Friday, June 08, 2007

Get A Job? Plan For A Career!

I was reading through the new issue of BusinessWeek, and came across an article about problems for a “generation” of folks in Japan. Well, that sounded serious, so I read through the thing. Turns out, “generation” was rather an exaggeration, and the article implied that Japan meant to use some rather Socialist practices to “fix” the problem, which seems to me a bit worse than the problem it is meant to address. I suspect that a lot of folks are somehow unclear on how employment works in a free society.

That is not as uncommon as you might think. Socialism and it’s more radical brother, Communism, are founded in the insipid notion that artificial controls on an economy will not prevent it from effective function, a notion long disproved by the histories of the Iron Curtain countries, and “worker’s paradise” locations like Cuba and North Korea. Labor unions, which were created for good reason and which have served great causes in the past, have also killed strong companies through their greed and mindless demands. And an appalling number of people under 30 seem to think that their company “owes” them their job, benefits, raises, and promotions. And they get bitter when reality refuses to let them live like Paris Hilton. Which explains a lot about why so many otherwise-sane people can support Democrats, but that’s another topic.

After reaching this point, I realized that it might actually be necessary to state the obvious. That whole ’Common sense is not very common’ idea. Take that BusinessWeek story on Japan, for example. The first guy they cited was a fellow by the name of Sadaaki Nehashi, who has a degree in Marine Biology but is working as a contract worker, effectively as a mailboy. All right, I have had hard times too, working for jobs well below my skill set, but it occurred to me that no one seemed to ask Sadaaki if he had checked with potential employers before getting his degree, to make sure that it mad sense to get a specialized degree like Marine Biology. Yes, the world needs Marine Biologists, and I am sure that Sadaaki Nehashi is a smart guy, but nowhere in the article did it seem that anyone asked whether he had some responsibility for his own financial condition. In the interest of disclosure, I will say that my undergraduate degree was in English, and that was a very poor panning decision on my part. And it cost me in my early work, as a direct consequence of my choices. That’s life folks, good things and bad things both happen, but some of them are the result of your choices, and simply are not someone else’s responsibility.

Basically, there are four kinds of jobs. There’s the temp job, which you do for a short time and get basic pay, which is fine for students and for a little pocket money, but you can’t really live on it. There’s the pay-the-bills job, where you take the job you can get fast, because you have bills to pay and don’t really have any options. A lot of folks go this route, and start down a dismal road that they never enjoy. There’s the vocation, which is a fancy word for finding a job that pays you to do what you love; most of us never have a chance at that job. So what’s left? The career.

What sets the career apart from the other types of jobs, is that you plan ahead for it, you acquire the specific skills it needs, you seek jobs which fit together in a pattern to show improved ability and accomplishments in that field, and you build a network that opens the opportunities for you. It takes more thinking, more commitment, and yes, more work, to create a career rather than just work a job, but in the end, the career is more satisfying, more rewarding financially and in opportunities, and the career is more stable.

Here’s how it works. To get a job, you simply find someone willing to hire you for a job you are willing to do under the proposed conditions of employment, and – boom – you have a job. In most states, the employment is ‘at will’, meaning your boss can fire you or you can quit, at anytime. You would work this job until you did something to get fired, you decided to quit, or unless your employer offered you another position in the company, which you accepted. Generally, because jobs are not that hard to get, it means you could be replaced easily by someone who doesn’t need much training, and so the company won’t offer you much money for the job. Also, since you were hired for a specific task, you won’t be a decision-maker in the company, and so you will often feel – correctly – that you have no real influence or power.

To build a career, you have to be able to make decisions independently, and to show discipline. You will have to decide your field, find out what is needed to get work in that field, earn the necessary educational certification for it (and plan on more school later; most serious fields require an advanced degree or Continuing Education Units), keep your grades up and look for entry positions in companies with openings in your field of interest. The first few years in that work, you will probably not be paid all the much, but you will make contacts with people who can either get you a better position within the company, or an interview with someone who will offer you a better opportunity. After that, your work will make your name, open doors, and buy your house. It’s a long process, takes a lot of work and a dedication to a core made of Integrity, Diligence, Inspiration, and Optimism. It also helps to enjoy life and have a sense of humor. You will likely find that the same skills which build a good career, will also help you find a good spouse and build a family. More work, but also well worth it.

Somewhere along the way, you will need a dog.

Good luck.

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