Off to Work?

By: Shawn Davis

Got that morning cup of coffee in you? Muffin? Maybe a bagel and tea on the way to the train, maybe plowing through traffic with a hastily constructed sandwich as you realize you’re late to begin your day. What about people invading your personal space during the commute and then those same individuals shooting you dirty looks? What is this? For many of us this is the start of the day on our way to work.

Photo: simplyzesty.com - Is this you?

There are many reasons to make the commute: the destination will allow us to progress up the corporate ladder, we define our self-worth there, it allows us to buy things we need…and don’t need, pays our bills, keeps us fed and clothed, it justifies why we have accumulated student loans that will take years to repay, it’s a career or just a job, survival, money, etc. Sit down long enough to contemplate the reasons people work and the list would grow exponentially. Let’s keep it simple, I guess.

Let’s focus on the career/job aspect. Enjoying the labor of working towards a career makes it all worthwhile. It’s not a glass-ceiling type of thing because there’s a goal to work for, while also growing professionally. This is ideal! A career supplies motivation on those mornings where “calling out” seems so perfect. Who hasn’t been there, right?

In a career the days may be long and the pay may not be the greatest, initially, but eventually these things take care of themselves as you become enriched and make your mark in your company. The pay scale improves as well as your influence and responsibilities.

Now a job can supply most of the amenities that a career can, with the exception of a glaring one: Growth. In a job there is a ceiling related to pay, but for the ambitious type, not being able to advance is like taking oxygen away. The long days are harder to push through, there’s no incentive to work hard. In most cases the minimum will be accomplished just to stay employed. Who wants that?  A good portion of the working force, however, is relegated to this category.

Another take on the comparison can be made in this way: A job is like paying rent where having a career is akin to having a mortgage every month. The money for rent is keeping you month-to-month but the mortgage is equity used to stabilize your future.

I work because I have to make money! – Several people, NYC

  This was, by far, the most frequent answer I got while polling. It can’t be any simpler than that! Whether it’s rent, a mortgage or a car note, they all have to be paid. Being attractive won’t pay any bills; well maybe they can…. (deep thought)…..stop S! Ok I’m back. With everything that comes with the commute, the bureaucracy at the office, colleagues you wouldn’t converse with if they didn’t get checks from the same employer, annoyances from upper management, pointless meetings, etc; isn’t pay THE incentive to keep showing up? It is.

It makes me feel good about myself to be employed. – Charlotte, NJ

  I liked this answer as we all tie ourselves, directly, to what we do. Think about it, when you’re meeting someone new the question right after you exchange names is usually, “What do you do?” or “Where do you work?” It’s part of the process of getting to know one another because we define ourselves by our profession.

In this economy would you want to be unemployed? – Several, NYC

  No. It’s hard pounding the pavement, searching for something when the prospects are so bleak. Everyone watches the news; jeez, you don’t even have to because the signs are everywhere. Walk through one of your favorite places in the city and you’ll find “foreclosure” signs sprinkled throughout the area. I witnessed this the other night on a date; one of my favorite Mexican restaurants is now a nail salon. This market is terrible! Employed? Yayyy!

Well I spent six years in college so having this job justifies the debt I’ve accrued in loans. Also, my parents would have a cow if I wasn’t working. – Gabe, NY

  In the conversation I had with Gabe (after this quote) he was honest in telling me that he’s disillusioned by his job, he’s a guidance counselor in a New York junior high school. As a product of the city school system, I know his job is tough!

A lot of adults carry a considerable amount of debt with them during and after the degree is completed so once that job offer comes it’s time to pay it down. Gabe took the offer and is making the payments to get the burden off his back so he can go after something else. His payments are crippling and he’s abstained from seeking assistance from his parents because he doesn’t want to be judged once he leaves the profession. He says that with his expenses and his balance on the loan, it will take him over seven years to be “free.” He doesn’t knock his job but he knows that he works just to pay off his debt and justify the reason he entered the field of study to begin with. “I’m trying to stay afloat,” he adds.

I work to save enough money to help me relocate back home. I’ve always wanted to live here before starting grad school back west (Los Angeles), and I’ve spent two years here but this is not for me.  – Tina, NYC

  This is as good a reason as any I’ve heard. Someone who just wants to go home? New York City isn’t for everyone, but I’m losing the point. Tina made a pact with her parents that she would go to graduate school after she lived in the Big Apple for a year or two and boy is she happy to be leaving.

She’s working towards a goal and maybe that’s the silver lining – if that’s what you’re searching for. Whether you have a job or a career, maybe that’s what you can hold on to. Working to pay off debt, buy a home, start a business, relocate, for one’s self-esteem, etc, is a goal that can be written down and achieved.

We all work for something…

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