Continuing from [A Gamer’s Primer to the Career Meta, Part 1]…
A lot of people I’ve worked with don’t like changing jobs. The process is stressful, secretive, and often feels like a betrayal of the team - especially if you’re considering leaving while there’s an approaching goal on the horizon. So this brings up a natural question - why put yourself through all this and change jobs if you don’t have to? Let me provide two major reasons that work very well together as to why you should consider it.
Teammates vs Alliances
It’s easy to think of your employer and your coworkers like teammates in a match of League of Legends. It feels like you’re collaborating with each other and working toward a common goal. Any strategic wins are wins for the whole team. Any losses are setbacks for the whole team. Your goal is to reach the goal and enjoy the whole team’s win. Maybe you’ll go your separate ways after the match is over, but you’re all in it together until then. This is what the corporate world wants you to believe.
In reality, your relationship to your employer is a lot more like an alliance with another player (or AI) in a game of Civilization (or Settlers of Catan). Both sides agree to the terms of the alliance early on, but either side can choose to break the alliance at any time if they find it convenient to do so. You might commit some of your forces to help your ally’s defenses when they’re under attack, but you probably won’t commit everything - especially if you have to fend off other enemies. You might commit some of your resources to your ally to help get them past a certain milestone and help you down the road, but you probably won’t give them everything. The alliance is only upheld so long as it is mutually beneficial. If a better opportunity comes along for one of the alliance members at the cost of the alliance with another player, sacrificing the alliance is often an easy price to pay - especially because you can often re-establish a new alliance later with a little tribute if you have to.
Within this framing, the decisions of the corporations makes a lot more sense - the company will always prioritize its own survival and health over the survival and health of its worker. If you decide to give more to the company than the company is willing to give you in return, that’s your decision and they will welcome anything extra you have to give. However, they will (almost) never do so for you. It is, therefore, only fair that you take a similar approach to them. You give them exactly what they ask for, but you should view the alliance with your company the exact same as they do - it’s a temporary agreement that you can put down if a better opportunity comes along and you can always re-establish a new alliance later with a little tribute if you have to.
Outleveling your Zone
When playing games like Final Fantasy 14, the playing environment is often divided up into discrete zones - environments that share a similar visual theme and have content that is tuned to a certain player power level. When a player first enters that zone, there’s often a period of rapid power growth - the quests are a little more difficult (but still doable), the enemies have a little more health and do higher DPS (but not overwhelmingly so), and the rewards are often significantly better than the zone you just left. There’s often a little adjustment period where you can’t just autopilot everything, but you soon get into the sense of flow and you advance through that zone content without any trouble. That’s when you’re leveling up the fastest.
As you near the end of the zone’s content, the new challenges and quests taper off. You can faceroll and autopilot just about everything in the zone. You’ve already gotten the choice gear from the zone, so most of any remaining rewards is basically just sent to the vendor. All you’ve got left are daily quests that you can farm forever if you so choose. You can choose to stay if you like, but you likely won’t continue to grow as much if you do - you actually might just get complacent and stagnate. It can be easy and comfortable (if a little boring) to do the same tasks without any change. However, no matter how much we like a particular leveling zone in a particular game, if you care about character growth then you need to recognize when it is time to move on.
“But Dev, what about internal promotions and pay raises?” you might ask.
Here’s the hard truth - I have never gotten a pay raise of over 5% of my salary in a single year without a promotion and pay raises generally only come if the company is doing well that year. The vast majority of my pay increases have come from changing jobs. The vast majority of my title advancements (from junior to mid-level to senior) have come from changing jobs. I very recently had to change jobs and I secured a sizable pay increase for myself when I did so. If I were to get 5% raises annually at my old job, it would still have taken nine years to catch up to my starting salary at my new job. While it is possible to secure pay increases and new responsibilities at the same employer, the drop rates are generally far smaller staying with an employer than they are when going to a new zone.
So Why Change Jobs?
If your goal is to level up your skills and get better gear, you should absolutely change zones once you realize you’ve outleveled your current one. If you want to protect yourself in case you worry your alliance member might betray you or go down, you should consider changing jobs. Outside of Japan (where working for the same company for life is culturally expected), I believe that judiciously changing jobs is the optimal way to level up your skills as a developer. Ultimately, your primary loyalty should be to yourself. Your company is never going to choose you over their own survival. If you don’t advocate for yourself, who will?
PS: It is important to note that leaving a job doesn’t necessarily mean leaving forever. If you leave an employer on good terms, it is entirely possible to come back after you’ve leveled up. That can be an even better scenario - you can come back at a higher skill level, face more interesting challenges, and get rewarded more for doing it. If you can prove that you’ve leveled up during the time you were gone and the team needs the skills you can provide, you’d likely be welcomed back with open arms.
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