On Friday my friend’s son — an seventh grader with a smartphone and an Instagram account — wanted to ask me a question that was on his mind for weeks.
“Aunty Cat,” he said, “how do I get your job?”
He follows me on Instagram and thinks all I do is hike, surf, walk my dogs and eat.
Truth is, I work like everyone else. It’s just everything I do is contract-based. Meaning, I work for various companies and publications, writing stories and blogs, handling product development, creating graphics, writing ad copy. And yes, I still teach on the side. So I have about a dozen different jobs, none of which are your typical full-time, in-an-office career.
That seems to be the future, especially in creative media. More and more, I’m seeing colleagues — like fellow blogger Melissa Chang, above — quit their cubicle jobs and take various part-time gigs — one that has medical benefits, if possible — and work out of their home office or nearby Starbucks. It’s definitely a lifestyle shift and, while it sounds leisurely to work in your pajamas and not keep regular office hours, it takes a lot of self-disicpline and tenacity. And I probably work more hours in a week than I did at other jobs. (I just don’t always work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
I’ve told my students that this may be the future for many of them, that they might be piecing together part-time work to garner a full-time salary.
Journalist Thomas Friedman wrote in an article in yesterday’s New York Times that there is no such thing as a high-wage, middle-skilled job anymore:
Now there is only a high-wage, high-skilled job. Every middle-class job today is being pulled up, out or down faster than ever. That is, it either requires more skill or can be done by more people around the world or is being buried — made obsolete — faster than ever. Which is why the goal of education today, argues Wagner, should not be to make every child “college ready” but “innovation ready” — ready to add value to whatever they do.
He interviewed Tony Wagner, a Harvard education specialist, who agreed: “Today, because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge.”
That means this generation might not just be “finding” a job, but “inventing” one.
Having been on both sides of this — working a typical full-time job and working a more non-traditional one — I can see the pros and cons for both.
I do miss the regular paychecks, the overtime, the paid vacations and sick leave, the possibility of mobility and more pay, the free Internet and office supplies. But I don’t miss the structured workday, having a boss you can’t work with, and wearing heels. But it’s been a tradeoff. I don’t make as much money as I used to, but I can travel more, spend more time with my dogs, and surf whenever I want.
I think the only thing better than that is winning Megabucks.
Personally I hate office politics, don’t want to be around the folks that practice ‘office politics’ you know the type that think Survivor is good television, and really hate a regular schedule. It was what made Microsoft a great place to work. Being a casual person is also not conducive to corporate America. Somehow, somewhere, we wound up with a society that values looks over substance.
I might return to corporate America but the reality is that it is the least effective place for me to work. Why was I an ‘A’ student? Simple, could wear shorts all the time. I could take my classes after 12:00 when I was most attentive. I got to decide the order in which I got my work done. So why do we wind up in office s at 8:00 am? Why do we have to wear suits and ties? Why do we follow a schedule that no one is effective using?
Friedman is right in his observances, the workplace is changing. But I think it is wishful thinking that it is changing that fast. There are always going to be the few of us that blaze new trails. The rest will follow along and keep things the way they are.
BTW: A common misconception is people who think this way are lazy and undisciplined. Quite the contrary, most are workaholics who feel stymied in a normal workplace. We are also not non-conformists, we simply value personal comfort more than most people do.
CAT: Whoever invented “retirement” was spot on!!
You could have fooled me, I thought you just surf, hike and eat…..
I knew you had a job! 🙂
No matter what, HARD WORK & SACRIFICE is the only way to truly advance yourself, both professionally and personally. I’ve still got lots of work cut out for me.
Sure, I could “invent” a “job” applying sun tan lotion to lonely damsels in distress on Waikiki Beach. However, if I don’t do the best dang job at it, that dream job would never last. Seriously! Well, kinda’.
Sorry to sound like an old geezer (I am), but I didn’t notice putting anything away for retirement. I know at your young age retirement is a far distant shore, but believe me it comes faster than you may think. I’m about a year away from ending this career and I truly wonder where did all those years went!
Enjoy your career, enjoy life, but please plan to enjoy the golden years as well nee.
Cat, I agree with eddyo about putting away monies for retirement. I didn’t start early enough and although I can retire at anytime, I don’t know if my retirement will be enough to cover my expenses. Social security at some point will run out and I wouldn’t depend on it.
At the orientations for the elementary school where my kids go/went it is often mentioned that they are educating kids for jobs that don’t even exist yet.
Great post! I’ll be taking this plunge in a few months. Terrifying but also so liberating!
This is interesting. If you don’t mind sharing, how do you secure medical benefits and plan for retirement? I’ve been self-employed before, and while it offered many advantages, I always felt stressed about those two. Especially as a homeowner, I was terrified to risk losing my roof in the case of a medical disaster or an insufficient retirement fund. I found the medical plans available to business owners sub-par and so pricey, compared to what I received through employers. Great to follow your passions, though!
Hey Cat … ok, this is not an April Fool’s blog right??? … ok, then …
… I’ve often wondered what I would be doing if I were born twenty years later … yeah, everything is so different now … but I really think I’d fit right in …
… I’d be classified as one of those “lazy” but creative minds … and I like the idea of not working in an office setting … but I don’t think hanging out at Starbucks doing my “job” would work for me … home would be just fine … I think I do a lot of great work past midnight … long after most places have closed for the night …
… *sigh* Megabucks … just a distant dream … I still gotta work …
I actually like doing my job. I really hate and am terrible at looking for work, securing work, and negotiating contracts. This sounds like a hellish amount of the latter for the same or slightly more of the former.
I like your approach. Sometimes there’s true security in that crazy world of freelance. As one who has been self employed for the last 30 years, as i am reaching that time when i may not be able to work anymore I do regret not having anything set aside. It does make me nervous figuring out how to get a new roof and siding on the house with out taaking another loan. So set something aside. Because by the time you reach my years there probably won’t be social security, that was only meant to be a supplement originally.
I want to be debt free when I retire. I don’t have credit card debt, no car payments, hopefully only 2 more years of college tuition for my son and maybe 5-6 more years of morgage payments. My medical insurance is covered when I retire too so I can’t wait.