Archive for the ‘Passion versus paycheck’ Category

How many of our career decisions are dictated by the shiny objects?  You know the ones we’re talking about:  the title, the status, and most of all, the fat paycheck.

Okay, they’re not really shiny and they’re not even objects, but you get the point.  We’re constantly on the chase, even when we know it sucks.  Which leads me to wonder how often we’re deterred from following our passions or finding our purpose because we’re too busy running after one of those conventional measures of worth.

How else would we keep score, right?  And money buys us happiness, after all — er, doesn’t it?

Brace yourself.  It does, but only up to a certain point.  Which ultimately, for the undecided among us, is good news.   According to a new study authored by Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel laureate, the cut-off point is a household income of $75,000.  Up to that point, individuals in the study reported greater emotional well-being,  a scientific measure of happiness, with greater income.  But above and beyond that magic 75K?  Doesn’t makes us any happier.

Not one bit.

According to a New York Times story on the study:

It’s not so much that money buys you happiness but that lack of money buys you misery, said Daniel Kahneman, a professor emeritus of psychology at Princeton and one of the authors of the study. “The lack of money,” he said, “no longer hurts you after $75,000.”

Where you live and the cost of living there has only a small influence on that number, he added. (That may be a revelation to some Manhattanites.)

The study, which analyzed Gallup data of 450,000 randomly selected Americans, did find that one’s “life evaluation” — a self-assessment of one’s life — continued rising well above $75,000. But this is not the same as experiencing day-to-day happiness.

“Many people want to make a lot of money, but the benefits of having a high income are ambiguous,” said Professor Kahneman, who is also a Nobel laureate in economics. When you are wealthy you are able to buy more pleasures, he said, but a recent study suggests that wealthier people “seem to be less able to savor the small things in life.”

Interesting, that.  And  reassuring, too, especially if it’s our hearts we want to follow when we choose a career. Which leads back to one of the themes in our book, and one we’ve discussed here:   that inner scold that constantly nags that the only way to be all we can be is to stick with Mr. Safe Path.  What we like about this study is that it gives us a nudge, permission even, to follow our passion, rather than the paycheck, when it comes to deciding what to do with our lives.  Back to the Times story:

…Understandably, the recession is causing more people to place the financial rewards of a career first, said Nicholas Lore, founder of the Rockport Institute, a career coaching firm, and author of “The Pathfinder.”

But this could backfire as people who initially pursue a field because of the salary realize that the work is unsatisfying. Mr. Lore has recently coached a lawyer who decided to forgo his high pay in favor of teaching law, an investment banker who decided to switch to a green energy company and a dentist who decided to become a schoolteacher.

It all depends on priorities, Mr. Lore said. Some people are willing to make lifestyle changes because the intrinsic rewards of following a passion or making a difference are more important than a high salary in an unenjoyable career, he said.

In the end, people should pursue what they’re interested in, said Daniel H. Pink, author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.” Looking at lists of careers with the highest salaries tends to be a fool’s game, he said.

“It’s very hard to game the system, in the sense that situations and conditions change so quickly that a field that is hot today might be only lukewarm in 5 or 10 years,” he said. “It might even be nonexistent.”

Let’s say you see that accountants are getting decent salaries directly out of college, he said, but you don’t really like accounting. “Chances are you’re not going to be very good at accounting,” and your salary will reflect that, he said. “Generally, people flourish when they’re doing something they like and what they’re good at.”

Of course, 75 grand is nothing to sneeze at, especially if you’re only a few years out of college.  But what’s reassuring about studies like these is the fact that, if it’s happiness we’re after, there is indeed a finish line.  Sure, the Joneses might pass us by, but if we’re out there doing something we love, we may lose the race, but we certainly will have won the last laugh.


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What goes around,  you know, comes around.  That’s what came to mind yesterday when someone sent me a link to this post on College Candy wherein Charlsie, a new college grad, charts the difference between choosing a major and, sigh, choosing a life.  Let’s look:

Looking back, college didn’t require a lot of serious decision making – even though I thought it did. For the most part, I made decisions about frivolous things such as: Should I wear pajamas to class today? Should I stick to rum and Coke or go for the Jager bombs? Should I go out tonight or should I spend time working on that eleven-page term paper? I know at times these choices sure stressed me out, but looking back, they really didn’t matter the way post-grad decisions seem to.

