One Wednesday night not long ago, I went to bed with a job and woke up unemployed.
Work is work. We do it because we need to make money, to pay bills, to have a roof over our heads. We do it to imbue our life with a tiny bit of meaning. It’s the thing that makes it so that we can do the stuff we really like, like yoga classes and coffee with friends and fitful bursts of shopping on windy Saturdays. It is energy expended in order for money to be made. The very word sounds trying. The hard consonant is a closed fist. "I can’t meet you for apple cider and donuts," you say, "because I have to work." There are sympathetic sighs; a tacit understanding. The discussion is closed.
A few years out of college, my younger brother has been unable to find a full-time job working in early childhood education, so he has cobbled together employment with three part-time jobs: working with pre-schoolers at a private school, doing administrative work at a non-profit, and retail work. He lives at home, and the majority of his money goes to car payments, health care and student loans. "I'm trying to save, but it's hard," he told me. He was mostly at his a-few-dollars-above-minimum-wage retail job during the holidays, working early shifts in the stock room ("people buy a lot of stuff, and then they return a lot of stuff," he explained). I bought him dinner and we talked about his career prospects. "I've been looking for that one job, but it hasn't appeared yet," he said. "I'm mostly just tired."
We received the following questions below from Rosemary (not her real name), 29, who is working as a librarian in a medical context, but wants to make the switch to an academic library. She asked a question that many people worry about: Is it too soon to switch jobs?
Often, when someone asks if she can meet me for coffee so she can "pick my brain," part of that brain-picking process is simply listening to me explain how I got my start and what I did to get to where I am now. This person is usually young and already has a year or two of work under her belt, and what she really wants to know is: "What do I need to do to get to the next level in my career?"
I can't quite put my finger on when I decided I wanted to learn how to make cheese. The idea of cheesemaking intrigued me, and as I was searching for farm work, I would get excited at any mention of cows, goats, milk, or cheese. It might have stemmed from my initial experience of farming as one task, done for eight straight hours. Cheesemaking/dairy farming seemed like varied, interesting work.
My friend Tim likes to send me links to job listings he’s considering and ask my opinion about whether he should apply. Pretty much without fail, my answer is yes (or really, YES!). There is always something—he's not sure he wants to work for such a large company, or he's worried that the hours will be too long, or he's not sure if he's really ready to leave his current job. But the thing is, it doesn't matter. He should just apply!
It's been nearly six years since I've had to go through the job-hunting and interview process and hope I don't have to do so again for a very long time (if ever again). On Backchannel, Deborah Branscum examines why the way we typically hire for jobs is all wrong.
I have always been very concerned with becoming a respectable job candidate, even before I really knew what I wanted to do. I’d thought the goal was to master information that would set me up for a successful career. I took school seriously and got good grades, and I believed that doing well on tests was a good indication that I was doing well, that I would be successful in life.