In Praise of “Real Jobs”

I Hate My JobBeen getting more and more active on Twitter lately.  Well, that’s a relative statement, in that I’m not nearly as active as a lot of folks on there.  I’m mostly chillin’ in the background, chiming in here or there when I find something interesting.  It’s certainly provided me with a lot of things to think about lately, though. (By the way, if you find the type of stuff I write about interesting, you can always follow me here.)

For instance, I follow a guy named Chris Guillebeau, who writes on a site called The Art of Nonconfomity, and whose tweets I really enjoy.  His stuff’s a lot about being your own person, finding your voice, and doing what you’re meant to do in this life.  It dovetails nicely with what I tend to write about on this site.  Anyway, yesterday he asked a question specifically targeted to folks who worked for someone else.  Do they love their jobs, feel ambivelent about their jobs, or do they hate their jobs?  (Incidently, I know which way Chris leans from reading his site, but he was pretty even-handed when he was conducting this survey and in the discussion that followed, so the rant that follows isn’t directed at him.  Please continue…)

The responses were pretty much what I expected, really.  If anything, slightly more people said that they liked their jobs than I would have expected.  Perhaps that’s my bias because I don’t enjoy my current position.  Anyway, what happened later was what interested me.  People began sending him their thoughts on jobs in general, and they were pretty negative on the whole (at least, the ones that Chris retweeted).  Comments like this:  “‘Real’ jobs are the strongest forms of life avoidance ever.” (@aloneinvietnam) and “A ‘real’ job can kill your heart slowly. Wake up one day and wonder if you ever lived.” (@timbursch).

I agree with these statements to a certain extent, because I feel the same way.  I’ve not yet found the right job for me.  Is it out there?  Can I be happy working for someone else?  I don’t know; I’ll allow that it’s possible.   However, my concern is with blanket statements such as the ones above.

I disagree that “real” jobs kill you slowly, or that everyone should be self-employed.  I don’t think that’s a healthy expectation, because there are many benefits to having steady employment.  Some folks don’t have any desire to work for themselves.  Some enjoy doing things (like designing microprocessors, for example) that pretty much require you to work in a large organization.  There are probably quite a few people in today’s economy who enjoy the relative security that a constant paycheck is providing them.

There’s a saying in the pro-2nd amendment crowd that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” (or something to that effect).  Jobs are the same type of thing, right?  Jobs don’t suck your will to live, and leave you face down in the gutter the next day.  I tweeted back at Chris during the discussion, and commented that it’s not really the job itself that sucks.  It’s one person’s reason for keeping or leaving a job that determines whether it sucks or not for them.  If someone’s working a job that they can’t stand (it’s inside, chained to a desk, with no human interaction and staring at spreadsheets all day, for example), that doesn’t mean the job itself is bad.  It’s just that the particular person and the particular job aren’t a good fit.  For someone else, that desk job (inside a nice air-conditioned building, away from anything dangerous, with no annoying co-workers) might be heaven.  It all boils down to a person’s attitude.  If they don’t like their job, but they’re too scared to try to find another way to make the mortgage payments, then the job will start to suck for them.  Conversely, if they love the work, enjoy who they work with, and are compensated well, then why leave?

Besides, don’t all those people who start businesses need to have clients/customers?  Most of those clients/customers are going to be big companies with (you guessed it) employees.  Or, maybe they want to grow their own small business into a medium-sized or large business someday.  They’re going to need employees too.  Just because they’ve taken the plunge and started their own business doesn’t make them morally superior to those that don’t, right?  We’ve all got roles to fill.  Some are business owners, and some support that business by being employees.  There’s nothing right or wrong with either category of person.  It may just be that one role or the other is a better fit for a particular individual.

So, as a person who’s pretty frustrated with his own job at this point in time, I’d like to stand up in defense of traditional employment.  For those who’d like to be self-employed to a greater degree, please don’t look down your nose at those who have no desire to be so.  And, for those who don’t want to go out on their own, be happy for the entrepreneur that started the company that provides you your current paycheck, and celebrate the good fortune we all have to make those choices.  It’s a symbiotic relationship.

(As an aside, I really can’t recommend Chris’ site highly enough.  If you’re interested in travel or living life to the fullest, it should be in your feedreader if it isn’t already.  I mean, just check out this post.  They’re all that good.)

photo courtesy:  mikecolvin82

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