First, it must be said: Call me old, but I’m more than a little flummoxed by anyone’s choice to opt for a Jager bomb.  But back to Charlsie.  Our new grad then lists the decisions that lie in front of her:  Where to live.  Where to work.  Grad school or law school.  Prep for the LSAT or sign on for the full-time job offer with the big bucks and benefitsand extra hours beyond the normal nine-to-five.

Can’t you just feel the angst?   All of which brought me back to this very time last year, give or take a day.  Almost one year ago when we launched our blog, the questions were the same as the ones that plague our Ms. Charlsie:  Door No. 1 versus door No. 2.  Risk or security.  Passion or Paycheck.  All of which echo our initial theme:  It’s great to have options.  But dealing with them can be a bitch.  As we wrote then:

… we’re out to explore why the generation of women who have more options than our mothers ever dreamed possible suffers from a terminal case of grass-is-greener syndrome, perpetually distracted by what we’re not doing. We’re stressed. Restless. Constantly second-guessing ourselves. Always wondering what we left behind Door Number Two. And we can’t figure out why.

It’s a sign of the times, with much of this unspoken angst revolving around the pressure to choose, something old-school feminists might never have predicted. So how do we get past it? A shift in perspective might be a good place to start. Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman may have said it best: “There is talk about too many pressures and too many choices, it’s as if the success of feminism was to blame, rather than its unfinished work.”

We’re up for getting on with the finishing, and we think the first step is to recognize our shared experience. So if this all sounds familiar, tell us about it.

Tell us about it, you did.  Here’s what we heard from Lauren:

I do, however, feel concern that I might be overlooking the one thing that is my “calling.” From orchestra conductor to herpetologist to cartographer to photographer to writer, I’ve wanted to do it all. I also know that I can, we all can.

And from Marisa:

My sister used to tease me that I was on the semester system in life because I was always moving and changing jobs. But really I was just worried that I was missing my “true calling” or not doing enough to fulfill my parents’ expectations after all that schooling. (Come to find out later that their only expectation was that I be happy.) Now I’m almost 40 and starting yet a new career (this one will be THE ONE . . . I hope). Looking back I can see how the choices and self-inflicted expectations led to a major paralysis in my mid-20′s…”

And Marjorie:

I majored in theatre in college, only to burn out on it and give it up after college. but now, every day, I think about that life, the performance life…and I wonder what I’m missing. What did I give up? Would I be happier if I had just stuck with it? Would I , could I be more fulfilled if I were doing it right now? Oy, it drives me mad and I keep hoping that maybe all of my going around about it will make me so nauseous I’ll actually get sick (of myself) and do something….

…All of these questions resonate with me. It’s so wonderful to have the plethora of options that we do…but I have no idea which way to go. Some of the stuff I have absolutely nailed down – I know what kind of clothes I like to wear; I know that I DON’T want to be a mathematician…

And Samantha:

The itching thought that runs though my conciousness is that it is ok to think or dream or believe a girl can do anything, yet the doing and execution is what can undo her. Coupled with a family and the people whose feelings and egos may be bruised and battered along the way. The absolute reality is that any job or hobby that evokes passion requires an equal if not greater sacrifice. That notion of ‘What do you want to be when grow up’, is not coupled with ok, you can do it, but it’s going to be hard. Mom doesn’t say ‘Gee little Sammy that’s great — so when you fall in love and get married make sure you can integrate all of your passion and dreams into your marriage.’ That would have been the best advice anyone could have given me. Instead I plunged head long into a decision before I had the courage to really declare my dreams, AND the ramifications of those dreams.

The thoughtful comments from bright women rolled in throughout the year, all of which convince us that this analysis paralysis, this longing for the road not taken, the buyer’s remorse that plagues us all is, one year later, still real.  The solutions?  The first step is recognizing we’re in it together.

As for the forementioned Charlsie?  She blew off the job offer and opted instead to concentrate on studying for the LSAT and applying to law schools.  Good for her.  So long as she lays off the Jager bombs.


