Before I went to law school, I worked at Via Center, a special education center in Berkeley. The job was difficult but rewarding. On Fridays, after a long week dealing with problematic behaviors, physical injuries, and minor property damage, we would often go to a nearby bar to relax. We drank cheap beer, ate hot dogs, and talked about the things coworkers generally talk about: weekend plans, music, the weather. But the bulk of our conversation centered on our students. How can we help R control his behavior? Isn’t it amazing how much progress M has made? That thing that L did yesterday was pretty cool, wasn’t it?
After that job, I worked at Google in HR. At the end of a long week of reading resumes, talking to recruiters, and answering technical questions, we would often go to the company happy hour to relax. We drank craft beer, ate appetizers (chicken wings! sliders! chocolate chip cookies!), and talked about the things coworkers generally talk about: weekend plans, music, the weather. But we hardly ever talked about work. There really wasn’t much to say, and none of it was particularly gripping.
As much as I enjoyed my time at Google, I did miss those conversations at Via. The sense of camaraderie and fellowship in serving our students was rewarding. Some of those conversations led to new approaches and strategies we used with our students. We were all there to learn from each other and support each other.
Not every workplace will be like this, of course, and Via had its own problems. But I want to work in a place where there is a strong sense of vision. I was at a seminar today in which the speaker (the executive director of a civil rights nonprofit) said “Very few people in this country have a job that they love. Even fewer have a job that makes a meaningful impact. Even fewer make an impact on the most vulnerable.” I am excited to find a place to build on not just my own passion, but the passion of my team.
Not gonna lie, though. Those chocolate chip cookies were nice.