Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The balance of power, health and overtime

I came across this classic essay by Jerry Weinberg on Daniel Read's site.

The article is posted in response to some of the recent scrutiny of programmer abuse in the game development industry. Jerry's article points to our own role in maintaining a balance.

I'm also reminded of Dale Emery's post Aggregation and Power. There's a natural power embalance in most employement relationships, simply because companies have many employees, and most people only have one employer. Losing one employee isn't a big blow to an employer (they can always find more), but losing an income is usually a big blow to an individual, especially when the job market is tight.

Unless you have "f**k you money" it's hard to feel like there's a balance. But there are things an individual can do, if not to equalize the power, at least create a sitaution of more choice.

  • Keep your network active. Don't get into a situation where all your professional colleagues work at one place. Lots of people find jobs through word of mouth; knowing lots of people in lots of places helps your chances.
  • Always keep your resume up-to-date. Be ready to look for a job.
  • Know what the employement options are in your area. When I was a corporate employee, I did a job search every couple of years so I would know what was available, and how valuable my skills were in the marketplace. And it gave me practice interviewing.
  • Continue to invest in your own skills so you continue to be valuable in the market place. Take advantage of corporate training or tuition reimbursement. If your company doesn't offer that, seek training on your own. Waiting for your employer to upgrade your skills is abdicating responsibility for your career.
  • Save money. I have a friend who has a years worth of salary in the bank. He can walk away from his job without panic. A year of salary may sound daunting. Start by putting your latest raise into automatic savings. Then start saving at least 10% of your income.
  • Notice when the balance of power starts to tips too far.

    You may need your employer more than he needs you, but you don't have to roll over.
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