I was sat at my desk yesterday afternoon when a gopher arrived with some post for my boss that needed to be signed for. As my boss was at his desk, I paid this no mind until he then turned to me and handed me the post. It was an envelope containing a card signed by the Managing Director and congratulating me on ten years of service.
Technically speaking, I suppose that I have only actually worked for this company for about half of that time - I formally left when I went to go and work for the joint venture that built the company website in 2000 for three pretty happy years at the height on the dot com boom, and then after my return, I was outsourced to a completely separate company for a couple of years in 2004...before being insourced back last August. My service, however, has legally been deemed to be continuous. As far as the company is concerned, I joined them on 15th September 1997 and have been working for them ever since.
Far from seeing this as cause for congratulation, I find the whole thing a little bit depressing, to be honest. There's no such thing as a job for life. I don't think anybody now seriously thinks that they will remain with one company throughout their working life. The concept of loyal service has been pretty comprehensively exploded, to the advantage of both the worker and the employer. So how come I'm now 33 and I'm sitting in front of a PC working for the same company I joined when I was 23? Shouldn't I be doing something else by now? Something better?
Of course, if I have to point fingers, then the icy finger of blame here points squarely at me: I could have left; I could have gone looking for another job somewhere else, perhaps somewhere that would pay me more or get me to the top faster. I haven't done these things, and at the end of the day that's the reason I'm still here. If I'd really wanted to move on, then I would have moved on.
Does this mean I love my job?
Does this mean that there are things keeping me here other than my job? Does this mean that my career isn't the most important thing in my life? Absolutely.
My office is a ten minute drive from my house on a bad day. I see my wife and I sleep in my own bed almost every night of the week. Hell, I met my wife here. I work long hours, but mainly because I choose to. The flip side of that is that I often stroll into the office after 9am and have a relatively slow start to the morning, and no one really bats an eyelid as I do my work and I more than do my hours and people know this. I am able to pop out at lunchtimes and go running alongside the river, or leave the office early because I have to pop into town. I can work at home if I want to. I've been here for while and I do a good job. People generally let me get on with it.
The bottom line is that although I could earn more money somewhere else, I get paid reasonably well and I get time to do the things that are more important to me than getting on at work. I don't love my job, it's true... but I don't hate it either and it keeps my mind engaged most of the time (and I increasingly find all of the machinations and office politics amusing more than anything else, which perhaps tells its own story about how involved I am).
If you could have said to the 23 year old me in 1997 who really thought that he wanted to be Managing Director that this is what I would have become, then I think he would have sneered at you.... but frankly, what the fuck does he know?
Incidentally, my congratulations card came with a £25 "bonus bond" voucher (that's about 1p per day here). A quick look at the leaflet that comes with this reveals that I can spend this at (amongst other places) Threshers. So perhaps it's not all bad news.
*blows tiny party horn*
The milky bars are on me!