I’ve been reading a lot of posts and articles lately about people trying to get into this business or that, and about people being marginalized while trying to get into this business or that, and it struck me that while discrimination is never acceptable, the premise of having a boss also needs to be considered. Where it used to be the case that jobs were offered by companies that had been in business a while, in industries where get-rick-quick schemes were not common, let alone the main product, when it comes to working in tech the opposite is often true. In fact, if you take a job in tech, including interactive entertainment, it’s quite possible that the human beings cutting your checks will be money junkies posing as entrepreneurs.
What is a money junkie? Well, as the name suggests, a money junkie is someone who will do anything they can to make money. Unlike a normal businessperson who wants to do business, and more importantly keep doing business, a money junkie is determined to burn through as many resources as possible in pursuit of money, including those human resources called employees.
If you’re a money junkie yourself there might be some benefit in working for a money junkie, because they really do know how to squeeze the last drop of productivity from a human being before casting the desiccated corpse aside. If you’re not, however — and particularly if other human beings rely on your paycheck — the last thing you want to do is sign on to work for a money junkie. Yet that’s probably not what you’ve been told.
What you’ve been told is that by allying yourself with a money junkie you can make heaping piles of money, and in some extremely rare instances that does happen. Not surprisingly, the people pushing that million-to-one-shot message are the money junkies, because they need all the eager, bushy-tailed employees they can get. It’s like that when you’re a money junkie, because the employees who were bushy-tailed six months ago will soon fail to demonstrate loyalty, initiative and drive by impertinently cracking apart at the seams.
You may be thinking you’re too smart to be exploited by a money junkie. You may be thinking you’ve got the right stuff to succeed no matter who you work for. You may believe you’ve got to take any job to get your foot in the door. No, no and no.
Your job, before you take a job, is to avoid working for people who are going to grind you down and have an unpaid intern sweep your shavings into the trash. Fortunately, particularly in the tech world, there’s a way to test the waters without naively exposing yourself to money junkie abuse.
The Freelance Gambit
Freelancing is hard, and anybody who says otherwise is a liar. Or a money junkie. Even when it’s going good — and that’s rarely the case — freelancing is never easy. But.
In a marketplace where salaried employees are often treated like disposable assets, where job security is nonexistent, where worker rights are nonexistent, and where the expectation is that you will either work for free or kill yourself for a minimal salary, scraping by while being your own boss may not only be preferable, it may provide you with critical intel, including which companies are and are not run by money junkies.
Because if there’s one thing that sucks more than freelancing its suddenly finding out that the paycheck you love is no longer interested in seeing you. When you’re freelancing you don’t have to live with that risk, and in the tech industry and the interactive industry, and, come to think of it, pretty much every industry you can think of these days, employment itself is a risk. Losing a job doesn’t just mean upheaval, but yes, that. It doesn’t just mean another agonizing and demeaning job search, but yes, that. What it also means is having to change your mindset, which happens to be particularly difficult when you’re feeling abused, abandoned, rejected, depressed and angry.
When you freelance you don’t have to change gears. You may get discouraged or bite your nails to the quick, but you’ll always know who you’re hustling for and the hustle will never change. You won’t get the worthless stock options that they’re giving at the sexy new startup you’re gigging for, but you won’t be eating a pink slip either, and you’ll still get paid. You may not have the cachet of someone working on the next big thing, but if you play a small part as a freelancer that still goes on your resume. You may not have a steady job, but most of the people who hire you won’t have the same job in a year or two, if they have a job at all. Ironically, the connections you make when you complete your work on time and on budget may even survive the companies that employ you, providing more effective job security, not less.
If you’re young you’ve got a long road ahead of you and a lot to learn not only about the world but about yourself. If you’re not young you can’t afford to make any mistakes, and the biggest mistake you cannot afford to make is working for a money junkie. Yes, it’s cool to have a job, and yes, it’s fun to gamble and shoot for the moon. But if you’re going to do those things you want to do them with people who are not going to suck you dry and dump your remains by the side of the information highway.
Money junkies will not only happily work you to death, doing so is part of their business plan.
— Mark Barrett