Is work/life balance a cruel myth?

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Spartan_Warrior
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Post by Spartan_Warrior »

@jacob: "If my job wasn't equal to what I'd prefer to work on, I'd rather not have that job."
Welcome to reality for 90% of the population. :P
I'm with buzz. For most people, the more efficient strategy seems to be to slog through a shitty job and then pursue your personal interests which, again, for most people, are likely to be low-paying.


jacob
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Post by jacob »

@S_W - But it's not a given that 8 hours per day has to suck and that one has to fight to make sure that those 8 hours don't extend to 9 or 10. It's only the case insofar one insists on a well-paying, say $30k+ or more per year job.
However, that insistence equals 40 years of 8 hours or 20 years of wake-time. Unless the personal opportunity cost of that is zero (nothing better to do than watching sitcoms) and it's only done for the money ... then sure. Otherwise life is too short.
If there is an opportunity cost (because it's better to do something interesting but low paying for those 20 years than doing something boring in order to make $20k extra in order to live like 90% of the population), then ERE is an alternative. (I'm not talking about the FI/RE but the other principles: resilience, serendipity, doing interesting stuff,...)


dot_com_vet
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Post by dot_com_vet »

m741 is right on: "First off, if you have a degree, you don't need any more certification"
There are so many certs, I usually have to look them up to know what they heck they mean these days.


Tyler9000
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Post by Tyler9000 »

At the risk of overgeneralizing, in my personal experience a disproportionate number of "hard workers" who habitually (more than just for special deadlines) put in excessive hours working for someone other than themselves are either 1) young and single with nothing better to do, or 2) avoiding going home because of family/relationship issues.
Work/life balance is what you make of it, and in those cases they struck the balance they were most comfortable with. It just happened to involve much more work than life/home because that was the lesser of two evils (even as they complained about it publicly).
BTW, I've also worked for a company where the owner would literally call you 24/7 and you were contractually obligated to answer the phone. I quit within a few months -- boundaries are an important part of self respect.


buzz
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Post by buzz »

I'm worried about the calling part especially. They want to pay for my phone. "Get anything you want, as long as it's a smart phone. Set up the email to work email, and pick up when we call you."


Tyler9000
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Post by Tyler9000 »

Personal policy -- never allow a company to pay for your personal phone. If they get you a work phone, keep your own for personal use and leave the office one on mute and in a drawer as soon as you get home and are no longer on-call (better yet, leave it at the office).
Also (and I learned this the hard way), never ever access your work email via your personal phone. It can become a serious addiction. I shut that down about a year ago and it's amazing how that "work/life balance" thing gets so much easier when you consciously reduce the amount of work you allow into the life side of the ledger.


buzz
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Post by buzz »

>leave the office one on mute
I wish. The whole point is for them to reach me 24/7. I'd probably get fired for this.


Tyler9000
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Post by Tyler9000 »

Well at that point it's a personal decision. Luckily, a job is not a permanent commitment -- there's no harm in trying it out to see how it works for you in practice. Also, you might try searching LinkedIn for other people at the company that you can talk to in order to gauge how reality matches with what you were told in the interview. Who knows -- maybe it's not so bad.
BTW, I just had an interesting conversation with my wife on the work/life topic. She thinks my original reply above is a load of crap -- go figure ;) -- and that work/life balance is definitely a myth. From her perspective, and having read a bit about the female pop-culture fantasy of "having it all" (career, family, personal life) she definitely believes that no matter what you do, when you split your commitments between such fundamentally opposing things you will always feel guilty for prioritizing one over another or doing less in one than you feel you should/could have if only you had more time.
That's one of her personal motivations for saving towards FI -- to give her the freedom to more casually work at something she enjoys without the pressure to sacrifice other things in the process.


m741
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Post by m741 »

Glassdoor.com is a good resource for 'insider info' on what a company is like. But remember there's a lot of diversity within companies as well.


