It was July 13th, 1998, and I was on top of my house putting on a new roof covering. I was installing new tar-type roof shingles after removing three layers of old ones. My wife and I were aching and hurting from carrying the heavy bundles of shingles onto the roof. I remember thinking to myself, “I never want to be so poor that I have to do this again.” Anyone who has done this type of work will relate to how physically punishing it is.
At that time, I was employed by a major insurance carrier as a Property Insurance Loss Prevention Specialist in Canada. My job was to visit heavy industry locations, identify major equipment breakdown risks, and recommend actions to reduce the risk. I worked out of my house as a field engineer, and would go to the corporate office every year for my performance review. My boss was very happy with my performance, I was doing exceptional work going over and beyond what was expected, but every year he would give me the same story, saying, “You must remember, Dave, that in the present economic climate, a 2% pay increase is not too bad.” This boss was not liked by any of the field engineers for many reasons. His character and ethics were questionable, and we did not trust him or respect him. When he decided to move, it was a breath of fresh air. I was not at all concerned when he announced that he was transferring to the company’s insurance division in Dallas, Texas.
Fast forward 3 years, and I have resigned from the insurance company after finding a new career that would allow me to do more of what I liked and would also pay me nearly double the money. It would involve me working at the corporate office of a chemical corporation in Dallas, Texas, USA. As far as I was concerned, I would never work in the property insurance industry again- I was sick of being poor.
I arrived at the corporate office, and within a few weeks I was given the assignment of organizing a meeting with the insurance carriers, and basically giving them a scolding over some loss prevention reports that were not timely and accurate. The insurance carrier representatives arrived into the conference room. Tension was in the air as they knew that we had issues with the work they were doing. Low and behold, who should walk in the door – my ex-boss from Canada. I ended up reprimanding him and his direct reports in a professional manner, and we came up with a solution to make sure our corporate insurance needs would be met. I smiled to myself thinking that God not only has a plan for me, he also has a wicked sense of humor. Some years later, this not so nice ex-boss went to work for a company called Enron, the infamous energy company that went belly-up. God had not finished messing with him.
Twelve years later, I came across a woman in her 30’s who was describing her job working for a marketing company. She said it was so perfect that if they asked her to sign a lifetime employment contract, she would sign it immediately. She stated that she has a great relationship with her boss, and that she loves everything about the work she does.
This woman is one of the small percentages of people who do not have to deal with job trade-offs. I have had three different careers, each of them have been extremely rewarding and have helped me grow as an engineer; however, none of them have been perfect. Each one has had significant negative aspects.
Career #1 – Engineering Officer on Cargo Ships – working in 120 degree Fahrenheit engine rooms, being away from home for 6 to 9 months at a time, working 7 days a week, dangerous.
Career #2 – Loss Prevention Specialist in the Property Insurance Industry – I did not respect or trust my boss. I was not paid well. I had to travel a lot.
Career #3 – Principal Risk Engineer – My work included regular conflict.
What can we learn from this?
1. Every job has its trade offs. There are very few “perfect” jobs. It is so important to look over your shoulder periodically, and reevaluate your job. What do you like about it and what do you dislike? The aspects you dislike are the trade-offs. Ask yourself the question, “Are the trade-offs worth it?” If not, why be in a job that is not meeting your needs?
2. Identify what you need to do to move to a job or new career which will incorporate more of what you have a passion for, and less of what you dislike.
3. Write down the steps to make change happen and set goals (research the job, identify training needs, get career guidance etc.)
4. Talk to people doing the job or in the group/department to find out what the expected trade-offs are. Make sure you are not stepping into an arena of unexpected job challenges.