It’s fine to be motivated by money — it’s also fine to be motivated by recognition, making a difference, or getting your head down and solving a tough problem. However, you have to be honest about what does motivate you. Not admitting this to yourself can lead to the Dark Side.
One of the first things we are asked as founders of Sliips when meeting new people is:
"Why are you doing this?"
While we each have our own experiences, the gist of it is:
"We know people make bad career decisions simply because there is nowhere that really uncovers what it is like to work somewhere."
Here's My Experience
Straight after university, I went to work at IBM. I didn’t care about what it might be like to work there beyond what I needed to know to answer the assessment centre question:
"Why do you want to work here?"
All I knew was that graduating from university meant going on a graduate scheme at a big corporate. So that’s what I did.
After graduate induction, my first job was 241.4 miles away from home. In Preston. Living in a hotel five nights a week.
Of course, the first thing I did was put a picture of the hotel room on Facebook because, obviously, it’s ‘super cool’ to stay in a hotel on the company…
How little I knew back then.
After a year of project management, I had clocked up an unbelievable number of Marriott points and eaten everything on the menu hundreds of times. I also worked all the hours God sent to do stuff that:
- I did not care about
- No one else seemed to care about
- Was made super hard by a gobsmackingly-complex set of internal corporate processes
Outwardly I would say stuff like:
"Yeah, it’s a real challenge but a great learning experience"
Or, the classic:
"It’s hard work but rewarding"
You know what? Inwardly I believed what I was saying, because I thought that if I kept doing the job, saying those things and making up bullshit, I would end up with a great end of year review, a big pay rise and a big bonus.
Looking back, this was the unhappiest I had ever been in my life to that point. I was drinking a lot to hide it from myself and didn’t tell anyone what was really going on. I’m not sure I even knew. I couldn’t be unhappy because I was ‘successful’, working on a competitive graduate scheme. You’re supposed to work all the hours God sends to do crap you don’t care about, right?
So, review time came round. I got the top score, but no big pay rise or big bonus.
Clearly, that wasn’t worth it, I rationalised to myself. I must find something where the hours and stress match what the reward will be. I looked for another role, spouting the usual things you have to say about why that particular role, above all others, was the special one.
Eventually I find a London based role. Same shit, different location.
It was also a role with saner hours and much less stress. The issue now was that this job was boring-as-hell, and I hated it. I had swapped out a really stressful, time-consuming job with something that managed to be brain-numbingly dull but still due to over-engineered internal company process. Different symptoms of the same problem that I hadn’t even recognised yet.
I told everyone the same story. Worked the same system and ended up getting another top rating and another tiny bonus. I was still super unhappy, but I still hadn’t admitted it to myself so hadn’t even begun to start fixing it.
At this point I was approached by a recruiter, and almost everyone that has worked in a big corp will know how this goes. You get millions of messages on LinkedIn, you meet one or two of them. They find you a job that offers you more money at some other company, that’s different this time, and you take that job.
And I took that job. I listened to a recruiter and followed the money to a smaller company — less process, right?
I ended up in the City, and I did enjoy bits of it. However, I still wound up stuck in a hotel several nights a week, it was super stressful and caused me a serious number of sleepless nights, and I was still drinking an excessively large amount to deal with it all.
After a year of that fresh round of hotel madness, I really admitted to myself that I was not happy. I still didn’t know why. So instead of talking to anyone about it, I took a sabbatical telling my employer that I would come back after I had done some work on some nebulous project I was thinking about doing.
In reality I would never have gone back and I was just taking the easy way out. It would have been harder to talk through the problems and try and find a project I actually enjoyed than it was to just leave.
So I spent the next 2–3 months doing virtually nothing but working on technical challenges — not really working on what became Sliips directly, just taking time out to do.....stuff.....
And during this time I worked out my big problems:
I was sold a dream by the big corporates — and that dream was a lie. Sure, some people who go to work there will be working on the cool ‘change the world for the better’ projects, but I found myself managing a spreadsheet of some sort making no difference at all.
I was sold the dream by the small company — come and work for us and you will be working on cutting edge project in financial services. The reality is I was just involved in a massive machine: people dressed in suits went in to it, more and more money for the people who already had loads came out at the other end.
Fuck hotels... like seriously...
So actually, I didn’t really want to be involved in companies and projects that just made money for money’s sake. I wanted to do something that I found interesting and that wasn’t just taking people’s money to make other people rich. I also really didn’t want to stay in hotels anymore. I assumed chasing the money was what I wanted, but it wasn’t.
I could have avoided some really tough times if I had bothered to stop and think about what it was I wanted, and why I was unhappy.
So for me, Sliips is a friend that provides people with all of the information they need to make better career decisions. We do this by:
a) Providing accurate information
b) Asking the tough questions about what really makes you tick
c) Telling the truth about other people’s experiences
d) Combining this culture/salary/bonus/intangible info into one convenient place
All of this while keeping people’s identity a secret so they really can be open with themselves. Will everyone have a perfect career if they use Sliips? No — but with honesty in the information and honesty with yourself, at least the mistakes you make will always put you closer to the right direction, rather than spiralling down.
It is totally OK to be motivated only by money. It’s also totally OK to care about the kind of work you do and the impact it has on the world.
But it’s catastrophic to not admit the truth about what makes you happy to yourself. That, my friends, is a path to the Dark Side.