The Job Delusion

Growing up my mother was great. Her encouragement knew no bounds. She constantly told me to write, marvelling at how she knew from early age I would be a writer. I of course scoffed at this, (what did she know?) and sought out an opposing career. When I expressed an interest in being a solicitor, she was right by my side. When it moved to engineering, she reminded me how I always liked to take things apart as a child, just to see how they worked. Breaking it more like it. When I swung a 180 to film directing, then producing she wasn’t fazed. Encouraging me when I bought a small video camera. Used once to film an amazing, yet never to see the light of day mockumentary about a a girl band called NV. (Oh I must dig this out). When I later moved into animation then visual effects, she smiled with never ending encouragement. The point is my mother believed I could do anything I put my mind to. Many of my generation were led to believe we could do whatever we wanted career wise. And more importantly we’d be happy doing it. This part is key and something I’ll come back to.

See my mum came from a generation that took a job and stayed in it for twenty years. Thirty years. Forty years. In those days, you married, had kids, got a job (if you so chose or needed to) and you stayed in it till the end. There was no going to find yourself. You had responsibilities and having a good job was imperative to that. I’m not saying it no longer is, but the dynamics of the working world has changed. Firstly more women are choosing careers and babies. And in many cases, careers over babies.

But this is not just about women.

Our attitudes toward our career choice has fundamentally changed. If you have a straight forward job like a doctor, nurse, teacher, guard, accountant, solicitor and so on, then the path is relatively clear cut. Most people choosing these jobs know or understand the path they need to take. The mantra ‘you can do anything you want’ still applies and actually works nicely as people leap frog through well established structures to find the place they want to be.

But what about the creative life? Or those without a college degree? Perhaps you didn’t know at the end of school what you wanted to do? Ten, fifteen years down the line many people are still struggling to find what they believe will be their dream job.

Are we fools?

Because no doubt we all have the same desires for job security, financial reward and career satisfaction? But how do you find all of that when you are under the illusion that your job will bring you complete happiness? Has the mantra ‘You can do whatever you put your mind to and you’ll be happy doing it” helped or hindered us?

Now I know. God help you if you’re doing what you want and are still not happy. But my point is that we were led to believe a job could make you happy. That a job is ultimately more than a job. It’s a lifestyle. Live to work and all that.

I have several friends at the moment going through the motions with work. Some are unhappy with their current situation and are trying to find something better. So at least I don’t feel too alone in this. But then I think about my own situation and realise I may have been more victim to this than I realise.

I’ve left three jobs in my lifetime – career jobs. Not working in Centra, when you were 16, which I also did. The first one was in animation. I had been with the company for five years and I felt it was time to move on. I also wanted to move into film and try work as a freelancer for a while. The second job was also in animation. A great company but the work just wasn’t right for me. That was an extremely hard decision to make. I knew I was working with amazing people and I felt I was giving up on a tough challenge. But I also felt life was too short to be so unhappy in a job. The third one was in visual effects. Again, after two years with this company it was time to move on.

Readers of this blog will know, I was accepted to Transom last year, a radio course in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. I finally felt I was on the right path. I had uncovered my true joy in the working world. It hasn’t been easy since coming home. Finding a job in Irish radio is tricky. And secretly, I worry that what I’m striving for isn’t actually available. That this ideal is really a delusion.

But the reality is some where in between you have to find that balance. Forget the advice and figure out what your values are. Money over time. Job satisfaction over career prospects. For me flexing my creative muscles is key to the work I do. But perhaps that will be something I have to find outside of my day to day job.

So where to now?

Well, I’m still figuring that part out…

Thanks again to Unsplash.com for the picture.

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