Aug 04 2011

Good Things Come to Those Who Ask

Maybe you’ve heard the saying “good things come to those who wait.” That’s all well and good, but I’d like to take some time point out that good things also come to those who look for them. I changed jobs at the beginning of this year, and several people I know were curious as to how I managed it. It’s because I asked. I sought. For months.1

In and Out

Most of my professional life has been like this. At my first job, I happened to work at In’N’Out. I thought I was going to be in the service industry for the rest of my life. It was my living, and every pay raise meant more of a living. It took me 4 months to get 3 promotions. The next promotion took longer only because the skill required was much tougher. There were some other employees around me that would complain and murmur. Most of them had been working there for much longer than I had, and yet I quickly passed them by. They had no idea why I had gotten promoted so quickly.

I asked for them.

In order to get promotions, you had to work on the next skill. You had to be good at it (which only really took hard work), and you had to have a manager write up a review. You needed 4 passing reviews to be eligible for the next promotion. So every day, at a less busy hour, I would ask my manager to put me on the next station, and I would ask for a review. They would often forget to pay attention enough to give me a review, but since I would ask so often, I rather quickly gained all my reviews for each level. The other employees? They just sat around, some working hard, some hardly working, thinking that the manager would one day put them on the next position. They thought they’d get their promotions eventually, by waiting.

Entering the Tech World

Eventually, I started to wonder if I could put my programming knowledge to use in a professional way. I scoured Craigslist, and eventually found a nice listing that didn’t require me to have a degree, instead only requiring that I pass some programming challenges. I showed up and passed all the challenges. However, the CEO was busy, and didn’t pay much attention to my application status. So, I called the executive assistant of the office, and asked to remind the CEO of my application. Every day. Finally, one of those days, the assistant replied back that my persistence paid off: the CEO had considered my application, and was preparing an offer letter.

‘Expect to be a slave’

Fast forward a little, and I was at my previous company. I loved it there. The guys rock, and my job was almost always interesting. Only a few things about it killed me. It tried to be a SaaS company, and I had done a lot of work on that application. I love application development. However, since the revenue from the subscriptions revenue was growing too slowly, the company had to revert to servicing clients to pay the bills. That meant my job had largely changed from application development to brochure website CSS development. I personally find that less interesting, and the clients tend to be frustrating. At the same, while we had put a lot of work into the software platform, very few people were using it, and hardly any were appreciating it.

I spoke to someone during the summer of last year about wanting to be in a different place professionally. I had hopes and dreams about how we as a company (myself included) could focus on areas that would make us better, and have more fun at the same time. I was advised that I’m young, and I’ve got several years to go before I should expect to be at a good place. I’m in the years of having to slave away. That isn’t the first time I’ve heard such a notion.

As I left school, and headed into the working class, my father mentioned that right now I should expect to be a slave to my work, so that I could eventually be in place where I don’t have to. Friends, roommates, and colleagues have tried to pound this idea into me ever since, and I’ve just been too stubborn to believe it.

Moving On

After a severe car accident, the combination of the higher bills, my boredom, and uncertainty of my job security got me looking for a different job. I researched companies that I would love to work at, sent out resumes, customized cover letters, and did plenty of phone interviews. After several months of looking, I started to wonder if I should just stay content with what I had, because it takes a lot of effort to continuously job search.

Thankfully, I kept looking and asking, and found a new rockin’ place to work at Mozilla. I started contracting in January 2011, and hired full-time in April. I work on Add-on Builder, so my desire of making an application that many people use is satisfied. I work with very awesome people, and for a company who wants its products to be the awesomest they can be.

Don’t be afraid to ask

I don’t say all of this to brag, or say “look at me”. I want to give an example of how it is possible to get what you want. People who get what they want, get it because they aren’t quiet about wanting it. Don’t be afraid to ask about what you need to do to get to the position you want. Ask your manager what you could improve on to get a promotion. Or ask that company you’ve been eyeing to hire you. You have to assume you are a good fit for the job, and then ask for it2.

  1. What follows is a bit of life story, including only the bits where I asked and asked for something better. 

  2. It should go without saying, but I must say it anyways: you must also be hard working and decent at what you do. 

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