Spartan_Warrior
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Post by Spartan_Warrior »

@Jacob: I don't really understand your point, especially re: 40 years. I'm just saying the higher paying jobs tend to require greater sacrifice and often involve greater suckiness (bureaucracy, butt-kissing, etc is all going to suck no matter what you're doing), yet at the same time, using ERE principles, you'll be stuck there less time. No need for 40 years.
Of course there are exceptions where people find personal satisfaction in what they're doing AND are highly paid, but when you consider that both the number of jobs that offer personal satisfaction is small (varies per individual), and the number of jobs that are highly paid (at the top of the pyramid) is small, then the combination of the two must be REALLY small.
TL;DR: If you enjoy your high paying job you are in the lucky minority.
@buzz: This job sounds increasingly shitty to me. Personally, I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. But YMMV.
(::Prays this post will even show up for others since the forum is apparently eating mine now::)
(Aaand we're back to this shit either way. "Retry for a live version" you piece of shit. Frustration level heading toward peak...)


Spartan_Warrior
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Post by Spartan_Warrior »

@Jacob: I don't really understand your point, especially re: 40 years. I'm just saying the higher paying jobs tend to require greater sacrifice and often involve greater suckiness (bureaucracy, butt-kissing, etc is all going to suck no matter what you're doing), yet at the same time, using ERE principles, you'll be stuck there less time. No need for 40 years.
Of course there are exceptions where people find personal satisfaction in what they're doing AND are highly paid, but when you consider that both the number of jobs that offer personal satisfaction is small (varies per individual), and the number of jobs that are highly paid (at the top of the pyramid) is small, then the combination of the two must be REALLY small.
TL;DR: If you enjoy your high paying job you are in the lucky minority.
@buzz: This job sounds increasingly shitty to me. Personally, I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. But YMMV.
(::Prays this post will even show up for others since the forum is apparently eating mine now::)
(Aaand we're back to this shit either way. "Retry for a live version" you piece of shit. Frustration level heading toward peak...)


LiquidSapphire
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Post by LiquidSapphire »

Honestly, if work/life balance is a big thing to you... get a federal government job. People that work more than 40 hours do it because of the reasons above (don't want to be home, etc) or because their ego is so huge they feel they have to (even though they really don't.) You probably don't "really" have to work more than 40 until you hit GS-14 and up and that won't happen to you for a long while.
Seriously, apply for any job in the government you can find on usajobs.com. Even the GS-3s. Even if they pay SHIT. Because the hardest part is getting into the government. Just get your foot in the door, and watch the promotions fly. Plus the government is full of boomers who are starting to retire en masse so openings should be coming up more and more often. If you can get a GS-7 IT Specialist job, that would be gravy and I would encourage you to do that.
Oh, and for PTO, take a cruise. Your phone doesn't work out there. Are they really going to tell you you can't go?


llorona
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Post by llorona »

I agree with Liquid Sapphire -- working for the federal government may be the way to go. Public employees usually have great benefits, plus some of them are actually prohibited from working more than 40 hours per week.
You could also go the nonprofit route. Because jobs don't pay much, nonprofits tend to be nicer to their employees and offer a good work-life balance. This is a generalization, of course.


dragoncar
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Post by dragoncar »

I wouldn't generalize about government jobs. I know some federal employees who work the same amount I do, but get paid far less. Some jobs are simply results oriented regardless of hours. Sometimes you get a crappy supervisor. Stuff happens.
As Jacob mentioned with respect to the private sector, you are more likely to get a 9-5 if you take a low-level, low-paying job.


jacob
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Post by jacob »