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First she made a decision. Then she wondered what on earth she was thinking when she made itDSCN6202. Now Maggie is living the life — and learning to love the unpredictability of it all. In today’s guest post, a newly minted college grad — who teaches English to French teenagers, fights off the advances of train conductors, and like the rest of us, is petrified of growing up — muses about how the reality of the adult life has suddenly crept up behind her and taken her by surprise. Baguette in hand, she stands ready to battle it back into oblivion.

La Vie Est Belle

by Maggie Beidelman

What the hell am I doing here? I keep asking myself this question. Sure, I filled out an application, booked a plane flight, and here I am: Lyon, France. Seven months of teaching English to unappreciative French high school students. But how did I get here?

Somehow I cannot reconcile the actions it took to get here and the actual existence of living, independently in another country. It’s like a dream that never should have come true, simply because these dreams always end with waking up to reality.

But this is reality. I don’t see why I have such a problem recognizing my own place as an American in France, because everybody else seems to notice. Just the other day, a train conductor asked me to explain the meaning of the word “ain’t” from the 60s classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Clearly, my status as an American entitles me to explain the existence of incorrect English grammar in popular culture.

Two months ago, I packed my bags, got on a plane and moved to France to teach English, write, and figure out what to do with the rest of my life. Why did I choose this simultaneously terrifying and thrilling adventure? You might say it’s because there aren’t any jobs in America, anyway. And you’re right. But that’s not the sole reason behind my choice to throw everything I own into two suitcases, leave behind my boyfriend of a year and a half and my family, and spend all my savings on a flight to a place where I get a miniature monthly stipend to be handed keys and a classroom, with no training to speak of.

The thing is, I’m 22, and I’m petrified of growing up. This is the first autumn season in 17 years when I have not been sitting in a classroom, studying and preparing for a life that is no longer predictable, and therefore impossible to study and prepare for. I thought that moving to France would allow me to postpone the inevitable—adulthood—and give me something good to put on my resume. While the latter might be true, I have found myself mercilessly thrown into the writhing, gorgonic realm of adulthood with little more than a worn American passport and a strong sense of survival.

So far, that strong sense of survival has saved me from going completely insane in this absurd realm of expatriatism, where train conductors harrass young Americans about songs before their time and parfait does not mean an ice-cream at McDonald’s. I’ve had to learn the hard way how to dress in layers, buy bread from the boulangerie instead of the grocery store and say, “No, thank you, I’m not interested in your advances,” or rather, “Get lost.”

It’s mid-November now, and here I am. Thirteen-hour teaching week. Daily fresh bread. Cute little French apartment. If I had stayed in the States, I probably would’ve joined the 80 percent of my class who moved back in with their parents after graduation. But, I didn’t. Somehow I gathered up enough nerve to leave everything behind in hopes of finding some exciting new adventure, if not terrifying and completely maniacal.

And I found it. It’s crazy and fun and I’m homesick and happy and somewhere, at some point, adulthood has snuck up on me. But, with baguette in hand, I stand ready to battle it back into oblivion and embrace the uncertainty of a life suspended between the predictable past and a foreign future. Because not knowing what’s going to happen next weekend, next month or next year is what makes my life exciting. La vie est belle.

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Sometimes it’s not what you do that matters, but why you do it. Case in point, the video above. (Don’t click on it quite yet.) Someone who has been there, done that sent it to me — this being an anniversary and all — making me wonder yet again whether finding that sense of purpose is the antidote to the choice conundrum. Maybe you’ve been there, too — doing back-breaking work that made your head spin and your neck ache, making you wonder what on earth you were thinking when you signed on — and yet, bottom line, loving every minute of it. Embracing the tangibility of it all.

On the other hand, maybe you’re still searching. In which case, click on the video. You’ll get a taste.

Purpose is where you find it. Sometimes in the strangest of places. A lifetime ago I did a story on a college buddy who, one Christmas, rallied a crew of grown-ups who knew better to spend incredibly long nights building a 60 square foot gingerbread house, replete with lights, moving parts, a chocolate-coated amusement park — including a computer controlled ferris wheel, roller coaster and carousel — hundreds of individually sculpted and hand-painted people, and dozens of chocolate and gumdrop yum-yum trees.

