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2018/05 - What should you look for in a job?

Howdy folks,

This post will be about what you should be looking for in a job!

Growth should be your first priority. The right kind of growth should be absolutely mandatory of course, but as long as you don't apply for a position that's far below your experience level and avoid non-development roles, you should be okay in this regard. You should be searching for positions that either teach you new skills or build upon existing ones. Don't fall for the mistake of getting too comfortable in your role, in fact you should use how comfortable you are and how much effort you need to expend for your job as an indicator as to whether you should move on or not. Lastly, be somewhat wary of taking on a role that's too advanced for you. If you're coming out of college, a graduate role would be best. Trying to sell yourself as a senior freelancer with very little experience would be difficult to do, and you might not be capable of doing the work to begin with.

Good coworkers should come second, as these are the people that you'll be spending a large amount of your time with. If you dislike them or they dislike you, it will affect your job satisfaction and therefore affect your work. Try to bring up conflicts or problems early on with whoever you immediately report to and see if the situation can be rectified. If it can't, then at least you have a paper trail to protect yourself if things go south. On the other hand, I've been a member of projects where everyone liked each other a lot and the work flew by like in a breeze of excellent coding and construction. Simply being on "good enough" terms with your coworkers is a great start though, so don't be too disappointed if you aren't immediate BFF's with them!

A good manager comes third in my book. I haven't had any particularly bad managers so far in my career, but I can see the potential damage that a bad manager could do to your job (Or even your career). Be on good terms with them as much as you can and avoid inadvertently making more work for them in the form of paperwork (By doing your best not to screw up). If you get good annual feedback, that great, keep doing what you're doing and don't rest on your laurels. You might even consider doing some extra work in the form of either working far ahead of schedule or simply contributing back to the company/team in a non-metric kind of way (Think of something along the lines of a programming/book-reading/insert-interest-here club). As long as it doesn't interfere with your work, it should be okay. If you get bad feedback, then just do what they say regardless of what you think. Some people think they're in a position to argue their case, but I am firmly in the "Shut up and do what they say" camp. There is very little to be gained from doing so, but a lot can be lost.

The next thing that should be on your mind is the company culture. A company culture is kind of like a "how does this company operate as a whole" kind of concept. Does the company love technology, or just technology that suits its own needs? Does it have a library of books, or at least a repo of PDF's if it's not big enough for a library? Social clubs? Do employees have side projects? Do employee's have nice desks/working spaces? Does the office look dreary or nice? What are the bathrooms like? That last question might sound weird, but I've found that if an institution doesn't care about its bathrooms, it generally doesn't care about anything but the bottom line. Cool-aid is another aspect that you should keep in mind, particularly amongst older employees. Ask a younger employee what they think of their company and they'll certainly be far more enthusiastic than their more aged counterparts. If you can get a "Yeah, it's great" or "It's a good place to work" from an older employee, it's probably true. From a technical standpoint, Joel on Software has provided the Joel Test that you can use to gauge the technical aptitude of a company. In my experiences, at least in Ireland, these are all just nice-to-haves. They should give you good ideas on questions to ask though, and see how technologically progressive the company is. Also keep an eye out for signs of a blame culture, as even if a company ticks every other box for you, you can still have a bad time if your team doesn't work with each other and opts instead to work against each other when things go wrong.

Money is usually the last thing you should worry about in a job. Growth and the people of the company have been more important in my experiences. That's not to say that you should just accept whatever is offered, but that it is not the most important aspect of a job. You CAN be taken advantage of in just about any company, so be sure to check glassdoor to find the average salary for whatever position you're in/applying for. Do not be afraid to negotiate hard in an interview or request a raise outside of annual/biannual bonus allocations. If a company genuinely cannot afford more money, then apply elsewhere. If they just don't want to, then that's okay, they're just looking out for their best interests (Which you should be doing for yourself too. Don't hate the playa, hate the game). Location is another factor when money is involved. My current city, Dublin, is well-known for being quite expensive to rent in. You can see the cost of living as a nomad in Dublin here which isn't fully reflective for non-nomads, but if we compare it to Galway's cost of living as a nomad, we begin to see some context. This should factor into your choice of job as well. If the company is flexible enough to allow you to work remotely, you could end up on a big salary for a low cost-of-living area! 

That sums up pretty much all I have to say on this subject. Hopefully this blog post will help you out with your next, or current, job. If it has, please let me know!

Good luck!

Marc