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March 23, 2011

Work through the Ages

Help yourself to flourish

When you're young and you've never had a job, the criteria is pretty simple. 1. Don't have job. 2. Want money. 3. Some experience could be useful. 4. Try and get job. 5. Miraculously get job. (Usually a "bad" job). Now, of course you're not going to start "at the top" (wherever that is) but I now know that choosing a job, even when you have no experience, is critical. You don't want a job that is going to make you hate yourself.

I feel quite experienced to speak on this subject.  I had many, many less than stellar jobs when I was young. I worked in a factory making door locks one summer. (Someone drive a spike through my head now. Please!)

I worked as a temp which included tons of office work and even in one instance, a salad dressing factory filling up ice-cream buckets with home-made mayonnaise, Lucille Ball style.

I worked as a dicta-typist in an ICBC bodily injury claim centre. (Think of cows. They are hooked up for their milk. Dicta-typists are hooked up to machines and inundated with information that's barely decipherable when adjusters mumble into handheld microphones about drivers and their injuries.)

I worked at a paint store (well, I actually liked that job). I worked at Telus on their 411 repair lines (a job that makes you want to either kill yourself or the caller). I worked at Canada Employment when it was called that, first as a student placement officer (cool job) and then just doing mind numbingly boring filing work. I've worked at London Drugs as a cashier. I worked as an au pair in Finland for a few months (which wasn't really a job, it was a great experience so that doesn't count.) but, in general, my early job history is one that was personally tailored for someone destined to be a writer or a mercenary. In short, it sucked. It did not give me a positive feeling about working at all.

These wrong jobs (for me) didn't give me much needed experience as much as they gave me a feeling about work that was coloured with frustration and hopelessness. Honestly, I'm not overstating this.

In my case, it took way too long to get to the "good" jobs, even when I got out of university and much of that was related to confidence and not having anyone to "guide" me appropriately. As a result, I am vehemently opposed to the attitude of parents who might say to their kids, "just get a job".

Yes, definitely get out of bed before noon and get a job already. But, get a job that has some element in it that you actually like if at all possible. Just because you've never worked before, shouldn't mean you have to be tortured. If you have to, create your own job. Just do it.

Now, all these years later, when I think about seeking the right work, the criteria is almost at the other end of the spectrum. It's like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. Even if there are a lot of possibilities, which there are, there are really very few that fit the stringent list of criteria of this mid-life job seeker.

Examine the precious nature of your life energy which you have taken for granted most of your life. Assess, in the best case scenario, the number of years left on the planet (barring unexpected death she jokes) and then really think about what it means to exchange that life energy for money and as importantly, tme. That's the mid-life dilemma.

The criteria is huge.
  1. Do I think I want to spend my days with you and all those others already there?
  2. Is what you're doing something that matters to me one bit?
  3. Would I feel like I was doing something positive for society in general?
  4. Am I going to learn something new? Huge. Huge. Huge.
  5. Is there possibilities to be creative in some way?
  6. Can I see how this job might provide me with opportunities in a new direction when I leave it?
  7. Can I work as part of a small team and yet independently within that team?
  8. Is the job going to pay me appropriately for the amount of time it's asking of me?
  9. Do I want to live where the job is?
  10. If I give up my lifestyle on Salt Spring, is this going to be a worthy trade-off?

Do you see what I mean.? Had I started asking these questions much earlier, I truly believe that looking back, the work picture could have been so much better.

What do you think about when you're exploring new work opportunities, especially if you're going to work for someone else? Share your wisdom.

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