The biggest draw was that there was no real reason for the project — other than to rekindle the Christmas spirit. That, and the fact that once completed, the gingerbread compound was the centerpiece of a fundraiser later that month. But the magic was the soulcraft: the nightly stream of lawyers, doctors, engineers, chefs, writers — clearly folks with better things to do — who rushed in after work, chucked their neckties, their heels, and their briefcases into the corner, and ditched their iconic selves to immerse themselves in something that was literally bigger than they were. As one member of the crew, a lawyer with a loosened tie, said at the time: “The best thing about the project is that it makes you feel that everything else you are doing is less important than this.”

Purpose is like that — whether it’s gingerbread houses or presidential campaigns. It’s something that’s about more than you. You can’t always define it, but you know it when you feel it. Or when you watch this video. Turn it up.

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The other day, one of our Twitter followers sent me a link, with a “What do you think?”-type note. (Using 140 characters or less, natch.) A click landed me on Harvard Business’ blog, and a post entitled “Why Are Women So Unhappy At Work?” The piece (written by a man–just for the record) quotes the findings from an earlier post by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy. In that post, entitled “Are Your Best Female Employees a Flight Risk?” Hewlett writes:

We found that in the wake of last year’s financial crash, high-powered women were more than twice as likely as men–84% compared with 40%–to be seriously thinking jumping ship. And when the head and the heart are out the door, the rest of the body is sure to follow.

Hewlett goes on to cite examples of what various companies are doing in order to keep their ladies on board. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before the subject of passion came up:

Intel created workshops aimed squarely at retaining one of its most at-risk populations: mid-level female engineers. Exit interviews revealed that many of these talented technologists were leaving not to spend time with their family but because they no longer felt challenged by or passionate about their work. In the 21st century, talented people of both sexes often feel stymied by a traditional vertical career path that follows a straight line up a narrow ladder. Rather, they’re interested in and open to lateral moves and a variety of “work style” options, such as flex schedules and telecommuting, as long as these options are intellectually and professionally challenging and/or satisfy personal obligations.

That’s surely a part of it. Now, consider this, from Russell Bishop, via the Huffington Post, still rumbling with riffs on the Paradox of Declining Women’s Happiness study:

The implication seems to be that if you were to gain more in terms of physical world success you would naturally become happier… My theory is that over the past 40 years, as American society exited the “Father Knows Best” or “Leave it to Beaver” mentality of the 50s and 60s, we seem to have increasingly equated success and fulfillment with jobs, career advancement, position title, bank accounts, and other symbols of success. If you were one of those statistical women who took on job, career, or economic goals as your “symbols” of success, you just might have wound up sacrificing what mattered most in hopes of greener pastures at the eother end of job, career or economic goals. What if you won the race to the top: a better job, increased paycheck, more “toys” than the boys? Did you bargain for all that comes with it? Did you anticipate the sacrifices you would have to make to get there? How are those trades looking now?

An interesting take. Going back to the original post, the one our Twitter friend sent, author Sean Silverthorne writes:

Unfortunately, Hewlett doesn’t answer my burning question: Why are women more likely than men to consider jumping ship? Certainly there are career opportunity questions. If women believe they don’t have as good a chance as their male colleagues of advancing, of course they should be considering options. But a 2x factor suggests something much more deep seeded. Something about the nature of work in the modern company.

His post earned a slew of responses, citing reasons for our wandering eyes ranging from discrimination from the good old boys’ clubbers, to a need for more corporate support for work/life balance, to female “dogs in power that insist on running a place like a sorority.” No woman wants to take part in the proverbial workplace pissing contests–and even if she did, she’s not properly equipped. But this comment really made me think:

I also think there’s a fundamentally different paradigm that can exist in female-oriented workplaces and it takes us away from the whole aggressive, money and progress-oriented approach to work–it is collaborative, nurturing, fun approach which while achieving goals and earning a living isn’t centered or structured the same way–it’s like a circle not a hierarchy and goes to the heart of our culture.

