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.