Thursday, December 4, 2008

What We Do For A Living

Having worked in a number of different jobs during my life. there I will make an observation based on my experience, about how types of work affect us.

I have noticed that people who work in non-profits such as charities, environmental groups, or community service organizations are often possessed of a sense of mission and compassion that differs from much of private industry.

Frequently a characteristic you find among people who are serving what they feel to be an important purpose are willing to work long and hard for average wages and the whole time are consumed with an attitude of wanting to do the job as well as it can be done. This is related to the person's sense that what they are doing is more than just a job.

Now this same feeling can occur within a person working in private industry, most often those who came up with a new idea or invention and started their own business. They will feel the sense of mission and purpose in the same way that a person who is really devoted to a vegetarian lifestyle will feel perfectly at home in a health food store, or a person who loves literature working in a bookstore, or a person who loves music loves playing in a band or a person who loves exercise teaching aerobics classes.

Within the corporate world though, what most frequently happens is that we become mercenaries. We trade our time for a paycheck and there is no dream attached to the daily activities we do. We may be attentive and efficient and help the company make money, but our heart is not really in it.

Today, with all the turmoil in the markets, with jobs being offshored, long established businesses closing, corporations reducing or eliminating pensions, sick pay, vacation pay, group health insurance or other amenities, any sort of camaraderie or extended family type bonding is eroded, if not cut off completely. When our relationship to the company is strictly reduced to a bartering of hours for dollars, there is a certain sapping of our life force. It is a grind when people live for the weekend, when they just do what they have to until the two days a week when they can really do what they like.

Of course, there is a numbing to much of what constitutes the rest of a life too, when we are so dedicated to our work that it dominates all of our counsciousness. That is why I have changed careers a few times. When I worked in a corporate environment and was consumed with it to the point that I didn't have much of a social life, the company was happy, but I eventually was so unhappy that I had to quit. We need to have time to work and play.

And in choosing our work, we need to at least make an effort to find work that we can put some heart into. This doesn't have to be real ethereal. I mean you can tell the difference when you go to a restaurant and the server does a great job, has a good attitude versus one who looks like they are just marking time until they get off. You have also noticed it when you get your car repaired, the difference between someone who not only knows what they are doing, but also appears to care and be cost conscious too.

What we do for a living matters in a lot of ways.

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