Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Perspective on Jobs

I had an ongoing discussion this weekend with a friend about his financial situation, starting a business, and finding a job. Like me he hasn't worked for someone else for many years and the prospect of getting a job was a little troubling. The whole process of looking for a job can be upsetting and depressing. Part of the problem is inherent in the natue of capitalism which rewards those who are tough enough to withstand constant rejection, have competitive instincts, and the ability to say and do whatever is necessary to achieve their goals.

Those who are sensitive, creative, soft spoken, non-competitive, and unwilling to say and do whatever it takes are oftentimes at a disadvantage. There are those whose main skill are their ability to present a favorable appearance but lack the substance to deliver results over the long run. Corporate America, especially middle management, is loaded with this type of person and is one of the reasons many companies are struggling today. They are staffed by people with impressive resumes, stylish clothes, polished shoes, good manners, a pleasing personality, and an uncanny ability to deflect blame and responsibility.

In my opinion, this non-productive, superficial, insincere, but likable type can be found in all types of organizations including non-profits, education, government agencies, and especially local politics. It is no wonder that anyone with non-conformist tendencies and a desire to engage in meaningful work with "real people" will have a hard time finding a career or work situation that interests or attracts them. What happens is that most of us have to settle for working under conditions that are tolerable but for the most part unfulfilling and slowly destructive to our well-being. The average person finds this hard to admit and convinces themselves that their situation is not so bad and that one day they will be able to break free and do whatever they want. And it isn't so bad when you compare it to prison or slavery or living in poverty in Ethiopia.

My father, for example worked in the post office for thirty years, traveling over an hour each way on two buses and the subway, to a job he barely cared about, It is only recently that he admitted to me that not only did he not really like his job but he didn't really understand what he was doing most of the time. My father-in law worked for RCA for over twenty five years. He was the most gung-ho company man until they transferred him from Columbia, Pa. the town he grew up in and loved to Marion Indiana, the middle of nowhere. Within six months he had a crippling stroke and revealed to me that the company was not what he had thought.

For blacks, women, and many individuals who stand out as being different there is a heightened awareness of the difficulty of finding work that is compatible with their nature. They don't fool themselve and they learn to live with it. Then there are millions of talented individuals who never learn to deal with the system and end up as dropouts or casualties drifting through life without being given the chance to develop whatever skills and abilities they have.

There are those few who do well in the mainstream, who become "masters of the universe" or at least apprentice masters. It is these few who work hard to perpetuate the system and convince everyone else that they have the same opportunity if only they work hard, bite the bullet, and keep positive. The trained observer can see through this and realize that these few are not necessarily the best or most talented but the ones who have been lucky or gifted.

I am not saying that there are not good people running our corporations who do care about their workers and about doing the right things. At the highest levels there are very good people and their are business people, politicians, and entrepreneurs who have made outstanding contributions to our society. I actually look to them to help lead us out of the troubles we have created by what I consider the manifestations of our unconsciousness. We have to expand our ability to recognize talent and not use some of the superficial ways that limit our ability to identify those with talent who are out of the mainstream.

There needs to be changes made in the existing system, We need to level the playing field and enable those who don't feel comfortable playing the games that are required for getting ahead in the existing culture to actually find a way to be productive and respected. These changes will occur. The existing system is being tested now and, in my opinion, is showing cracks. The combination of technological advancement and the breakdown of the system that rewarded appearance, flash, and deception rather than substance will result in greater opportunities for the out of the mainstream personality to find their place.

I look forward to the day when we will be able to go into a voting booth like box, fill out a detailed questionnaire, have our brain scanned, and then receive a printout with the the job and assignment exactly suited to our talents and inclinations. Don't be skeptical. It makes sense. It's possible. It's needed.

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