[II] Working Out Why I Hated My Job

In Chapter 1, I discussed some of the early beginnings of how I had tried to plan my life and my career.  I had just secured a good job but was struggling to keep pushing myself, and life as an engineer in the oil & gas industry was rapidly becoming increasingly unappealing.  But there was light at the end of the tunnel – I was switching jobs within the company (in order to develop project management skills to complement the technical knowledge I had learned) so I was optimistic that things would get better.

I feel that, before we go any further, I should probably clarify the title of this article.  Hate is a very strong word, and probably quite an inaccurate one for this context.  I just couldn’t think of a verb that depicted “to be bored with” nicely.  Plus the title kinda sells the article, and sales is kinda part of my job…

Anyway, things didn’t get better.

hated my job
For some reason, things just weren’t clicking

What I had begun to realise as well was that my grand plan for my life and career had missed out the most crucial factor: me (but in two different ways – how I ticked and what I found interesting).  I realised that I hadn’t thought enough about how I actually behave and what I really wanted to get out of life.  These were not easy things for me to work out, however.

What I Find Interesting

Structures and machinery just don’t do it for me

Truth be told, I found many aspects of my job and the oil & gas industry generally quite dull.  I found many parts of my engineering degree relatively unexciting – in my opinion, we didn’t really spend that much time doing stuff that I thought was “cool” and we studied loads of ancient fundamental theories for things like bridges that never really did it for me.  Some parts were super cool – I remember loving the lectures we had on car aerodynamics, renewable energy and cricket ball swing, and I was captivated by modules I did on entrepreneurship and marketing (I went into consulting because of these actually).

There were some rough winds though, and I remember having conversations with my Director of Studies at university several times about switching subjects but chose to “stick at it” (arguably a mistake, but engineering is a really useful degree to have!).  My true interests lie in tech – I’ve been obsessed with computers (having built several) and mobiles (I was a smartphone early adopter) since I was young.

I’d only really enjoyed two of the jobs that I’d worked (I’m not counting my paper round) – one was retail sales (which is still my favourite to this day – I loved helping people out) and the other was strategy consulting (although the general culture left a lot to be desired).

Anyway, in short, I worked out that I love solving interesting problems.  In fact, I’d chosen engineering as a degree because of the chance it got to solve problems.  One of my favourite quotes describing engineering (Arthur Mellon Wellington) is: “the art of doing […] well with one dollar, [that] which any bungler can do with two“.

The key word is interesting though – I found most engineering problems uninteresting (structures and machinery just don’t do it for me), whereas I find solving business and consumer problems addictive.

“How I Tick”

My personal benchmark of success is how much of an impact you can have on people’s lives and how much you are seen as a role model

As well as loving problem-solving, I realised that I really wanted to be successful, and I didn’t want to settle for anything less.

In order to try and explain this, I’m going to refer to a funny, satirical article I read about a man who had been mocked by friends as being “unambitious” for leaving London, getting a decent job, buying a house, raising a family and living happily ever after.  The crux of the article was to joke at out how people define ambition, and it being a reason why people flock to London in spite of the overcrowding and high property prices.  It pointed out that you can also measure success as having strong relationships, a close family and free time to “actually enjoy life”.

I could definitely see the point the article was trying to make but arguably in a sad way I knew that I could never be truly happy and live without regrets unless I tried to push myself as far as possible and to relentlessly compete to be “the best” at what I wanted to do.

This essentially threw a spanner into the works of just getting a decent job and living a quiet life.  I’d planned to work “hard enough” at my job and not “bust my ass” trying to get to the top, but I soon realised that I couldn’t keep this up.

So the solution would be to just work harder, right?

Not quite, and this comes down to how people measure success differently.  I realised my personal benchmark of success is how much of an impact you can have on people’s lives and how much you are seen as a role model.  It is my hope to get somewhere along this path by building something that people truly love.

What Next?

Armed with this new-found knowledge, I then set about course-correcting.  In order to be able to build something people truly love, have the impact that I want to and work on stuff that I found interesting, I would have to either launch a start-up or work in a rocket-ship.  In order to launch a start-up, I would need to have a great idea and a great team, but also improve my execution skills (I had no idea how to build a website/launch a business/raise money).  In order to work in a rocket-ship, I would need almost an entirely new skillset.  I also didn’t know what else I didn’t know.  I did know, however, that I had to take action.

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