What's a Job For

Tom Friedman's column about why so much middle class foment (not surprisingly, it's because of globalization - haven't you read his last ten books?) got me thinking about different attitudes I've seen people harbor towards their jobs and towards employment in general. Please note that I am engaging here in rampant stereotyping on purpose, to prove a point; as I will point out later, hardly anyone is exactly these archetypes, but a blend of many. In no particular order:

1) Perfecting one's craft. Some see a job and a profession as a way to get really good at something, whether that something is designing a house, modeling the economy, or playing chess. The meta-reason may differ. For some, it is the glory to be the best in the field. For others, it is the inner satisfaction of achieving excellence. And for still others, it is the pleasure of the work itself.

2) Making a difference. Some see a job and a profession as a vehicle for effecting change in the world. Whether it is finding a cure for Alzheimer's, treating people in need, advocating for a cherished cause, these people are driven by the possibility of making the world a better place.

3) Maximizing financial gain. Some see a job and a profession as a means to material wealth. Within this category you might find a variety of folks. There are some for whom money is the scorecard and they are running up the score. There are some on the lower end of the pay scale, who are just doing their best to stay above water. And there are some whose true identity is outside of work and have optimized their earning potential so they have sufficient time and money for what really matters in their life (whether family, charity, or golf).

4) Being interesting. Some see a job and a profession as an avenue to build up great cocktail stories. Work is only worth doing if it is fun, new, and at times off the beaten path. This approach tends to lend itself to lots of different pursuits over a lifetime, ever in search of something different.

5) Sticking it to the man. Some see a job and a profession as an opportunity to work the system for personal gain. Society, government, and/or big business have failed, so the least we can do is extract from it a stable job requiring little effort, with good pay and great benefits. When we are successful at securing such a job, we feel the satisfaction of getting over on someone who's gotten over on us over and over again.

I'm sure I'm missing some categories (and I'm sure I've offended half of my readers with the ones I've accounted for). And, I'm not sure what point I'm making, except to reflect that I am an amalgam of all five, although you can probably guess which categories I’m more of and which I’m less of. In these tough times, those of us who have jobs should and do take a moment to be thankful for them, regardless of how we view employment.

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