Recently I was faced with a career decision in my non Denver Nuggets life. It’s a decision we all have to make multiple times throughout our careers: whether to stay where we’re at, or move on to a new opportunity with another employer. Sometimes I don’t think we realize just how often we face that decision in our day to day. The internet is innundated with job listings, there are social media sites dedicated to building your professional network, your favorite television show is likely to be interrupted by at least one commercial about finding a new employer. Most of this sort of thing just flows right off your back without notice but every now and again something catches hold and that was the case this time for me.
In the end I decided to stick with where I’m working but I was very close to making a change. The opportunity checked a bunch of boxes, including a lot of the big ones like salary, benefits and title. Every time in my career when presented with this type of decision and those big three boxes are checked I’ve given my two weeks notice. Yet this time I decided to go in the other direction. Ultimately, I decided to follow what my heart was telling me instead of just the numbers my brain was calculating. For me there was a much bigger box that was checked with my current employer: team.
I take a lot of pride in what I do in my non-writing endeavors. Building electrical systems in complex buildings is challenging, it serves a greater purpose and it has a lasting impact. I try to attend the graduation ceremony at apprenticeship school every year. Moving from apprenticeship to a licensed electrician is a big deal in our career path, it’s the single most important qualification you can have. Naturally, I’ve listened to several commencement speeches but something one speaker said always stuck with me. Think of how many buildings and houses exist today with wiring that is fifty, eighty, even a hundred years old. Peoples lights, their ability to work, to cook, to enjoy their homes and workplaces; the systems we build today will make those things possible for decades to come. That’s always resonated with me and to get to build what I get to build with my team, whether it’s a hospital expansion or a downtown improvement or a college stadium, it’s an absolute privilege.
For the first time in my career it wasn’t just about the biggest paycheck or the most paid time off. It was much more about the people I get to work beside. I’ve spent the past four years working with largely the same group of people. There were fewer of us a few years back, and couple have left for other opportunities themselves, but of the overall dozen or so people I work directly with on a day to day basis it’s largely been the same dozen. I can’t tell you just how much I appreciate that group. Whether it’s my counterparts in the office who each bring a different unique skill set that compliments the others weaknesses, or my field technicians who go out and install some of the most complex systems in mission critical facilities every day. When I was presented with the option to take the bigger paycheck, I couldn’t reconcile the idea of having to start over and bring a whole new group of people together.
It’s not that I couldn’t have done it or that had the company offering me a new position didn’t have the resources to make it possible. It was that it wouldn’t be this team. It wouldn’t be the guys who I get beers with (or at least did before this year) on Fridays, it wouldn’t be with the accountant who helped me move, it wouldn’t be with the boss who probably understands me better than anyone I have worked with before. The connections I’ve made with this group were irreplaceable. Sometimes I think we don’t have that view point enough when it comes to our careers.
It’s so ingrained in American culture that you should always be trying to get ahead. The whole idea of the American dream is based on working hard to get ahead. It’s easy to boil that down to dollars and salaries, to make any chance to increase the weekly paycheck the best thing for you and your family. My generation in fact is notorious for “job hopping” and never staying with one company for more than a couple years. Sometimes that’s just what it takes to get the next opportunity. You’ll certainly never find me as one to advocate for loyalty to the company or espouse the idea that you should be grateful just to be getting a paycheck. However, it also can’t be just about who will give you the most money.
What I believe in is loyalty to the people who depend on you, and first and foremost yourself. Our careers dominate our day to day life and we generally dedicate the majority of our time awake to their pursuits. Because it’s impossible to accomplish our goals entirely by ourselves we have to work with others in these professional pursuits. Who you choose to work next to, and therefore spend the majority of your week with, is so important. Being with people who are kind, work as a team and have everyone’s best interests at heart is incredibly valuable. When you get lucky enough to have a team around you who truly embodies those values make sure your hold on to it.