Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Enough Already

This June will mark four years since I officially retired. Guess it is true that time flies when you are having fun because the intervening time has passed quickly. On the other hand, I had jobs during my career -- haven't we all? -- in which a week seemed like a year.

At first, I planned to look for part-time work which sounded interesting/challenging. Fairly quickly, that focus disappeared and I began to look to myself for an answer about how to spend my own time.

Those of us who grew up in the 1950s likely had similar exposure to employment. Jobs were to last forever. My grandfathers were both railroad engineers during the peak of the railroad era. The work was exciting, secure and promised advancement. Both of them spent their entire careers working for the railroads, enjoying the work and getting gold watches at the end of the line.

Besides railroading, there were other jobs available during the Truman/Eisenhower years which provided job security. Our small town had a number of industries, including some manufacturing, where employers respected and wanted to retain good workers, paying them nicely and providing a good standard of living for their families.

Boy, have things changed.

When I entered the work force in the 1960s, jobs were quite abundant. Like your job? Stick with it. Hate the job? There is another one just around the corner, where they might appreciate you more. It wasn’t so much about money -- a consideration, certainly -- but more importantly workers wanted to be appreciated. And as hard to believe as it is, there were such employers. Good employees were valuable and stayed on the same job for decades.

The road to success has certainly altered its course since then.

The majority of today's employers appear to care little about their employees. It's a two-edge sword: employers expect little from their employees and select candidates according to those low standards, workers with low expectations who don't mind being treated as a disposable commodity.

So it was with significant pleasure that I approached the end of working. Since that time, I have worked temporarily in a few positions and have opened an online business. I now feel completely free of the old patterns learned during 46 years in the workplace.

The old patterns were hard to break, as anyone who has retired has experienced. I nearly always worked a five-day week, usually Monday through Friday (with ample overtime, of course and an occasional weekend). So at the end of every week I had to take care of all the usual projects that working folks face. My brain was thoroughly programmed with this five-day pattern, a hard pattern to break.

The present economy is shaky. And while the dearth of good jobs is a bit frightening, we know that we can survive this episode. Admittedly, it is a rough time to be unemployed, a little like stepping off a pier just as the tide goes out.

I have come to think for myself and explore what I can do to earn money. In news clips about unemployed workers, I often hear these thoughts echoed.

At last workers, many of whom have lost jobs, are beginning to think for themselves and focus on how they can earn money. They explore talents they may already have, perhaps skills they have wasted on some unappreciative employer. Workers examine what interests them, what has always intrigued them, pursuits that bring them joy. It is this burst of creativity that has launched countless small businesses around the country, from online sales to contracting businesses to entrepreneurial ventures of all kinds.

Is this rapid change related to today's technology? Certainly technology seems like a factor. People have started entire careers with the right mindset and a little computer savvy. Creative folks who have been discounted by the "main stream" have had to think for themselves and the results are amazing and inspiring.

In the past, workers have had to suppress their own talents in order to fit a job. That effort seems counterproductive to helping workers reach their full potential. The old system may have worked for decades, keeping "round workers in square holes," but times have changed.

Keep an open mind.

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