On Work

It’s an interesting thing, this dichotomy in my household. My husband and I are on the far end of our careers. While we have quite a few years to work before we retire, we’re both pretty settled in our careers and are really at this point counting time to retirement. I like my job and the people I work with, but I’m becoming comfortable with the fact that my career has peaked and at this point, I’ve probably risen as high as I’m going to. In some ways, that’s just a little sad, since I originally set out to conquer the world, but I think I did okay.

At the same time, we have these two young people who are just getting started. While it’s been at least a couple of decades since I was in their shoes, I remember what it was like to come out of school and suddenly be faced with a bewildering array of choices. Which direction shall we head? Which job should we pursue? Add to that the fact that while the economy has improved, it’s still a tough job market, and they will have more of an uphill climb than we did.

The kids don’t really have the luxury to be philosophical about work at this point; in a down economy you have to take what you can get and work as hard as you can to move up within the opportunity that presents itself. That said, work takes up so much of our lives that we want it to be not only financially rewarding but also meaningful. That second bit is the tricky part, because so much of the work that needs to be done in our society isn’t what you would call spiritually fulfilling.

One of the trends I’ve found interesting in the past few years is that as we middle-aged folks were cut loose from jobs or careers we’ve been in for decades, many are taking the opportunity to reinvent themselves. Some have started small businesses; some have gone back to school. I met a mechanical engineer who, after being laid off from his job at a manufacturing plant, went back to school and got a degree that will let him work in non-profits – something he’d always wanted to do but didn’t feel he could because of his commitments and income expectations. In some ways, getting laid off freed him to try something new. In some ways, I’m envious and wish I could do the same.

I’m a believer in taking my own advice, though, and as I told a friend recently, you don’t have to remake your entire life to integrate things that give you meaning. It’s okay to do things outside your full-time job that feed your soul. I’ve been pondering this for a while, and I can’t yet tell you what that means will change in my life, but the universe has a way of sending you the answers when you’re ready.

So, universe, I’m listening….what have you got for me?

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5 thoughts on “On Work

  1. Concetta says:

    Mardee, you might want to check out the new book The $100 Start-up (or Chris’ blog, http://chrisguillebeau.com/) I’ve found the book and blog have some thought-provoking content about doing what people want, when they want, for what they want. Very inspirational. Its not so much a roadmap to start up (well, kind of) but a lot more of figuring the path to get to a startup of some kind.

    I keep thinking about opening a real microbusiness, instead of playing at one. Perhaps that might be a thought for you as well?

  2. Lisa H Ross says:

    I’ve been dipping my toe into varied things lately. I’m counting on that Thomas Edison quote: I didn’t fail; I just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work. And I’ve been quick to move on when something isn’t working. Maybe too quick, but in the past I’ve been too slow. Right now I have a blog post up that is getting more flames than the surface of the sun! That opportunity wasn’t meant to work out, clearly.
    I keep coming across these things that I have the talent for, but not the *chops* for.
    I don’t mean to be a flake and I’m sure it comes across that way when I have to tell people my last thing didn’t work and I’m trying something new.

    • mardeeknits says:

      I don’t see anything wrong with trying a bunch of different things to see what you like. When you find it, you’ll know. Somehow I missed that you were blogging…nothing wrong with getting flames, just means people have different opinions than you do.

    • Concetta says:

      Hey, sometimes the flames are a good thing. They tell us a different perspective on what we think, and that’s not a bad thing (though sometimes the language used is hurtful, but hopefully your readers aren’t doing that!)

      You only seem like a flake if you phrase yourself that way. A lot of people today have very widely varying experiences in work and in business, and it only comes across as being an issue if you self-demote. I’ve learned to just say “it was time to move on” and that’s that. If they really press you, then you get can into the circumstances and why you decided to leave, but those answers should be reserved for a limited number of people (potential financiers and interviewers, if you ask me).

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