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Don’t Get That Job at Google

Speaking to a friend who’s moved to London to start working at Facebook 1 the other day. After he described the perks, the benefits, the salary, the package, my mind started working in a pattern that is familiar by now: what must I do to get such a job? Can I one-up it?

I am writing this as a response to myself. I am making this public to remind others of what they know.

  1. There is merit in deeply learning a domain
  2. There is merit in staying at one place and changing things at a deeper level
  3. Career optimisation” is only valuable in a broader context of an otherwise fulfilled life. Pushing one’s career further and further in the middle of stagnation elsewhere in life yields no results in satisfaction

Point 3 is the most valuable for me right now. It gives me license to suck at my job sometimes. I will prioritise other things occasionally. I will miss deliveries. I interact with lousy developers sometimes. All that is part of being a whole person, rather than a mere professional.

On the topic of wholeness”, I don’t take my whole self” to work. But, more importantly, I no longer take my work self everywhere. Not everything is an opportunity to network. My contacts in the industry” will remain untapped because we don’t run into each other anymore — and I am not going back to LinkedIn.

Why is it that this entire career game feels so compelling to me? In Failure to cope under capitalism’”, Gawker writer Clare Coffey writes:

I think it’s possible that for many, considering the shape of your life and then living it with vigor is so difficult because it cannot be externally validated. Unlike education and work, it offers no socially obvious meritocratic path. The moments where, like sourdough, it proves, are largely invisible — in cooking, in walking, corresponding with a friend, in chatting with a neighbor or registering to give blood. They cannot be tallied up and put on a resume. They are never finished.” The progress you make is spiraling rather than linear; circling steadily, slowly, around your weak points, taking two steps forward and one step back, building habits so slowly that only in retrospect can you see your life become different than it was. And there is no one who can tell you that you did it right. But this is not the condition of life under capitalism, this is life itself.

This resonates profoundly with me. It is all a game. I pick up projects, tasks and values that are easily quantifiable at the expense of more meaningful, but immeasurable ones. And the neat career framework, the sweet, sweet praise from peers whose opinions don’t actually matter to me, the thrill of a performance review — I am Jack’s gamified existence.

I need a break from this. To pursue meaning in the good and in the beautiful, in a deeper relationship with my creator.

So my work may be an okay one. And I may me an okay professional. And that is more than fine by me.


  1. he’s not crazy about the company either. But that’s part of the point.↩︎

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