@Spartan_Warrior -
What I meant was that people have different objectivetives when it comes to jobs:
1) Work the least possible for the most amount of money. Once FI, go on a long vacation. Then die.
2) Work the least possible for the most possible. Spend it all on fun and because you deserve it.
3) Work as hard as possible to rise in the ranks. Spend it all on status symbols.
4) Work as hard as possible ... become FI, then take a life-long vacation.
5) Do interesting work. Spend it all on status symbols.
6) Do interesting work. Save enough money to be FI in order to different kinds of with when the first work gets boring.
And possibly others ...
(6) is what I do. ERE makes it easier to do because salary/income is not an issue. I can thus choose work that pays diddly and still do it.
(5) is, I believe, the "all you gotta do is be passionate about your work" fallacy which leads to bitterness, burnout, or long-term unemployment.
(4) is the E-R strategy. If you make enough you can have a very early early retirement.
(3) is the pay-check consumer middle class solution. Universally adored. It's the Gervais-Clueless.
(2) Same as (3) but for the Gervais-Losers.
(1) is I think what's being suggested here. In that case may I also suggest looking at geographic difference. Western US and Southern Europe has a somewhat more relaxed attitude than NE-US and N-EU. Personally my caffein-level is far to high to enjoy the work-intensity in Spain or California :-) ... I'll probably die of a heart-attack ;0)


jacob
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Post by jacob »

"As a lower bound, you have to like your work more than any unproductive pleasure. You have to like what you do enough that the concept of "spare time" seems mistaken. Which is not to say you have to spend all your time working. You can only work so much before you get tired and start to screw up. Then you want to do something else—even something mindless. But you don't regard this time as the prize and the time you spend working as the pain you endure to earn it."
http://www.paulgraham.com/love.html


Chad
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Post by Chad »

Interestingly enough it appears I hit some of the unusual work/life balance spots. I'm salaried, but not allowed to bill more than 40 hours per week. This essentially means I rarely work more than 40 hours per week and some times I work less than 40 if a firm function takes up an 8 hour day (bi-monthly firm meetings). Plus, we get lots of time off.
Concerning government jobs, and I have worked for almost every type of organization from small firms to Fortune 500 to a government contractor, some gov't jobs are very easy and some are very hard. It just depends on the position and the agency. Generally, the jobs that are life and death or semi-connected to life and death (intelligence) require a shit ton of work, and attracts people willing to do that. On the opposite side, you have way more secretaries in government than you have in private industry and the majority of them are rather useless compared to the few secretaries that survive in private industry.
"boomers who are starting to retire en masse so openings should be coming up more and more often."
Liquid Sapphire is dead on with that. Lots of openings in Fed management and not a ton of candidates because of the average age of Fed employees is so high.


Dragline
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Post by Dragline »

I largely agree with SW's comments and brutal realism.
Curious to know the age of the person that interviewed you, Buzz. Sounds like someone who is in at least 45 and who has trouble managing Millennials. You asked a generational-type question for your age group and got a generational-type answer for an older X-er or a younger Boomer.
You need to look at this job two ways. First, what are they paying now; and Second, what can you get out of it in terms of skills or promotion long term (like within 3 years). Treat every job like you are going there to learn something, not to earn something. If you can learn something useful, its worth more effort than not. But most jobs don't offer that or top out on the learning component pretty quickly.


jacob
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Post by jacob »

I want to give some more air-time to the idea of pursuing interests (rather than sacrificing time for money) and using ERE principles to ease the financial restrictions(*) that a normal consumer life puts on workers. It's true that some jobs exhaust themselves in terms of what can be learned rather quickly. On the other hand, some do not ...
Here's my list of how long it took before the interest was exhausted and things began to feel repetitive, unchallenging, and intellectually mundane (my personal definition of hell)
shelf-stocking: one month

warehouse work: three days

physics: 10 years

copy-editing: 1 year

blogging: 3 years

trading: so far so good


buzz
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Post by buzz »

I like the idea Jacob, but most of my interests I either wouldn't be able to earn a living off of right now (finance) or would only be able to live off of with a large starting capital (home repair)
In addition, I don't enjoy doing the same thing for more than 3 or 4 hours at a time, even if I love what I'm doing.
So instead, I have decided on earning as much as possible until FI, vacationing, then doing interesting work, with vacation time whenever work becomes uninteresting: a hybrid of (1) and (6)
Maybe my problem is just that I have not been able to find a career that really interests me enough to devote 50 hours a week to pursuing. I wish society would be more flexible with work. I'd love to work two very different jobs, one before lunch and one after, and then be able to forget about both when I go home to read, cook, and exercise.


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