Do you remember the days back in sixth grade when everything you owned had to say Limited Too on it? If it wasn’t advertising “Limited Too Cheerleading Camp” then you weren’t interested. Eventually you graduated to Abercrombie and Fitch, and proudly had A+F emblazoned across your chest for several academic years. Later on, it became less about A+F and more about designer jeans. Girls went crazy for jeans by Seven for All Mankind and Citizens of Humanity. These things were more than pieces of denim, they were like status symbols. Status symbols that made your butt look good, I guess.
Now that we’re out of college and are older and wiser, we don’t live and die by brand name clothes. Sure, we love designer outfits and looking nice, but it’s become more than just what you wear. After college, your life fills the status symbol role once held by your clothes or your Baby G watch. Where you live and where you work speak as much about you as the clothes you wore did during tenth grade.
Have you ever noticed that people are automatically impressed when they hear someone works for a big name company? It doesn’t matter if that person is the assistant to the assistant coffee getter, or hates every waking minute of their time spent at their job, the fact that they landed a position at that company is enough to make others impressed. When speakers come back to my school, they’re always defined by the year the graduated and where they currently work. I know it would be weird to write, “Come see John Smith speak. He works at this big company that you buy stuff from, but actually feels like no one appreciates him. But still come see him. Class of 2008.” So instead they have to write “John Smith, ’08, XYZ Company.” But instead of getting googly over brands we recognize, I think it’s important to consider the lifestyle a person is living. While it’s exciting to work for a major company, it’s equally important to love your job. If you slave away from 8 am – 6pm every day and your boss doesn’t even know your name, is it really worth it? That’s not to say that all major companies lack respect for their employees. Not at all. There are many organizations that are household names and still make coming to work worthwhile. You just have to find that balance. Instead of going after the name brand, go after the lifestyle. If the lifestyle you want is available at a major company, then terrific. If you’ll only find it at a small firm, then pursue that option.
The awestruck reaction that comes when you fork over a business card emblazoned with a household name can be recreated. If you live in a fascinating place then you’re sure to get people who are impressed solely by your address. “You live in L.A.? Whoa!” Or “You moved abroad? Amazing!”
While these places may have ideal weather, it’s about more than just ditching your winter parka. So you jet off to San Diego. What are you going to do when you get there? Who will you spend time with? If the answer is “I’ll be unemployed” and “I’ll be 3,000 miles from anyone I’ve ever met” then maybe it isn’t the best decision. Again, you have to consider the lifestyle and not just the address. If you can learn something from spending time in another place, do it. If you’re going simply to impress people with your California driver’s license, skip it.
It’s easy to look with envy at someone’s job at a Fortune 500 company. But before you start feeling bad about your own position at a small firm, think about your lifestyle. Do you feel appreciated? Do you enjoy your work? Do you have room to grow? Then that’s what matters. This is also true as you scrape snow off of your car or sweat to death in the summer. Before you consider any move, think about the lifestyle that you will await you. This matters more than what your business cards say or what zipcode you live in. If you know you’ll learn a lot, make connections, and gain experience, go. Focus less on how it looks to other people. I’ve read the quote “Go where you’re loved; go where you’re nurtured” a lot, and I think it’s great advice.
Do you ever feel like we’re brand name obsessed when it comes to where we work?
P.S. I realized I’m a complete ding dong and never congratulated Karla! She won my tshirts.com giveaway. Congratulations, Karla! She picked a Bayside Tigers t-shirt (from Saved by the Bell), which I appreciated. Good choice, Karla!