In the spring of 2002 I had been out of work for 4 months and was living with my parents. I had been working in computer-related jobs for the previous 4 years, but at that point I was beginning to question my career path. The “dot-com bust” was still fresh, and there weren’t a ton of companies in my area looking for an IT “generalist” with only a few years of experience.
Then one day I received word from my uncle that an appliance store in my home town was looking for some summer help (delivering and installing), and he had put in a good word for me already with the owner. I jumped at the opportunity. My savings were gone from my last job, and I had recently floated a loan from my dad in order to pay for some car repairs, which I was anxious to pay off. In my mind, any kind of positive cash flow was a huge blessing. I started in late April.
I think I made around $8.00/hour that spring and early summer, working around 6-7 hours a day. It was a relaxed atmosphere and easy for me to learn and master the job duties. By June, I was the owner’s right-hand man when he went out on advanced repair jobs. He was a great guy to work with.
All the while, I still had my feelers out for IT work. In July I got a call from a company I had worked for previously, they told me that another computer-installation contract job was coming up and they’d like me to help. It was going to pay $12.50/hour. I felt bad for jumping ship only halfway through the summer, but the owner of the appliance store already knew that I wanted to stick to IT work if I could. I put in my two weeks notice.
On one of my last days I was out with the owner on an installation project and he said to me “you’ve got a lot of potential in appliance repair, and I’ve enjoyed having you over the last few months. If you’re interested in making a career out of it I’ll hire you today, and pay you $30,000/year to start”.
I didn’t blink. I didn’t have to deliberate.
“I really appreciate the offer” I said, “but this is not where I see myself working 5 years from now”. He understood, and I moved on.
Up And To The Right
That computer installation project job lasted about 4 months. After that I was hired as an IT generalist for a small insurance firm making $31,000, and I’ve been working for them ever since– around 11 years now. My salary has more than doubled and I’m working in a field that I really enjoy.
Still, I can’t help wondering what would have happened if I had taken that appliance store job 11 years ago? Would things have been different? I still remember my uncle telling me I was a fool to pass up a job like that. His quote was “you could have a very comfortable career making $35,000 or $40,000 a year”. Which is definitely true, but that wasn’t what I expected for myself.
See, my own expectations for my life were guiding my thoughts and decisions. I was firm and resolute in my direction. I just couldn’t envision myself settling for a job that my heart wasn’t in.
The Power Of Expectations
I’m convinced that all of us have experiences like this, whether we recognize them or not. We all walk around with expectations for ourselves and those around us, and we make a TON of our day-to-day decisions based on those expectations.
Some of us expect to retire and play golf from age 65 to 100, which means that many of our life’s decisions are based on that expectation. Some of us don’t plan on retiring at all! We have expectations surrounding housing, marriage, children, jobs, hobbies, friends… in every area of our lives we have preconceived notions of what “normal” is, and we try to shape ourselves into that mould.
Many times our expectations limit our potential, too. Personally, I would never apply for a position that pays double what I make, because I don’t see myself as worth that much. I’m content with my salary (it’s as much as my own expectations ever reached), so I don’t strive to earn more. However, if I were to receive a 33% pay cut, you can bet that I would be hustling like crazy or changing jobs entirely in order to bring my salary back into my “expected” range.
I envy the personality of many small business owners that says “sure, we can handle that”, and then scrambles to figure it out after the fact. Those people always seem to set their expectations high and then walk into them, but they assume a ton of risk along the way. Someone I talked to yesterday described one of these small business owners as having the “intestinal fortitude” to run a business like that for 30+ years.
What Do You Expect?
This is kind of a “big picture” post, but it’s a topic I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately. Our own expectations have a lot to say about how we live and what we go after in life, but do we even understand what our own expectations are? Do we understand the expectations of those around us?
My encouragement to you is this: take some time this week to think about your expectations. Write them down, if you can. Then try to determine how your expectations have brought you to where you are now, and where they will take you going forward.
Are you where you want to be? Do you think your expectations too high? Too low? Totally unreasonable? Coming to terms with your own expectations can tell you a lot about yourself, and will help you to set realistic goals for your future.
So how about you? What expectations do you have for yourself or others around you? How have your expectations in life shaped you into who you are today? Leave us a note in the comments!