Lest you think that sounds a little too kumbaya to actually work, consider these points, enumerated by Hewlett:

  • Research demonstrates that companies with significant numbers of women in management have a much higher return on investment
  • A study has shown that when work teams are split 50-50 between men and women, productivity goes up. Gender balance, the research posits, counters ‘groupthink’–the tendency of homogenous groups to staunchly defend wrong-headed ideas because everyone in the group thinks the same way
  • Another study–out of France–showed that firms in the CAC 40 (the French euivalent of the Dow Jones) with a high ration of women in top management showed better resistance to the financial crisis. The fewer female managers a company has, the greater drop in its share price since January 2008.

So, clearly it behooves everyone to keep women engaged, in the game. But if a whopping 84% of us are thinking exit strategy, what’s the answer?

I kind of think they all touched on a part of it: Hewlett pointed out the need for passion and challenge at work; Bishop noted the inevitable let-down that comes from chasing–and then catching–material things; and Silverthorne offered a tease, earning comments that allude to something deeper, something about the very way in which workplace structures are organized, a la Elizabeth Lesser’s suggestion I first wrote about here:

The conversation we need to have now is no longer about women assuming positions of leadership within the existing power structure, it’s about the power structures themselves, it’s about how to go about assuming power, how to change the structures.

But in order to change them, we’ve got to stick around.

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I often call my journalism students “the architects of the change.” What I mean is that, as the whole industry transforms itself, it will most likely be up to those who are just entering the field to be in on the action of what the future of news will be.

(If you think this is shameless self-promotion for my journalism blog, well, you could be right. But keep reading.)

Lately, a few rumblings tell me that maybe there are more such architects out there, in a much broader sense: the twenty- and thirty-something women who may be agonized over their career choices today are the ones who will eventually get it right for the women of tomorrow. Maybe the men, too. Maybe feminism isn’t so much about playing the boys’ game — but changing the game itself.

One letter to the NYTimes in the wake of Maureen Dowd’s “Blue is the new Black” stated the problem thus:

Women have made tremendous material and emotional strides, but they feel torn among competing demands in a way that few men seem to feel torn.

All professionals have to make decisions — sometimes hard decisions — in the course of pursuing a career and raising a family at the same time. But women tend to perceive these decisions not only as time-management choices but also as existential choices.

Every hour spent at work or at home is not simply an hour, but a testament to what makes one happy — and what one is willing to sacrifice for that happiness. As long as women feel that their decisions carry such freight, it won’t be surprising if they continue to feel uneasy about making them.

So true. But here’s what I’m wondering. Are some brave young women starting to play it their way? Rather than following their fathers, their brothers, their husbands, their bosses into the trenches — while still in knots over what they’re leaving behind — it seems to me these women instead are standing up for something for along the lines of work AND life.

Often I hear young women lawyers– who love their work and are damn good at it — talk of the idiocy of prioritizing a partnership slot if it means having no life outside work. A family practitioner I know well told me about adding a woman doctor to his practice — part time. Great that he was looking for a woman, I said, but why part time? Well, he said, a lot of women docs go into family practice precisely because it’s one of the few specialties where you can have a solid practice — and still maintain a life outside it.

And there’s this: Fast Company reports on a new book (Upstarts – How Gen Y Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit from Their Success (McGraw/Hill), all about the way that Gen Y entrepreneurs, in their quest for flexibility, are starting to transform the workplace. From an interview with the author, Donna Fenn:

CY: Welcome, Donna Fenn! One of the reasons I love your book is that I want business leaders to expand their understanding of work+life flexibility, or flexibility in how, when and where work is done and life is managed. Flexibility, in all of its forms, is a strategic lever that has broad application as a way to run your business. The Gen Y entrepreneurs in your book seem to fundamentally see flexibility as a way of operating. Here are some examples from the stories in the book:

  • Cost Saving: Having all or part of your workforce work remotely to save overhead costs, such as real estate.
  • Talent Resourcing: Using a combination of full-time, part-time, and “as needed” employees.
  • Productivity/Engagement: Letting people flexibly manage their lives and work as long as they produce. This boosts morale and productivity.
  • Marketing/Brand Development: Devoting a certain number of hours a month to community service to promote their brand and motivate employees.

Do you think these Gen Y entrepreneurs are applying strategic work+life flexibility consciously or intuitively? What do they “get” that many business leaders over 30 years old struggle to understand?

And this: A new study shows that recent college and MBA grads prioritize work-life balance over, gasp, money:

Students about to enter the workforce are more interested in a good work-life balance than they are in money, a new study says.

