On Getting a Job

People used to have work to do that they could parlay into a career. Now, it seems, most young people are looking for “a job,” not primarily to become proficient at it, but to earn enough money to support their lifestyles outside of work.

This is not something to be condemned. We’re not going to change it. It’s just the way things are. Nor is this about “the good old days.” They really were not all that good.

This is about what’s missing in a person’s life by whoring this way, and what it is costing our civilization. It has become a lose-lose situation. A person is looking for “a job,” a place to put in his or her time with the least possible effort and the biggest paycheck. At the same time, the typical company may be looking for someone to fill some job or another, at the lowest cost and with the greatest hope of ongoing return. We buy and sell everything else – why not ourselves?

The quality of a person’ life is roughly equivalent to the quality of what he or she contributes to the life of the community and beyond. Seeing and performing one’s work as merely “a job” is demeaning. It is dehumanizing. Children do not gain relevance merely by being “kids” or doing what kids do. They gain relevance by gaining competences, by learning – which is where growth of mind and character occur. If a person’s “job” does not require continuous learning, both the employee and the organization lose.

We have put so many options before our young people that it may be impossible for them to choose. So they just opt out by getting “a job” or by dabbling first in one thing then another like lifetime dilettantes. And it becomes obvious that the quality of their bosses is also diminishing – simply because so many bosses started out by getting “a job” and then being pushed up the ladder by default. How many burger-flippers take that “job” on in order to learn how to own or manage a restaurant?

By permitting this to happen, we have not only spoiled our children, but sentenced them to a life of decreasing relevance and thus decreasing quality of life. The Quakers may have had it right. How well you do your work is a measure of your life.

Maybe I am in the minority here. But I believe there is more to life than just getting “a job.”

If life consists of what we are thinking about all day long, then there’s not much life in having “a job” which does not engage heart and mind.

-Lee Thayer