I once worked for someone who offered me the opportunity to work on a new project nearly every day. These projects were not the quick ones, where you spend 15 minutes and crank out a solution. They were crap work. And there were strings: my boss wanted to be informed about everything, and there was no way I’d get credit for anything.
I remember my response: “That sounds amazing, but it’s not for me. I’m busy enough.”
Saying no to your boss, especially as often as I did, was thought to be risky to your career. I was the new kid, which is why I was getting all of these shit jobs thrown at me.
The diversity of skill sets needed to accomplish them would have made me look bad (perhaps the subtle point of this initiation). Furthermore, my already heavy workload would have gotten heavier with projects that didn’t move me forward. This was my first introduction to busywork.
My well-intentioned colleagues were surprised. “You’re not going to get anywhere with that attitude,” they’d pull me aside to tell me. The problem was that I wasn’t going to get anywhere by saying yes to a lot of jobs that consumed a lot of time, were not the reason I was hired, and left me no time to develop the craft of programming computers, which is what I wanted to do.
I had turned down a job offer for three times what I was being paid at this job because I wanted to work with the best people in the world on a very particular skill — a skill I couldn’t legally get anywhere but at an intelligence agency.
Anything that got in the way of honing that craft was the enemy.
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