The Universum Student Survey 2009, which polled more than 60,000 students in American undergraduate and MBA programs, found that 67 per cent of undergraduates and 58 per cent of MBA students consider work-life balance to be their No. 1 career goal, more important even than compensation.

Even a hard-boiled feminist private eye hints at a sea change, according to a review in the Washingon Post. In her newest V.I. Warshawski mystery novel, Sara Paretsky introduces a millenial kid, her cousin Petra, representative of “young women who would never dream of identifying themselves as feminists, but who regard their lives as a delicious menu of choices.” Note the word “delicious”.

Where do all these signs point? Who knows. But I have to wonder sometimes that, as we slowly begin to carve out our own paths, the payoff for all these choices that are making us so crazy is that, ultimately, we sisters are becoming more evolved than our brothers. Or at least, we’re on our way. Growing pains, indeed.

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The San Jose Mercury delivered a triple shot of optimism to go with the morning latte on Saturday morning. The Page One feature, the seventh installment of a 12-part “Life in a Year” series, was all about that first paycheck. The subtext? Making choices work.

The story had me at Studs Terkel. But more about that below.

Early on, reporter Bruce Newman reminds us how rare it is for our first job — “the thing that provides us a living if not a life” — to be our last. No small consolation for those worried about choosing wrong at the gate. But better yet, he defines work via one of Studs Terkel’s greatest oral histories:


In “Working,” the oral history ode to the way we toil by the late Studs Terkel, The Job is described as the start of a search “for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash … in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”

Combine those two thoughts — career choice as trajectory rather than destination plus Terkel’s reminder that any job can have meaning as well as dignity — add the way three newly employed twenty-somethings made their choices, and you’ve got some serious reassurance to spread on your morning bagel. Newman goes on:


Menial or magnificent, the first job — harder than ever to come by now — sets the tone for all the jobs to follow. It’s the first time we feel the weight of serious money in our pockets, and serious responsibilities on our shoulders.

And that, these twenty-somethings seem to show, is a good thing. The story profiles three young adults who seized their options: Gabino Lopez, Jr., son of a farmworker and first in his family to attend college, who a month after graduation started work as a financial analyst at Chevron, where he relishes everything from his paycheck in the high-fives to, yes, even life in a cubicle; Jose Luna III, following his dream — and his father’s footsteps — in becoming a firefighter; and Samantha Go, a poster child for the idea that career is a serial endeavor.

Go blitzed college, graduating from Santa Clara University with a degree in marketing two quarters early to beat the job-search rush. She figured out early what she didn’t want to do via a soul-less internship in a cubicle at a file-management company. That motivated her to find her niche — and apparently, her bliss — as an event planner at Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health at Stanford.

“I didn’t want to be one of those people who’s always changing jobs, or hates their job, so whatever job I got out of college was going to be it for a while,” she said. “But I really didn’t like my desk job at all. If I had to do that every day for the rest of my life, I don’t know what I would have done.”

She now gets paid to taste wine, sample food, and go to parties. She also looks forward to five weeks of vacation.

The moral of the story? First, there’s hope out there, even in this economy. But more importantly, the point is that having choices can help you find your passion. It just depends on how you make those choices work for you.

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I quote Ron Livingston, in his iconic role as office cog-cum-construction-worker Peter Gibbons: “We don’t have a lot of time on this earth! We weren’t meant to spend it this way! Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements.” You know you’re in trouble when “Office Space” stops making you laugh and starts pissing you off. And, in his prestigious think tank job and despite the PhD in philosophy under his belt, Matthew Crawford, the author of a new book called “Shop Class as Soulcraft” was most definitely in trouble. So, after several months of doing suprisingly little thinking at said think tank, he left, and opened up a motorcycle repair shop. His book is about the satisfaction of an honest day’s work–and how our society places too little value on such work (witness the extinction of shop class). In a recent NPR interview, he said:

Anyone with halfway decent test scores is getting hustled into a certain track, where you work in an office.

