Get a life: Make work take back seat
Recently I read about a company with three full-timers whose only job is to make employee life fun. They plan outings, parties, raffles, all reportedly in an effort to "stave off headhunters" and to keep engineers working "12-15 hours days."
Here's a little note to the hundreds of employees at this company: Hello? Are you people morons? Why are you at a company that sucks up all your free time with work and then, as a bonus, sucks up the only hours you have left to sleep and shower? This is not an office with perks. This is serfdom. This is paternalism. This is the organization man of the new millennium.
If you're at a company like this one, you need to get a life. The only people who are willing to work at this kind of place have no life outside work. If you have friends who are not at the company, they're probably no longer your friends. If you have a family and you work at a company like this, you'll get what you deserve: Kids who have no relationship with you.
And do not, I repeat, do not tell me that you have to work at a place like this because of the incredible projects you get to work on. People who are truly talented do not have to suffer draconian hours and insulting "perks" in order to be assigned good projects. In fact, people who are amazing at their job are smart enough to live a life outside of their job.
You are surrounded by sub-par workers when you work at a place that does not respect employees' personal lives– because only sub-par workers put up with that.
What about the "paying dues" theory? That's an excuse you use for having someone else take care of your career path. Sure, you can play the law firm or consulting firm game, and put in long hours just because the rule is that you put in long hours to get to the next level. But you don't need to.
You can make your own path, which is not so far-fetched if you're good at what you do. You can freelance, you can work at a small firm, or you can become an entrepreneur. The demographic starting businesses at the fastest rate is 18-34. Now you know why.
My brother is a grunt at an investment banking firm. He has been working 20-hour days without anyone batting an eye. When he looks above himself, he sees people who don't have a lot of control over their workloads and they don't seem particularly happy. So he's leaving the bank for a smaller firm where people have lives.
This is why: The smartest people in the world are in a position where they have control over their work and room to nurture a personal life.
You might say, "But they paid their dues." I say, Who cares? It's a new world, and there's no reason to have to pay dues just because older generations were not creative or independent enough when they thought about their careers.
And wait. Everyone who is about to send mail to me about how "young people need to learn to work hard" think about this: There are many ways to work hard. Thinking rigorously and putting one's heart into a job are different from working long hours. In fact, I'd say of those three options, long hours is the biggest cop-out.
So work with your heart and your mind, and make sure you have time to use both of those in your personal life, too.