January 17, 2007

Job vs. Career

In September I interviewed at the largest exhibit design center on the West Coast. The Head Guy asked me a question that has haunted me since then, “Do you want a job, or do you want a career?” He continued with, “If you want a career, you’ll commute for it. If you just want a job and you’re across the Bay, it’s not going to work.”

The truth is I want a career, but I want it close to home, convenient, and only 40 hours a week. The Head Guy suggested I call a friend of his who is a partner at of one of the biggest design companies in the world. I still haven’t called him. The Head Guy is in Oakland, The Partner is in San Francisco. To commute to Oakland involves at least 45 minutes of driving in traffic. Commuting to San Francisco takes two trains and an hour and 20 minutes each way. It bothers me that I never called The Partner. What is wrong with me? Even if I didn’t get work there, his name could open other doors. I never banged on doors, dropped off my portfilio, sent my resume out or did anything aggressive. I took contract jobs through two creative placement agencies. The job I found was through Craig’s List.

This job is NOT a career move. It’s just a job. As an in-house designer I will be working within corporate guidelines, not generating new ideas. I won’t be meeting with clients, or gaining agency experience. I won’t learn better website design. On the other hand, I hop on the train and ride it up two stops and then bike the final two miles. It integrates exercise into my daily life and it’s a short commute.

What’s freaking me out is that I’ve always thought I was competitive and ambitious. That I would call anyone or do what it takes to get what I want. The hard part has been figuring out what I DO want. And in the end what I want is just a job.

I think that after my Mom’s illness and death, many things were rearranged in my mind. I didn’t care about work anymore. No matter what I do to make a living, it’s not eternal. It just doesn’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things. What is eternal are the relationships in my life. Those are the people I’ll see again in heaven. The reality is that I DO sacrifice and work hard for relationships. That’s what’s made my home life suffer: being available for friends, not working overtime at a job.

Part of the reason I didn’t pursue those career possibilities is I didn’t want to walk through that open door. I didn’t want to force myself into a lifestyle where I have to work 60 hours a week (with a 2 hour and 40 minute commute every day, it would be 60-80 hours minimum). I didn’t want to sacrifice my marriage so I could make garbage. (No matter how many awards the annual report wins, it mostly ends up in the trash, right?)

I’m still a bit freaked out that this job will make me creatively claustrophobic. I’ll keep my options open and continue to pursue relationships with local designers. Perhaps I’ll find something that is both job and career. But in the meantime, I’m happy with ‘just a job’.


Rachel said...

Well, I think you are smart to try to find a balance between work and life. If you commuted for hours each way, you would have less time left for your husband and friends and other interests. I also think that when you move to a new city it's important to get your foot in the door somewhere, because that first job will give you the chance to meet people and make important connections.

That said, I would choose a long commute by train over a slightly shorter commute in the car, because the train time can be relaxing and productive. Driving in Bay Area traffic is just hellish.

scarp said...

Just so you don't feel like no one is paying attention to this entry....this is one of those entries that makes me think, and that I even emotionally react to in some ways, but have trouble writing a comment about...

Snickollet said...

I think about the job/career issue a lot. For reasons that are obvious, I have certainly put career on hold for now. But even when there was no real reason not to be on the career track, work/life balance was always important to me.

What has been hard for me as I adjust to my work being "just a job" is letting go of some ingrained idea that I would be a better person if I spent more time on my career. Even as I type it, it sounds ludicrous that focusing on my career makes me a better person, but that lives deep within me somewhere. Especially as a woman, I feel like I owe it to other women or to the cause of feminism or something to have a career and a family.

I am totally hijacking your comments. You really got me thinking. I hope you enjoy your "just a job" and that it gives you some creative outlet. The commute sounds awesome! I used to bike to work and I loved it.

bg's Little Sis said...

Good for you OTR. In my job now which has turned into a wonderful career, when I interviewed I told him that my family now came first, I couldn't work extra, I was looking for a job that made it worthwhile to be away from my kids for 40 hours a week...I think setting your mind to the decision that best fits the lifestyle you want is the hardest part. After that things just fall into place.

Jen said...

if you want a marriage and other relationships, you'll work at those too. your priorities are different than the guy who interviewed you, and that's not necessarily a bad thing