Choosing A First Job Is like Choosing Universities

Like choosing a first job?

Random Observation/Comment #222: I had sushi with Chris in Tokyo and it was the best sushi I’ve had since I had last left Japan.  It wasn’t even like it was a famous, top-notch sushi place or anything.  It was just highly-recommended by Chris near Ikebukuro Station.  Conclusion: Damn, I love Japan.  The rice is just perfect.  Maybe if NYC had a few rice patties in their concrete backyard, they’d make some headway on the quality scale. Plus, the girls like to wear hot pants.  Thank you so much for inventing hot pants.

Note: Sorry for the long entry, but it is a summary of the stuff I thought about in the past 6 months of choosing my first job.

Thinking about your first job is a huge step.  The first place you work will most probably be the field you pursue for the next 35 years.  Of course, there is the option of switching to other careers, but I wouldn’t join a career knowing that I would leave it for something else.  It’s nice to have the reassurance that if you mess up, you could find a different one, but in all reality, you’re trying for that one-shot kill – you basically want to wield a golden gun (Goldeneye N64 FTW!).

When I was thinking about this first job, it really reminded me of choosing universities. For me, the choice of a university fit the following criteria in order of importance:  1) Availability of main interest, 2) Affordability/Minimize debt, 3) Reputation, 4) Location, 5) Availability of resources, and 6) Community life.

I was basically being very realistic with getting pointed in the right direction for a major that would give me a decent head-start in life (within my parents’ financial ability).  Although community should have been important, I don’t think I made the wrong choice sacrificing a bit of party time for school work.  The resources offered may have been better, but I’ve found that the type of a student body (be it nerdy or filled with anti-socials) makes a larger difference than having a more expensive oscilloscope or a more ergonomic chair.  Graduating quickly and taking strides to solidify a future takes more effort and work than just having fun with friends, so I would personally put that at the top of my list.  Graduating with a degree that has a good reputation may get you the foot in the door, but the work ethic and overall problem solving and team cooperation level learned through the more difficult project courses are more useful.

In the university life, it is also important to have a healthy balance of finding and maintaining hobbies that relieve stress and explore your personality, which was a bit hindered by the overbearing amount of work, but once it became mainly involved with projects, everything in my life became a personal project. I took it upon myself to organize my own little schedule between school work and personal work.  Then after a while, it just became mixed and mingled into the generic work idea to forward my education and my happiness.

Okay – so what did I use as priorities for my search for my first job given what I had learned from Cooper?

I think most people are expecting to hear a similar order of priorities: 1) Industry relevant to experience from engineering, 2) High salary to pay off previous debts, 3) Reputation of a large company with high stability, 4) Location, 5) Resources, and 6) Work life.

I think this would have been my choice if I hadn’t taken the time after graduation to continue study abroad and build upon my liberal arts side.  Interestingly enough, I completely changed the order of importance from that short year: 1) Location to better fit within my community, 2) A new industry that challenges and excites while still maintaining relevance to learned material, 3) Work-life balance, 4) Community within the company, 5) Company with high future prospect, and 6) Salary.

Although I do not feel the same way about the original ranking, I can very justly defend it with the same logic as I saw fit in my high school years for university rankings.

1) Industry relevant to experience from engineering. Of course, it makes sense to go into engineering because it’s what I learned and what I went to school for – what a waste of all that time if I didn’t at least put that knowledge to good use.

2) High salary to pay off previous debts. The higher the salary you start with, the easier it will be to continue to climb your way up into the big bucks, which can mean retiring early, buying stuff you’ve always wanted, providing for family, or going on vacations with loved ones.

3) Reputation of a large company with high stability. As with the university, the company’s reputation keeps them at the head of their industry and should therefore give you that head-start when moving into other companies.  The more stable the company the better because job security is important in today’s market.

4) Location. The company needs to be located in a city I love around the people I love (this didn’t change, but it was definitely bumped in importance in my refined list).

