounting firm is the first time I’ve experienced this. Probably because there’s no time to cultivate your own life? Sure, you can make all the plans you want. But if your manager decides to review on site that day at 5pm, or Monday at 3pm you get told you’re doing an out of town job for 2 weeks and leaving first thing Tues…kiss those plans goodbye.

    I didn’t take my office job because it was easy. I took it because I wanted guaranteed employment. And I’ve found that I’d rather be unemployed.

    Many people seem to take them because their parents did, or because they think they’ll make sooo much money! Or they perceive it as having some level of prestige (which, with the CA, appears to wholly created only by the CA body – no one else gives a crap).

    That “paying your dues” thing? It’s the surest way for the partners to get you buying in to their pyramid scheme. Start at the bottom making crap money, but look where you can get to! (After working your ass off for 15 years).

    I do totally agree with you, in case that’s not coming across. :) I think too many people choose careers for the wrong reason, without doing some introspection to figure out what will really satisfy them. Or they stay at their miserable job because it’s easy, and they’re too scared to change.

    • “But if your manager decides to review on site that day at 5pm, or Monday at 3pm you get told you’re doing an out of town job for 2 weeks and leaving first thing Tues…kiss those plans goodbye.”

      Yeah, so true. I try to be positive in these situations – I try to picture them as a test to see how resourceful I can be, or as an opportunity to learn a ton in a very condensed time frame.

      “I didn’t take my office job because it was easy. I took it because I wanted guaranteed employment. And I’ve found that I’d rather be unemployed.”

      Seriously? It was that bad? Do you like where you’re at now?


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