December 05, 2002

I'm Just Not Corporate Material

I'm Just Not Corporate Material

I've worked at IBM for just over three years now, the first two spent editing mind numbingly boring technical manuals, the last year spent writing articles for a fairly technical magazine, a job that I actually don't mind, despite my chronic bitching.

I've noticed, however, that I simply don't want to play the corporate game. When it comes to my job, all I want is to be given a task, and then I want to complete that task. I then want to go on to the next task. I don't want to hype my work to those above me. I don't care about corny little awards that may be bestowed upon me. I'm not working to feel good about myself. I'm working so I can build experience so I can eventually get the hell out of here and start doing writing work that actually makes me deeply happy, like writing about bodily emanations for Maxim or something.

During my last job, people constantly walked all over me, taking credit for work I did, and I really didn't give a shit. Just give me the paycheck every two weeks. I didn't care when my lead editor held up the last two edited manuals that I did as some great accomplishment on her part. Whatever. My officemate constantly told me to stand up and take credit when someone tries to do that. When I explained that I really didn't care who was credited for editing a DB2 UDB manual, she said "You'll never get ahead here with an attitude like that."

Yes, but, I don't WANT to get ahead at IBM. The only thing that getting ahead gets you at IBM is more work, and possibly a shiny plaque that says, "Good Job." I was given three such awards during my last job, and they all promptly found their way into the trash the moment I got home from work. I don't need crappy trinkets cluttering my desk telling me I did a good job. That's what money is for. Give me money. I understand money. To me, money says "Good Job. Now go out and buy something."

I don't understand people that thirst for the next big corporate promotion, people that talk the lingo of business with all the enthusiasm of a small dog humping a leg. To me, sitting in on a meeting is, usually, wasted time. But, at every meeting I've ever attended, there's always a few people that can't wait to speak at length about nothing, expounding on all the tasks they completed, going into great detail about everything. "Well, yes," I think, "But, isn't that their job in the first place? To get things done? Do we really have to sit here and listen to how they do their job? What's the point?"

Thankfully, my current bosses seem to sense my distaste of corporate aspirations. They give me an article or two to write, and they leave me be, knowing that I'll get the articles done, and that they will be good articles. That type of autonomy speaks volumes about their faith in my abilities. They don't waggle meaningless promotions in front of me, offering to up my status from "News Editor" to "Primary News Editor." They give me work, and I do the work, and then I get a paycheck, and that's the way I like it.

"Why," you may ask, "don't I just get out of IBM and find work somewhere else then?" The answer is experience, or lack thereof. Almost every employer I've ever talked to is looking for applicants with five or more years of experience. They don't seem to understand that applicants can't get experience unless an employer takes a chance on a fresh-from-college newcomer. It's a vicious Catch-22, particularly in this job market. I'm just now nearing my fifth year of experience, spanning newspapers, magazines and those God-awful technical manuals. Hopefully, my experience base will help me to jump ship to something more entertaining.

It's not about getting ahead and grasping the brass ring. It's about finding a job that I truly enjoy and that doesn't feel like work. I'm not interested in trampling people to get ahead, which is a major component of being the traditional IBM employee, as far as I've seen. It really is true that, "even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat."

I'd just as soon stay out of the race and watch from the sidelines, writing about how stupid all the rats look.

Posted by Ryan at December 5, 2002 10:46 AM

I totally here what you are saying but here is where your logic breaks down. The people who get their dream job doing really cool stuff are often the same people who know how to take credit for what they have done. They get recognized for this and that gives them more options to do what they really want to do. If you take the "I'm not going to play your game" approach you are more likely to be stuck at the lower levels where your options are more limited. It sounds like you're saying "I don't want to play your stupid game, but I want more money and a cool job". Well, guess what, the ones who get the cool jobs or start their own companies are usually the ones who are experts at playing the game and drawing attention to themselves as really good at what they do. The next guy to get the cool job at Maxim will be a cocky jerk who knows how to make himself look good who happens to be a good writer.

Posted by: jaqazi at September 29, 2005 11:03 PM
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