5) Resources. If I had some master plan to create a service that everyone would use in the future, it would be very important to choose a company that has a solid influence to that particular community.  This is still part of the old style way of “I am the engineer that will save the world” type-thing.

6) Work-life. Work can’t be boring and it must have a colorful atmosphere so I don’t feel like I’m slaving to work.  I also don’t want work to make me nauseous and give me flashbacks of breaking down and eating ice cream to hopefully drown the sorrow of never being able to finish the problem sets and projects on time (cough).

That all sounds good to some people, but priorities have changed and my world is a little bit different.  It might have been trying to be more realistic or just trying to escape the cycle, but I’m happy with my decision.

1) Location to better fit within my community. NYC is my home, not just because my friends and family are there, but because I’ve found it to be the city that fits me best.  I’ve seen a lot of places in my journeys, and although some places have more kickass things than NYC, no other city has beaten the overall blend of lifestyles.  The City supports my hobbies, and my hobbies are supported by The City. This doesn’t mean I will not be willing to leave, but it does mean that you’d have to tear a lot of existing foundation away to make me permanently relocate.

2) Challenging and exciting industry with relevancy to learned material. I had thought that engineering was my thing and I would make the next big thing that would be used by everyone, but no one would know my name.  Wouldn’t it be cool to do that research?  Who invented the microwave? Light switch?  It had been my original intent of becoming an engineer, but I somehow got lost in the hype.  I shifted to see that the research just becomes a bunch of intellectual property stealing and reinventing the wheel.  If collaboration was better between universities, I’m sure we’d get so much more done to further each field.  Anyway, research was cool, but it drained me.  What began looking more interesting was the reason behind an economical collapse and a falling dollar.  I don’t know why, but I just jumped into it like it was a new physics concept.  I read and it opened my eyes to a larger world than the technology-filled niche I dug for myself. Why not take a chance and try something new?

3) Work-life balance. Personal projects will always exist and take precedent to keep me happy. These projects are mostly to help me obtain my own list of goals.  It’s all just a bunch of random plans to keep me determined and driven.  Without these goals, I would feel empty, and without the time to get closer to them, I would feel unproductive in a larger sense.

4) Community within the company. Almost everyone spends at least 8 hours a day at work doing something that you may find fascinating in the beginning, but can become a drag at some point – it’s sort of like looking at a thesis single topic for way too long; you start jabbing your knees with sporks from the local yogurt shop.  I’ve found that my working habit is optimal in certain times a day and breaks are required at least once an hour to maintain optimal efficiency.  I do things when they’re assigned and prioritize according to the queue, but you need to get out of the chair and just BS sometimes.  Research in Japan and Germany has taught me this very well.

5) Company with high future prospect. Instead of a company that is large and stable (which is very nice), I think a company that has a high future prospect is more important.  I think this is the main reason why people would settle for small companies (that and the trimmed bullshit levels of management).  This is further down the list and reworded, but I’ve stuck with the idea of a large, stable company because I’d like more time to myself outside of work to make sure my life’s foundations are built properly.  I’m afraid if I enter a small company, I’d be working way too much and I’d lose touch with the real goals in life that are worth the sacrifices. Although I may agree with the company and care about its well-being, I doubt the company feels the same way about me.  I think I’d just be another statistic, and I rather focus on the community.

6) Salary. NYC is expensive and so are some of the goals I’d like to accomplish.  Salary isn’t as important as it used to be, but I’m keeping it in mind.

So what miraculously changed in that fickle brain of mine through study abroad?

It’s a bit sad, but I don’t feel special anymore.  I am unique and I’ve acquired a set of interesting skills, but I don’t think I’ll be the one that changes the world.  I want to start on a smaller scale, and then hopefully, people (readers, friends, siblings, and future offspring) will follow by example.  At the very least, I would have done my own part to lead a life surrounded by happiness.  Be it my own happiness or those around me, I wish I can be showered by smiles and good wishes.

~See Lemons Think about Work