He argues that we’ve created an “educational monoculture,” with “only one respectable course” (those words made me think of the creepy meat-grinder scene in Pink Floyd’s The Wall–check the video at the end of this post), and goes on to say:

It takes a real contrarian streak to live more deliberately and make these calls for yourself…

That reminded me of this comment from Tamara, in response to my post about The Uniform Project, and whether less choice leads to more creativity: “I think it really comes down to an individual’s ingenuity and courage to be themselves.” And it does take courage–and a bit of a contrarian streak–to be yourself. Assuming we can find that courage and tap it, Crawford describes the point of work, as he sees it:

The point is to find some work where you can make yourself useful to people in a straightforward way that engages your own judgment and thinking so that your actions feel like they’re genuinely your own.

Seems like a lot to ask for from a job–and yet it also seems so profoundly simple, there’s no way it can’t be true. Leave it to a philosopher. But really. Do you feel like you were steered away from your passions, your soulcraft, in pursuit of…. a job? And, again back to the choices thing, I wonder if, as overwhelmingly inclusive as the whole “you can be whatever you want!” mantra is, it’s all too easy to just get on the conveyer belt, and hope to make some decent… hamburger? Don’t get me wrong: there’s a lot to be said for hamburger. Security. Benefits (dare to dream). But what about fulfillment? What about passion? Is it possible to have any pudding, if we don’t eat our meat?

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When it comes to your current job, you’ll probably stay — at least until the recession is over. But what you really want to do is go.

New numbers out of a Workplace Insights survey from Adecco, an international staffing company, show that when it comes to work, most of us are dreaming mightily of a new gig. The survey found that over half of all American workers (54 percent) say they’ll be hunting for a new job once the economy picks up.

That’s significant. But the real jolt comes here: Almost three-quarters (a whopping 71 percent!) of 18 – 29 year-olds say they’re off in search of greener pastures once the recession ends.

That’s one boatload of dissatisfaction, all around. You have to wonder why. Are we suffering from a terminal case of grass-is-greener syndrome? Did we choose wrong from the outset? Is it simply a case of growing pains, especially for women?

Another Addeco survey might suggest a remedy. The company asked former college grads what advice they would give to the class of 2009. Their answer: choose passion, not paycheck.

Over two-thirds (71%) of college-educated adults say that today’s graduates should stick to their goals and aim for career fulfillment, many more than those who say they should take any job available or follow the money. In fact, only 13% of previous adult grads advise students to choose a career based only on earning and salary potential.

The survey also found that less than half (48 percent) of all adults who’ve had a full-time job since graduation are still working in the same industry.

Digest the numbers soup, and you’ll see that for most of us, whatever it is we’re doing today is unlikely to be what we’re going to be doing tomorrow. The question is: what’s that gonna be? And how are we going to make that choice?

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Not to be all Pollyanna, but is it possible that the current economic reality might offer an escape from the whole passion-v-paycheck debate Barbara addressed in yesterday’s post? Or that maybe, just maybe, when it looks like your choices are diminished, in a strange way, they start to multiply? I came across this piece yesterday, which tells the tale of a Brit who lost his accountant job, a job he took because “I wanted stability and I saw it as a recession-proof job.” Said Brit approached the void left by his new, unemployed status as an opportunity–one he seized in pursuit of his longtime passion: stand-up comedy. It made me think of this quote Life Coach Martha Beck dropped in a recent interview:

I am not saying you have to realize all your dreams when your back is against the wall, but when you have nothing to lose, know that this is the best time for setting your sights toward genuine happiness. You may not travel the path you want to arrive at your ultimate goals, but you must, must, must have the direction clear and the destination pinpointed or you will simply wander in the direction that circumstances take you.

So. Whaddaya think? Is this kind of idea a lovely fantasy but (like oh so many lovely fantasies), far too dangerous to actually consider? Or does a part of you feel that, since the guaranteed paycheck jobs don’t really exist anymore–that, with a limit on what choices are currently available–you have a newfound freedom to pursue that pie-in-the-sky dream, the unrealistic one that gets your soul all a-flutter? Or maybe the current doom-and-gloom has helped you make a tentative peace with your job–the very same one you used to describe as soul-sucking. Maybe you’ve lost your job and decided now’s the time to go back to school, like you’ve kinda always wanted… Or maybe you’ve lost your job, and think I should take this post and shove it. Either way, I’m curious: what do you think?

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