When Permanent Employment Isn’t

In Grandpa’s day, you finished your education, started your job, and worked in the same place until you retired. That was it.

These days, things aren’t so easy. Downsizing, Rightsizing and “Returning to our core business” have conspired to make employees largely expendable and interchangeable – except for the ones who aren’t. The ones who actually design and produce stuff and get things done. For every one of those there are ten, twenty, fifty or a hundred replaceable HR Drones, Mid-level Managers and paper-shufflers.

The recession of 2008 made things even worse. The large-scale loss of factory jobs — mostly held by men — meant that for the first time there are more women in the workplace than men. While I have nothing against women in the workplace, the presence of more people seeking employment means that employers can afford to be picky. They’ve also gotten stingy, offering lower salaries and fewer benefits in what seems to be a race to the bottom.

I became a freelancer in 1989 after losing a job. It was an accident, but a fortunate one – the best deal on the table at the time was a freelance gig. Thirty-five years later, I still work in consultancy; my current “temporary” assignment is now in its fifteenth year. As a result, I still have the freelance mentality — even though my employment is technically “permanent”, I am under no illusion that my employers will fire my proverbial as soon as I am no longer profitable for them. It amazes me that so many people actually believe that their employer somehow “owes” them a job, benefits or perks. Life isn’t fair, to be sure, but I have found that people generally get what they deserve or settle for, though manyof us have deluded ourselves into believing that we somehow deserve better.

In Grandpa’s day, everyone wanted a cushy office job that didn’t involve “getting your hands dirty”, and this is what parents still steer their children towards. But the stable jobs in the future are those that provide services; plumbers, welders, mechanics, looking after children/pets/old folks – these are the jobs that can’t be outsourced. That may not sound glamorous, but it’s more sensible than running up huge student loan debt to get a Master’s Degree before ending up working as a Barrista.

My message to young people today is a simple one: Follow your dream, as long as your dream involves producing something of lasting value. If that happens to intersects with your passions, fine. I know of a chap who loves being outdoors and found a job working as a Park Ranger. But if your passion is street-art (aka Graffiti) or Video Games, do not delude yourself into thinking that there is a lucrative career to be had. Above all, don’t go to college unless you can afford it or have a clear career path mapped out.

There is nothing wrong with getting a boring/uninteresting job, as long as you are aiming for something better. A highly-paid job that you hate is the closest thing there is to hell on Earth.

Figure out what you love to do, and find a way to make it pay.

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