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I've recently started to look for a new job in my web development career, applying to several places. Not wanting to be very picky, I applied to a lot of jobs where the required set of responsibilities fits my experience, without putting much consideration as to what their primary product or service is. I only took some consideration the age of the company and how reputable they are in their industry.

IT jobs are common in almost every organization. Some do business making X and others are non-profits contributing Y and Z. Naturally some industries interest me more than others, and others not so much. As an example there is a web developer job available for a fashion magazine publisher. The job fits the description of what I am looking for, which is web software development with a possible opportunity to learn new languages. The industry that the company participates in, however is not really a great fit with my interests. So I may show passion in the work that I do, but not so much the end product (if they offer me a complimentary magazine I take it simply as a good gesture).

Is it fair to the employer to apply for work if you cannot see yourself fitting in with what they are producing, or would it be a waste of my time and theirs? To me, it seems like a more intimate relationship with corporate interests is needed, since it's not like taking a fast food cook job. Because of that I feel like the passion and interest in the end product could mean the difference between being able to move up to a significant role in the company and just going through the motions.

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    I would say that if they are looking for a web developer with an interest in fashion magazines, they limit theirselves to a small part of the population. I would rather make sure that you feel comfortable yourself in the team. – Bernhard Nov 8 '14 at 10:29
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    I would say that the only time you shoudl worry aboutthis is if the end product is something you find morally offensive or illegal. I could not work in the porn industry in any position for any amount of money nor could I work for a cigarette company for instance. (I have lost 5 people to diseases caused by smoking.) – HLGEM Nov 9 '14 at 18:33
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In my view, in a professional job we develop software not because we like or need the end result, but to solve our customers' problems. (So there is a notable difference compared to open source development where we are typically solving our own problems, being among the users of the software.)

In my career up to now, I have been working on software handling car rentals, SGML/XML document management, mobile network design, airline checkin, telecom data processing etc. - hardly anything I myself could even indirectly use in my normal life. And that's just fine. I found my motivation in delivering working software which solved our users' problems, thus making them satisfied and happy. I was gratified by the smiles on users' or coworkers' face - or oftentimes, when we couldn't even meet face to face, by their emails thanking for the good job I did, and telling how it made their life easier. And even without such feedback, often it was enough to just know that I did a good job, I gave my best, and I produced something I am happy to put my name on, and to think back to later.

Although it certainly helps, you don't need to be profoundly interested in the domain, or the end product, of the software you are working on. You can find the motivation within if you look for it. Actually, one aspect of being a professional is the ability to find and keep up your inner motivation of the good craftsman, which ensures you produce consistently good results.

(This is not to say you should do just any work you are offered - naturally there are limits to our skills and interests, not to mention ethical considerations like not wanting to work for shady businesses, companies producing stuff harmful for people's health or the environment etc. My point is just that IMHO you may be limiting your sphere of interest too much.)

Note also that it is acceptable to apply for jobs you aren't that much interested in, simply to get experience in interviewing, improve your presentation / negotiation skills etc. And while talking to them in an interview, who knows - you might actually get interested in working with them! However, if you are absolutely sure you would never take that job, you shouldn't apply indeed.

  • Well, still beats my current subject: cows! :-) – Recipe Nov 10 '14 at 17:32
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Is it fair to the employer to apply for work if you cannot see yourself fitting in with what they are producing, or would it be a waste of my time and theirs? To me, it seems like a more intimate relationship with corporate interests is needed, since it's not like taking a fast food cook job.

From the hiring company's point of view, while excitement about the end product is nice, full engagement and full effort are really what is required.

Great web developers can work for web-development-centric companies. But great web developers can also work for companies where the company's core strength is elsewhere.

Many of us can generate sufficient passion about our specific profession and about our individual roles within an organization without needing to feel the same passion about the company's end product. Perhaps you cannot.

If you think interest in the end product is critical for you to give your full efforts in your job (rather than just going through the motions), then you should be very picky and avoid applying for these types of jobs. You are wasting their time, and more importantly wasting your time.

But if you are able to be more invested in your individual role such that your intimate relationship with corporate interests isn't paramount to your drive for achievement, then apply for these jobs and succeed anyway.

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There's more to a business than just an end product. Consider the people both the customers and everyone involved that makes everything work. You may find there's more to it than you think.

I worked as a programmer on a team that was dedicated to a law firm's accounting department. The team leader was great and so were all the other people, but we had nothing to do with the practice of law except sending bills. No courtroom drama or sitting on the balcony drinking 25 year old scotch and smoking cigars.

You're doing them a favor if you don't feel you'll be motivated. I've been fortunate to work in different industries and found all of them fascinating in their own way. I always make it a point to talk to people about their role in the company and to learn about the product and industry even if I'll never be a customer. I guess I'd rather work for good people regardless of the product or service.

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