Saturday, May 08, 2010

It's Just a Job

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where today's sermon mulls the tricky topic of employment.

In the 20th century, many people had careers. They worked their whole lives in the same factory, office, school, firehouse, you name it. I don't see that happening anywhere anymore, except perhaps in the health care industry.

All of us are now in danger of being part of the next Reduction in Force, the next Revised Head Count. First they closed the factories, then they closed the computer-based service industries, then the computer rendered obsolete all sorts of newspapers and reference books (that was my career). Soon, I'm told, voice-activated software and robot-driven factories will put all the foreign workers out on the street.

I think about this because my husband, once again, stands at the precipice of RIF. As a first-year teacher, I hold only a tenuous grip on my job. Two springs from now, our daughter The Heir will enter the workforce.

In this century, we will have to re-think the whole notion of career. What faith, love, and energy we might have put into our workplaces will be -- and should be -- re-directed. Where should we direct it? Toward our dreams, our visions, and what we now call "hobbies." Why should we re-direct it? Because in this brave new world, we are "heads" and not "hearts."


Deep inside a jewelry box, preserved as sacred relics, sit five little pins that belonged to my grandfather. They are "perfect safety" awards from his workplace, the American Celanese Corporation. He earned one for his department every five years, like clockwork. When he retired after 45 years of service, the company put his name up on its entrance in big letters and gave him a gold watch. I never heard him utter a single complaint about Amcel, either when he worked there or after he retired.

My daughter The Heir shows many traits that remind me of Granddad. Alas, there exists no Amcel in which she could begin at the bottom, learn skills, and perfect machinery. My advice to her will be, "Get a roof over your head and then follow your dreams." Maybe I'll even tell her to forget about the roof. They leak after awhile.

"Job satisfaction" and "job security" are becoming oxymorons. If you're sure your dream is safe in your cubicle, you go. If not, blaze onward until the wee hours making music, making art, making other kinds of dreams come true. They can take your job away, but they can't take the you out of you.


Laura said...

I really enjoyed this post. I've been with my company for 11 1/2 years and am completely miserable. I come home almost every day in tears and have to literally fight myself to get up and go in each day.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

They say that a career in the trades will be more stable and lucrative in the coming years than any kind of university or computer training. Because this type of work is "hands on," it cannot be outsourced to the third world or wherever, i.e., a plumber has to actually show up at your house to fix the toilet. There's good money to be made, if people can just get over the old assumption that the trades are "second class" career choices.

PaigeKate said...

My father worked for the same company for thirty years. He started out sweeping the floors and learned on the job and is now one of the best people at his job and enjoyed it until he was let go. I only hope Heir and Spare are so fortunate to be able to be able to do that. Just remember, a degree doesn't make you good at something.

Mr64 said...

I've worked just about every kind of work, and in todays world, it's the work place (the man) that's going to win and we are going to lose (in most cases). So at the age of 45 I've started back to school to be a radiologist (xray tech). The baby boomers are aging and it seems the only plausable plan. With this you can take additional classes paid by the hospital. Your pay only goes up and up over time and I should have made this move from the beginning. Some day maybe I'll get to retire and they won't have to scrap me up with a shovel at walmart greeting people.